Debt free and fan owned, Motherwell had a terrific 2019/20 season. It was a pity that it ended early.
There are times when circumstances force us to re-evaluate what we hold most dear and the emergence of the pandemic in early 2020 put the place of football in perspective. Nevertheless, Motherwell finished the season in third place and players, staff and fans can look back at the 30 game campaign and smile.
The close season changeover of personnel gave us a new team to follow. Summer departures were Chris Cadden, Jake Hastie, Curtis Main, Carl McHugh, Danny Johnson, Elliott Frear and loaned players Tom Aldred and Gboly Ariyibi. The new faces included, Declan Gallagher, Liam Polworth, Jake Carroll, Casper Sloth, Jermaine Hylton, Sherwin Seedorf, Christian Ilic, Bevis Mugabi, Chris Long, Christy Manzinga and loanees Devante Cole and Mark O’Hara.
Overshadowing the transition was the ‘will he, won’t he’ tale of David Turnbull. A club record transfer was eventually agreed with suitors Celtic and Norwich. The move was halted when a potential problem was discovered in the midfielder’s knee and he remained on Motherwell’s books as surgery and a long period of convalescence began.
The team moved to Northern Ireland for a pre-season camp and friendly matches before the Betfred group stage. Four wins and no goals conceded led us into a knockout tie against Hearts that ended our interest.
In July the club revealed that it would be proudly unsponsored by Paddy Power. The well paid deal let us play for the season with no advertising logo on the strip as part of the firm's 'Save Our Shirts' campaign.
Stephen Robinson and Keith Lasley were rewarded for their stewardship with contract extensions that stretched until 2022.
The league campaign opened quietly with a goalless encounter at Livingston followed by a heavy home defeat from Celtic. The first win came in Hamilton but our neighbours were to get some revenge in the last game of the year. Charles Dunne succumbed to a groin problem and was to make no appearances after August.
Wins against Hibs and Hearts had us firmly in the top half of the table and only a careless loss to Ross County prevented a six game winning streak.
Donnelly scored 11 this season
Declan Gallagher, Liam Donnelly and Bevis Mugabe were to take international caps while Allan Campbell, Barry Maguire and James Scott were to benefit from U21 recognition. Gallagher soon became a fan favourite and the player of the season.
In November the club announced that debts to Les Hutchison and John Boyle had been cleared. The Well Society continued to support running costs and our finances were now completely in our own hands. At the AGM in December the board was thanked for the progress the club had made.
Favourable results continued and we hovered between third and fourth for weeks on end. We had reached giddy heights that few fans expected at the start of the season. There was even (whisper it...) talk of a European jaunt in the following summer.