With no reserve football on offer in the 2020/21 season, new ways have had to be found to ensure the next crop of talented Motherwell youngsters can progress.
While David Turnbull, James Scott, Jake Hastie, Barry Maguire and countless others have benefitted from having the opportunity to play minutes, the current batch faced sitting in the stands waiting for first team opportunities.
The start of the lower league season in Scotland has opened the door to a number going out on loan, combining playing meaningful football with still training with the team at Dalziel Park.
Harry Robinson, Ross MacIver, PJ Morrison, Jamie Semple and Sam Muir have all taken the step so far, with others likely to follow at the right moment.
“The players could stay here and potentially be the 21st man,” Diarmuid O’Carroll, who is responsible for overseeing their development away from the club, explained.
“But they get much more from being out in real football. Playing for points every week, competing and getting used to the rigours of first team football day-to-day.
“Whether they come back in January or the summer, hopefully they will be ready to go straight in and be a fully-fledged first team player.”
Queen of the South, Greenock Morton, Falkirk, Cove Rangers and Gretna are the respective clubs where our young talent are currently earning their stripes.
Picking the right destination for each player has also been part of the design of the new way of doing things.
“We’ve picked the clubs and the coaches specifically so that we can work with them, so we can put demands on their training structure,” O’Carroll expanded.
“We also then analyse the player in games so they can work on it when they are back in the building during the week.
“Generally most weeks they will be with us one to two days. They are still very much in the circle.
“It’s not like they are out of sight, out of mind. These are still very much first team squad members for us.”
Getting the chance to play competitive football in pressured environments, as opposed to sitting in the stand on a Saturday, is crucial both for the club and the development of the players.
“It’s an experience more than anything else,” O’Carroll said.
“Showing they are capable physically, technically and tactically to go and be a big boy. Be a man in a man’s environment and then come back.
“We’ve seen with Jamie Semple already, coming back in after a few weeks. You can see he’s already puffed the shoulders out and developed over the course of a month.
“Hopefully they all develop, enjoy it, field the challenge and come back ready to go.”