2009 began with Motherwell facing a test at the bottom end of the SPL table. The transfer window saw the loss of Porter and the arrival of Sheridan and Aydilek on loan as manager McGhee plotted our top flight survival.
The heady form which excited in the previous year was by now only a memory but we had five league games in January to turn the season around and the chance was taken. Two wins, against Hearts at home and a 4-0 thumping of United at Tannadice, and draws against St Mirren, Falkirk and Hibs pushed us to 7th - a healthy 12 ahead of doomed Inverness.
The saga of Inverurie cup tie stretched into February. An icy Monday night with goals from Clarkson and Sutton (x2) lead us to a fifth round exit at the new St Mirren Park following a 1-1 draw at Fir Park. The loss brought to an end a nine game unbeaten run.
February saw a wins over the Accies and Inverness together with a 1-1 at home to Celtic thanks to a late equaliser from Quinn. We began March in sixth place and talk of the upcoming league split delivered interest as the third cycle of fixtures continued. Another disappointment lay ahead as we managed only one win in the six game run in. The dreadful playing surface was a continuing embarrassment and promises were made of a close season fix (again). The ruts, holes and lumps prevented any team from keeping the ball on the deck and we were treated to game after game of 'kick and rush'.
Clarkson, Hughes, Reynolds and Hammell were named in a Scotland B squad for a friendly against Northern Ireland at Broadwood , some recognition for the their contribution over the season. The club tried the usual 'football for a fiver' ploy for what looked like a decider against St Mirren but the Buddies cemented their bogey team label and effectively ended our hope of a top half finish with a 0-2 defeat. John Boyle's letter to season ticket holders also contained the welcome news that the Cooper Stand was to be returned to claret and amber colours for Old Firm visits.
St Mirren in April
The bottom six fixtures delivered three aways and two homes but news of a back door to the new Europa League grabbed our attention. There was a chance that we might qualify by the Fair Play route and the players were encouraged to adopt a gentlemanly approach as the season drew to a close.
Wins on the road against St Mirren and Hamilton together with a draw with ICT resulted in a total of 48 points for the season and seventh place (a point better than Hibs in sixth!). Following a poor finale at home to Kilmarnock the players took their bow before the summer exodus. The management team choose not to join the farewells as speculation began to grow about a move to the north. The diggers moved in to begin preparations for our new pitch.
O'Brien v Aberdeen in April
As May drew to a close our Europa League place was confirmed but it seemed inevitable that we would be under the charge of a new manager as the managerial merry-go-round continued to spin. There were vacancies at Celtic, Hibs and Aberdeen; McGhee was off to 'better things' and few mourned his passing after a poor season.
Cheerio..Smith, Klimpl, Hughes, Clarkson, Quinn, Malcolm, McLean...
Scottish football suffered a financial blow with the demise of Setanta and the promise of increased revenues disappeared. ESPN and Sky were to take up the slack but at a lower cost.
A week before the June draw for our European adventure it was confirmed that we were in need of a new manager. The usual (inaccurate) short lists appeared as speculation grew. McAllister, Niholt, Lambert, Reid and even Butcher were mentioned but John Boyle surprised us all by appointing the former Stockport manager, Jim Gannon. He had less than a week to prepare Motherwell for the first preliminary round against Llanelli and the squad was shrinking fast.