Jonatan: I'll turn Well kids into Finnish article

There was a time when the fresh face and the fair, blond curls earned Jonatan Johansson the nickname 'Tintin'.

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Johansson is enjoying being in charge of Fir Park Under-20 squad
Johansson is enjoying being in charge of Fir Park Under-20 squad

These days, the cheeks are a little more weather-beaten, the curls shorn. And he now has youth of his own to look after.

Johansson, the second-most capped player for Finland and the third-top scorer of all time for his country, oversees the development of Motherwell's under-20 squad, a role he took over in August this year.

And given the manner in which finances have become so desperately prudent in Scottish football over the last decade or so, the need for stars reared through club ranks is pressing.

It is an art that Motherwell have fared well at these past few years. Jamie Murphy may be the latest example, but players such as James McFadden, Stephen Pearson, David Clarkson and Mark Reynolds have emerged from the underbelly of the club to make a name for themselves and boost the finances of the club at the same time.

Johansson's remit is to maintain that standard.

"I wouldn't want to be naming any names or say that there are guys here who are ready to step up but certainly we feel as though we have a good pool of talent getting ready to come through," he said.

"There are boys in the first-team who would still be eligible for the under-20 league which tells its own story.

"It is very important not just for Motherwell and Scotland to develop homegrown players.

"If you look around Europe you can see that most of the smaller countries work very hard to develop players from a young age."

HE ADDED: "The good thing at Motherwell is that boys at my stage know that if they do well there is a very real chance that they will get an opportunity at first-team level.

"That might not always be the case at a bigger club or in a bigger league.

"Stuart McCall has shown that he will play young boys if they are good enough and hopefully we will see a few of them breaking through before too long.

"That's what success means to a coach at this level."

Johansson made a name for himself at Rangers before making the move south to Charlton.

However, the boys he coaches now have little memory of him turning out at Ibrox under Dick Advocaat.

"I am with the 16 to 18-year-olds and they make me feel ancient," he laughed.

"I left Rangers in 2000 and most of them would have been three or four years old then. It is frightening.

"They ask me sometimes about my career but I don't give too much away. I don't want to bore them with my stories."

The role itself is also something of a learning curve for Johansson himself.

At the minute he has no grand plans to push for a move into first-team management as he learns the ropes without too much pressure.

"As a player you know which role you have on the pitch," he said. " I was a striker or a winger so I have been brushing up on what is required over the pitch.

"You have to have an understanding of the whole game. The next step for me will be to see other clubs and take a closer look at how they do things.

The Motherwell youth team combine their full-time training with one day per week at college, with Johansson believing it is the way forward.

He said: "I think it's really important to try and combine the two. You need to develop the whole person."


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