The ambition held by Motherwell supporters and the club itself is interesting. There is no doubt that given the wages we can offer in relation to the Old Firm, the Edinburgh teams, Aberdeen and Dundee United, finishing above any of those clubs is an achievement in itself. However, we know more than most that paying high wages does not guarantee success. And quite frankly, the fact that heavy wage packets are taken from Tannadice and Pittodrie does nothing to change the fact their teams contain several players who are to say the least, not very good. Finishing above them then, should possibly be an expectation rather than a hope.
Historically we have usually been in the lower half of the table but like the warnings on investments, previous performance is no guarantee of future results. That Aberdeen and Dundee United fans can remember European finals is irrelevant to the fact that we are better than them at the moment. Our trouble is that while Rangers and Celtic are no longer light years better than us there is still a significant gap. Hearts and Hibs, rather than being in the pack, are also significantly better than us. You may disagree with that on the basis of our recent games against them but the league tables of the last 18 months provide concrete evidence of this assertion. That means realistically we are aiming to finish the season in fifth position and given the vastly superior resources of the four we’ll be behind this is a reasonable target.
Are we in line for fifth position? Well there’s certainly no reason why not. We are a few points behind Kilmarnock and they will naturally find it hard to adjust to life after Kris Boyd. Our team had its problems earlier in the year but we now seem to have settled down and if only we can stop losing late goals things will progress nicely.
The CIS Cup has been kind to us again and this time we will get to go to Hampden for the semi final. We’re up against Celtic and while the more optimistic will see a glorious success, the more realistic among us are fearful of a thrashing. We have struggled badly at taking on the old firm on a large pitch (read Glasgow) and there is little to suggest we’ll find a way of combating them this time either. However, the cup is special and if it is meant to be no doubt we’ll find a way.
The one concern is the fact that the conveyer belt of youth talent seems to have slowed somewhat. There are kids in and around the first team but none of them seems to be making a real push at forcing Terry Butcher to take note.
Obviously we cannot produce a McFadden every two years but we appear to have hit a dry patch. Even Marc Fitzpatrick seems to have lost the faith of Butcher for reasons unknown or unseen to everyone else.
Still, that is the only concern and we seem to be in a strong position. The squad could be improved of course but the quality in our squad is still as high as it’s been for years. 2006 will no doubt be frustrating if we fail to find consistency but one thing is for sure, it will be another fun ride!