The academy at Motherwell Football Club has produced an array of talented footballers over the years who have gone on to have great careers in the game.
From producing internationals to rearing players who have played in the biggest leagues in the world, here’s some of the talent who came through the ranks at Fir Park.
A Fir Park favourite and an international hero, James McFadden’s career soared after coming through the youth ranks at Motherwell.
His first team debut at just 17 years of age was quickly followed by the young player of the year award at 19 years of age for his stunning return of 19 goals in 34 games, before he was snapped up by Everton for £1.25m in 2003.
A Scotland cap came the youngster’s way at 19, and he went on to represent his country on another 47 occasions, scoring one of the most memorable goals Scotland has ever seen in a 1-0 win against France at the Parc des Princes.
His club career took him to Birmingham, Sunderland, St Johnstone and back to the Steelmen, where he became player/assistant manager in season 2016/17. He then left for a stint at Queen of the South before taking on a coaching role with Scotland under Alex McLeish in 2018.
Phil remains one of Motherwell’s brightest ever youth products, coming through the system before making his debut for the first team against St Mirren in the famous 1990/91 season. Phil played, and scored, as ‘Well beat Dundee Utd 4-3 at Hampden to lift the Scottish Cup.
He won the PFA young player of the year eward in 1992 and 1994, and he earned one cap for Scotland against Switzerland in September 1993. He signed for Celtic in September 1994 and the fee of £1.75m is the highest single fee Motherwell have received for any player ever.
Phil won another Scottish Cup with his new side and was a part of the famous Celtic team that stopped Rangers from winning a record 10 league titles in a row in 1997/98.
He then joined Sheffield Wednesday in 1999. He spent four years at Hillsbrough before returning to a Terry Butcher led ‘Well in 2004. He would serve the club with distinction as captain, before his untimely and tragic death in 2007, aged just 35.
One of the most successful graduates from the Steelmen’s academy is undoubtedly Gary McAllister.
A pupil of Braidhurst High, where the club’s academy is now based, McAllister began his playing career with his local side and made his senior debut away to Queen of the South back in May 1982.
The talented midfielder scored eight goals in 70 appearances, before Leicester City bought him and teammate Ally Mauchlen for a combined fee of £350,000 in August 1985.
The Motherwell-born player went on to have an outstanding career for both club and country, notching up over 800 games and 59 caps, including many as captain for Scotland.
Not only did he win the English league with Leeds, he picked up an FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup and a UEFA Super Cup winner’s medal with Liverpool.
He moved into management, leading former clubs Coventry and Leeds, with a short-term caretaker role at Aston Villa. He returned to Scotland in 2018, taking up the assistant manager role at Rangers alongside Steven Gerrard.
Ian St John
A local lad who grew up in the town amongst a large, Motherwell-supporting family, Ian St John’s debut came against Queen of the South in an away fixture at Palmerston Park and he went on to form a vital part of the impressive Ancell Babes side.
Aged just 20, St John was famed for scoring one of the fastest hat tricks in Scottish football history in just two minutes and 30 seconds, against Hibernian in 1959.
He was transferred to Bill Shankly’s Liverpool in 1961, who doubled their club record fee at the time, paying the Steelmen £37,500, which was used to fund the current Phil O’Donnell stand, which still remains to this day.
St John went on to become a legend at Anfield and also picked up 21 Scotland caps, scoring nine goals. He returned to manage the club in the mid 1970s, but was only in charge for a year before once again returning south.
Pearson attended Our Ladies High School, a free kick distance away from Fir Park, and it was there he came to the attention of the club.
Motherwell’s plunge into administration allowed the midfielder to flourish in the starting team and, given the responsibility, he excelled. So much so, Berti Vogts handed him his Scotland debut in the famous Euro 2004 play-off victory over the Netherlands at Hampden. He would go on to earn 10 caps.
With his contract due to expire, Celtic capitalized and got a bargain, paying just £350,000 for the midfielder in January 2004. He continued his fine form, notably in Celtic’s defeat of Barcelona, was in the starting XI in the cup final and won the Scottish PFA young player of the year award for the 2003/04 season.
He left Celtic in 2007 to join Derby County and wrote his name in Rams folklore, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over West Brom in the Premier League play-off final, reportedly earning his club over £60m.
Pearson had short spells with Stoke, Bristol City and Indian side Kerala before returning home to Fir Park for an 18-month spell before heading back to India with Atlético de Kolkata.
A third spell with the ‘Well arrived in 2017, where the midfielder made 11 appearances, scoring one goal.
After youth club appearances for Cathkin Utd, EK YM and Baillieston, Walker was snapped up by Motherwell’s youth programme in the early 1980s before quickly progressing into first team contention.
He was a fairly regular scorer in claret and amber as a youngster, before Billy McNeill pounced with a £350,000 offer to tempt him to Celtic Park, replacing another former ‘Well hitman Brian McClair, who had left to join Manchester United.
