The players were back for their pre-season fun before the end of June knowing that they had a trip to Iceland in store. With friendlies against Brechin, Forfar and Ayr behind them, they set off for Breidablik then Aalesund in the preliminary stages of the Europa League.
Jamie Murphy displaced Stevie Kirk as our high scorer in European competitions with goals against both opponents and it was with some confidence that we turned to the opening SPL fixture when Hibs visited Fir Park. It was a game that should have been done and dusted by half-time but we managed to lose it 2-3.
A morning's stroll in Odense
A jolly to Odense was next on the schedule and hundreds of Motherwell fans made the trip. We made the best of Danish hospitality and celebrated when Hateley’s free kick thundered into the net in the final minute to give us a lifeline away goal in a 2-1 defeat. Unfortunately we failed to take advantage and lost the return leg.
A late penalty loss to Celtic as August drew to a close was followed by a purple patch. Wins over St Johnstone, Hearts, St Mirren and Dundee United together with a draw with Aberdeen thrust us up the table and by the end of the first cycle of matches we were secure in third place with a two point buffer. Our delayed entry into the CIS Cup because of our Europa League involvement meant that wins over Brechin and United delivered a Hampden semi-final against Rangers.
Brown and Knox were everyone’s favourites and there were smiles all round. Their loan signing from Blackburn, Blackman, then produced six goals in a four game spell that include a hat-trick against St Johnstone.
A half-time shower
Off the field Derek Weir’s board position was elevated to vice-chairman and his shareholding increased. He was to be responsible for reviewing our finances.
December turned out to be dramatic. It brought freezing temperatures, postponements, a referee’s strike and the desertion of our much respected management duo. When the Aberdeen board finally realised the shortcomings of Mark McGhee few expected that they would entice Jack’n Victor to Pittodrie. Indeed, when it came to be known that they had approached Brown, he reassured us that that the “exceptional group of players” at Motherwell could not be left. But within 24 hours he had gone – seemingly unaware that the declaration of loyalty followed by an immediate change of heart shredded the respect that he had earned.
Gordon Young stood up to the plate until a new appointment was in place. The team had lost the composed look that was evident earlier in the season and losses to Hearts, Rangers and Celtic followed.
Stuart McCall signed a two and a half year deal a year and a day after Craig Brown joined us. A new era was about to begin.