After last year’s wonderful efforts, it seemed hard to believe that we would not tail off slightly. Instead, we have a better record now (P16 W7 D2 L7) than we did last season (P16 W5 D5 L6). We are currently on 23 points and it took us an additional three games to pass this tally in the last campaign.
Tell 'em Tel
So what is going right? It’s hard to say. Perhaps we are just due a share of luck that was missing in previous seasons but that is obviously not the main reason. When you consider that our big summer signing has not kicked a ball (Kerr) and two of our best players have been out for weeks (McDonald and McBride), could one of the reasons be we actually have a squad capable of playing, not just a team? It has been said for years that ‘Motherwell are a young side’ but that is no longer the case and it looks like the players we have sitting on the bench or in the stand are capable of coming in to do a job.
Along with the eleven who started Saturday’s game, we also have Brian Kerr, Kevin McBride, Scott McDonald, Alex Burns, Sean Fagan, Barry John Corr, Willie Kinniburgh, David Cowan, Kenny Wright and Paul Quinn who could be classified as first team players. True, you wouldn’t want to rely on some of them for an extended period but we do need to keep our feet on the ground! Can anyone remember when we last had a first team squad of 21 which included no complete diddy’s and very few guys who couldn’t do us a turn in an emergency? I certainly can’t.
The SPL does seem to have taken on a more traditional look to it this season. The Old Firm are top but out of the ‘middle’ clubs, only Dundee United can be said to be underachieving. Hearts are below us, just, but not many ‘Well fans would back us to finish above them once their UEFA Cup commitments cease taking a toll on their squad. So, given that the only teams above us have the resources to make this the natural order, why are currently doing so well compared to our peers?
I put this down to two reasons. Firstly, the manager. Terry Butcher has done an exceptional job of bringing in some good players but he has also produced the best out of the ones he inherited. Corrigan on his day is magnificent and Stevie Hammell has reversed the somewhat worrying trend in his form and it is hard to point to a better left back in
They look like the enjoy playing on a Saturday and that they like playing with each other. Billy Davies had (probably) a more talented playing staff but they didn’t want to win as much as the current crop and the team unity required for success was definitely missing. The other masterstroke by Terry has been channeling our aggression in a constructive manner. The ‘relegation’ season was marred by suspensions, indiscipline and the occasional shocking tackle. There is no point bragging about not getting players sent off – too often that is for a questionable last man foul or a refereeing interpretation – but the important thing is that you know if we get someone sent off on Saturday, it will be for one of those reasons, not a retaliatory punch or two high and late tackles. We were high up the fair play table last season and we are joint top of that again this year – yet no team would view us as a ‘soft’ touch when it comes to tackles or looking after ourselves.
And the other reason? It may be too early for this claim to be correct but it seems to me that going into administration was the best thing that could have happened to us. We were forced to get rid of the high-earning wasters who did not care about our club and go back to what we were good at – bringing through youngsters. At one point in the Scotland-Sweden game, Hammell, Pearson and McFadden were charging down the left wing – we have made over £1.5m from sales so far and the inevitable sale of Hammell will take that to over £2m. Not bad at all. And that money no longer gets paid out in thousands of pounds a week to Goram, Spencer et al but it goes to ensuring the future of Motherwell FC by paying the wages of reliable signings like Foran and Craigan and paying for the development of the likes of Quinn and Fitzpatrick. The money falling out of football was always going to hurt but it looks like we are now reaping the benefits of being the first to suffer.
Whatever the reasons behind the success, it is still down to the players scoring more goals than the opposition from week to week. We now have three games against United, Livingston and