His first season at Celtic Park was hugely successful, as the Parkhead side won the double in their centenary season and Walker himself earned a first of three Scotland caps against Colombia.
He left Celtic for Bolton in 1991 but was back in the east end of Glasgow in 1994 for another two-year stint. A £500,000 move to Sheffield United was his last big move before joining Hibernian, where he scored in an Edinburgh derby, and Raith Rovers in 1998.
He ended his career in the lower leagues, and this period encompassed short spells with Ayr United, Carlisle United, Partick Thistle and Alloa Athletic. He now is a respected TV pundit with Sky Sports.
One of many players born in Bellshill, Lee signed for the Steelmen in 1995 and spent time in the Academy before being promoted and making his senior debut for Alex McLeish’s side, aged just 18, a year later against Raith Rovers.
He would go on to turn out almost 150 times in Claret and Amber before a £700,000 move to Wigan Athletic, a then club record for the Latics.
Wigan at this point were plying their trade in the third tier of English football but raced through the leagues to the Premiership. It was at that time ‘Jig’ was given his first outing in Scotland colours and he went on to win 18 caps, scoring once against Ukraine at Hampden.
After leaving Wigan, he return north for a trophy-laden eight-year spell at Rangers, playing over 300 games, before joining Kilmarnock as a player/coach in 2015. He later managed Killie for a short spell before another short stint in Poland as Assistant Manager at Lechia Gdańsk.
Stevie Hammell would do the impossible and dislodge the almost automatic pick that was Steve McMillan from the Motherwell starting XI aged just 18, following an impressive debut at Pittodrie.
Since then, it would be fair to say the left back has earned legendary status as a Steelman. Now Motherwell’s post war record appearance holder with over 550 games under his belt, including more European outings than any other ‘Well player, Hammell’s place in Fir Park folklore is secured.
In a 19-year first-team career, all spent in North Lanarkshire bar an 18-month stint at Southend United, Hammell has been involved in two top league runners-up teams, two third-place ‘best of the rest’ finishes and appeared in three cup finals in 2005, 2011 and 2017.
He also earned a full Scotland cap, picked by Tommy Burns, for a game against Sweden at Easter Road back in November 2004.
After retiring from playing duties in January 2018, Hammell took on the role of academy director at Fir Park.
One of the most exciting prospects out of the Motherwell academy in recent years was forward Jamie Murphy.
After progressing through the ranks at ‘Well, Murphy made his first-team debut during the 2006/07 season, and scored his first Motherwell goal from the penalty spot in a 2–0 away win over Hibs in May 2008.
Murphy began to solidify himself as a first-team regular and by the time Jim Gannon took over at ‘Well, he was one of the top men in the squad. Having scored a hat trick against Albanian side Flamurtari in the UEFA Europa League, the first player to net a treble in the new-look competition, he became Motherwell’s leading goalscorer in European football.
With just four months left on his deal, he would eventually move on to Sheffield United in January 2013, which eventually totalled around £500,000. He then moved on to Brighton and Rangers, and has full international honours with Scotland.
Mark Reynolds, or ‘Wattie’ as he was known to those who he played with at the time, was a cultured, speedy, modern defender who after making his debut in May 2006 played virtually every game thereafter until his eventual departure from the Steelmen in January 2011.
Over that period he racked up 200 senior appearances, numerous Scotland U21 caps and a Scotland B cap against Northern Ireland in May 2009. After rejecting a considerable bid from Rangers earlier in his Motherwell career, his contractual situation meant ‘Well could only command little over £100,000 when he moved to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
However, his stay in the Steel City didn’t quite go to plan and he returned to Scotland in 2012, joining for ‘Well boss Craig Brown at Aberdeen, where he has been since.
One of the many youth stars currently featuring in the Fir Park first team is midfielder Chris Cadden. Chris is a second generation Motherwell player, with his dad Stevie playing and coaching at Fir Park, and his brother also coming through the youth ranks at Braidhurst, before forging a professional career elsewhere.
Cadden made his Motherwell debut as a 17-year-old substitute in a 4–1 win against Hearts back in March 2014, but after a league-winning loan spell with Albion Rovers, it wasn’t until the arrival of Mark McGhee in October 2015 for a second spell as ‘Well boss that really provided the launch pad the Motherwell-based youngster needed.
McGhee threw him in, together with fellow Under 20s player Ben Hall, and he’s now considered amongst the hottest young properties in the country. His form not only led to an extended contract but also full international honours, earning his first two caps on Scotland’s summer trip to Peru and Mexico.
Another current first team player at Motherwell, Allan Campbell has been in the ranks since the age of nine, working his way up to the top team.
A tenacious, tough tackling midfielder, he is a standout in the middle of the park with composure and an attitude well beyond his years. Allan is also a Scotland Under 21 international.