IT’S not just Nicky Law’s hairstyle that has changed drastically since Stephen Warnock’s first time at Valley Parade.

He has returned to a very different club to the one where he cut his teeth in senior football under the command of the City midfielder’s dad.

Warnock was only 20 when Law senior brought him in on loan from Liverpool in the difficult days that followed the club’s first spell in administration.

Now 36, the Burton loanee assumes the mantle of the senior spokesman in Stuart McCall’s dressing room.

Younger Law is no longer the curly-haired kid kicking a ball around the car park but a team-mate in the push to get City’s season back on the rails.

But Warnock can still recall the valuable footballing life lessons he learned during that testing period when he left his Anfield comfort zone for a club struggling to hold it together financially.

He said: “Everything that was going on at the time made me grow up a lot. They’d just come out of admin and it was a big wake-up call for me.

“I’d just come from Liverpool, where you don’t worry about things like that.

“But here you had lads fighting tooth and nail for every point while wondering whether they were going to be paid and things like that.

“It made me realise that football is a tough world. I had to grow up massively.”

Warnock used to travel in from the north-west with Peter Atherton and Ashley Ward. He was grateful for what he learned from such experienced heads.

“They taught me a lot. I’d speak to them every day when we drove in, picking their brains and asking questions about everything really.

“They were great guys and were a massive help. Peter Atherton, particularly, has been a huge influence on my career and I was fortunate enough to work with him at Wigan when I went back there.

“But you do have to grow up and understand that the game can be tough.”

Those life lessons have stuck with Warnock through a career now approaching 550 games that has seen him play in the Premier League and Championship, earning two England caps and a World Cup call-up from Fabio Capello in South Africa.

During his time with Blackburn, Aston Villa, Wigan, Leeds and now Burton, Warnock has always been prepared to offer advice to younger team-mates still making their way.

He said: “I was always trying to find things out when I was that age and now you’ve got young lads doing the same to you, it’s right you should help.

“You can’t be arrogant or big-headed and think you can’t speak to them. You’ve got to pass on the knowledge as those older players did with me.

“You take little pieces from every club you’re at, the positives and negatives, and learn from both of them.”

His arrival at Valley Parade alongside Burton team-mate Matty Lund coincides with the stickiest spell City have experienced since McCall took up the hot-seat for a second time.

But Warnock has not seen any tension in the manager as they look to right the wrongs of a torrid last month.

He said: “Every manager goes through that sort of thing. It’s how you come out the other side.

“He’ll have had this before and will know what to do.

“You can see it on the training ground this week. He’s still been positive and bubbly round the lads.

“That’s the way you’ve got to be. He’s the leader of the club and the moment you see a negative vibe from the manager, you get down yourselves.

“But he’s upbeat and full of life and that’s infectious.

“The aim for the club is to go up. You can see from the owner how much he wants to get them into the Championship.

“They went so close last year to doing it but there’s got to be a desire from the lads as well.

“They will want to test themselves at a higher level, there’s no doubts about that. I want to win a promotion – that would be a great way to come back here.

“It was a long time ago when I was first here but it’s funny how it’s gone full circle.

“I only left the club last time because of injury after I’d enjoyed every minute.

“But here we are, all these years later, and I’ve got another crack at it. Hopefully we can finish the season on a positive note.”