Three years since the Malpas experiment
Updated Monday, 31st May 2010
Motherwell fans can look back on the departure of Maurice Malpas, three years ago, as a significant turning point in the club's fortunes. Since that dark season we have moved forward and qualified for European competition every year.
On June 1 2007 Motherwell announced that "The management team are stepping down following discussions with club directors this week".
Mo took charge following Terry Butcher’s ill-fated decision to take charge of Sydney FC in May 2006. As the current second in command at Fir Park Malpas was the natural successor and most accepted his step up to the manager’s chair as the safe move.
A familiar sight three years ago
He appointed his long time Dundee United colleague Paul Hegarty as assistant and together they had plenty of time to make preparations for the start of the season. We started the campaign with four straight defeats and by the September weekend, having played eight, we were bottom of the table with four (4!) points.
It was clear that we were in trouble and we needed some clear and determined leadership to drag us out of the gloom. Sadly, we got none. The sight of the manager slumped in his dugout watching the team struggle was to become an all too familiar sight. We had a mid season recovery of sorts and reached the dizzy height of eighth at Christmas. We scraped past Airdrie in the cup, beat Morton and had a quarter final tie with lower league St Johnstone to deliver a season saving trip to Hampden but we were beaten by a hungrier team at home in front of the TV cameras.
That loss was part of the collapse as the season came to a close. We recorded one win in the last thirteen games and finished tenth, thanks mainly to the incompetence of St Mirren and Dunfermline who managed to finish below us.
The end came in a curious way. Reports suggested that Hegarty’s rough tongue had not done him any favours and that the move to replace him was not accepted by Malpas. In the event the pair moved on and Scott Leitch was returned to the club as caretaker. Mark McGhee arrived and we were treated to an unbelievable turnaround as the team that floundered and stuttered in 2006/7 were to deliver sparkling football to rave reviews within weeks.