The summer was a nervous time for ‘Well fans. There were rumours of bids coming in for various players and we were still waiting on news about Dirk Lehmann and Eric Deloumeaux signing revised contracts. As it happened, we were in for a fabulous pre-season, both on and off the pitch.
Stuart Elliott departed to Hull for something in the region of £220,000.Not a massive amount of cash but in the tightening financial situation all over Britain, it was a fair sum for an inconsistent player.Dirk Lehmann agreed to reduce his wages, following the suit of Captain Leitch and Derek Adams.Deloumeaux hummed and hawed for a while but allegedly was a bad influence on the dressing room and was punted to Aberdeen for a mere £30,000.Eric Del probably was not as good as ‘Well fans made him out to be but he seems to have proved himself at Pittodrie.Unsurprisingly, he has even managed to haunt us a couple of times since the move…
The first game back was at Ochilview on a sunny July evening.It was quite a difference to the World Cup, which had just finished, but most fans were glad to see ‘real football’ again.The 3-0 victory which followed ensured everyone had a good night and we defeated a slightly higher level of opposition in our next game, winning 2-0 at St Mirren.The next two matches were to be a stiffer test, with Birmingham and Cardiff visiting Fir Park.We had added to our squad with David Partridge, Khaled Kemas and Daniel Sengewald joining up.This was the cue for the first of many rants by Eddie Forest in a tabloid newspaper.Birmingham and Cardiff were both well beaten and when the U21s won at Arbroath, we had played five pre-season games and emerged victorious in all of them.Could we perform when it mattered, at Livingston on the opening day?
Er, no.We were 1-0 down within five minutes and the ‘Well support, pushing the 2000 mark, were in shock by the time it was 3-0 in the second half.However, when the team could easily have collapsed, we showed resilience and a willingness to battle which has been our trademark this season.We emerged with a respectable 3-2 defeat and confidence was high going into the home opener against Thistle.Of course, when confidence is high, we inevitably blow it.An appalling game saw a late goal from either side in a 1-1 draw.If there was any justice, neither team would have taken any points.
When the fans were confident, a let down seemed inevitable.The reverse was also true however and a wary ‘Well support were given a treat at Rugby Park.Kilmarnock imploded and lost their discipline but couldn’t complain about any of their three red cards.Two superb goals from Ramsay and McFadden either side of a Pearson strike gave us a sensational victory.The infamous Motherwell inconsistency was all too apparent in our next game at Tannadice.For forty five minutes we pounded Dundee United but only went in a goal up.They equalised and hit the post twice after the break and left us hanging on for a draw.
Derek Townsley returned to Fir Park with Hibs in August and it was no shock when he scored two goals to take the points back to Edinburgh.Then came the first highlight of the season.Daniel Sengewald was making his debut in defence when Celtic came to town and a combination of luck and bad finishing from Larsson ensured the score was level at half time.Shaun Fagan made himself a near legend with a diving header and when Faddy scored a penalty we were cruising.Hartson pulled one back but the famous victory was ours.McFadden was all over the papers the next morning, with calls for him to save the nation by playing against Iceland.This was typical tabloid hyperbole but still, it’s nice to be wanted…
Fagan celebrates the goal
The good play continued into the next match and we were 2-0 up at Tynecastle when our season took a nose dive.A rampant Hearts side smashed four past us although we would have had little to complain about if they’d reached double figures.We then contrived to drop two points at home to Dundee before losing an astonishing nine games in a row.That included a League Cup loss at Aberdeen – our campaign had started with a 2-0 stroll at East Fife – but the low point was a 5-1 thrashing at home to Livingston.This sounds churlish, but Livvy were not significantly better than us – they just couldn’t miss.Two wonderful goals, a fluke and two defensive mistakes had them thanking the heavens.Khaled Kemas made his first appearance, coming off the bench to score a screamer of a volley for our consolation.
A loss at Partick Thistle was Stevie Woods’ last game for Motherwell, despite not being at fault for either of their goals.Francois DuBourdeau came in against Killie and looked reasonably sound until he fumbled a last minute free kick in a 1-0 loss.When we lost at home to Dundee United a week later, we were three points adrift at the bottom.And things were still going to get worse.
Performances improved but the results didn’t.We expected nothing from trips to Easter Road and Parkhead and a pair of 3-1 defeats was not viewed as disastrous.United picking up points had left us five points behind though and things were looking grim.
But, when the chips are down, Motherwell dig in deep and this season has been no exception.An ‘astonishingly brilliant’ saw Hearts get their comeuppance at Fir Park as we rattled six past them.This time it was us who could have been in double figures, with Pearson and McFadden both hitting their majestic best.For Motherwell fans old and young, this was a great result – everyone can remember at least one nightmare against Hearts, this was a small bit of payback.
It was important that we kept our momentum going and two solid away draws at Pittodrie and Dens were more than satisfactory.We had a short break with the Dunfermline game being postponed but the third high point of the season was just around the corner.McFadden was again the man as we defeated Rangers 1-0 at Fir Park to lift ourselves two points off the bottom of the league.Things had to go back to normal and a late Livingston goal ended our unbeaten run.This was a slightly disappointing way to finish the year but given we were out of the relegation zone, few folk were complaining.
2003 started with a draw against Thistle to keep us in eleventh place.The cup draw was not kind, giving us Kilmarnock away.The transfer window is open but we have not been involved in activity yet.
Whatever 2003 has in store, it is bound to be an exciting time to be a ‘Well fan!
Part 1 of the review is here.