A review of past clashes between the teams in Motherwell has to begin with the famous Scottish Cup win of 1977. We had disposed of Kilmarnock in the 3rd round and St Mirren, then a good young side at the top of the First Division, had thumped Dundee United 4-1. The 4th round tie was keenly anticipated and around 27,000 packed into Fir Park while several thousand were locked out.
Alex Ferguson’s hopefuls faced a tough Motherwell side. Willie McLean (with the help of his deputy, Craig Brown) set out a team that would stop the young starlets in their tracks. Miller, McLaren and McVie lost no time in letting it be known that they were masters of their half and a 19 year old Frank McGarvey soon felt the brunt of their attentions. He was to say some years later, “Throughout my career I played against some of the hardest defenders in the world. Claudio Gentile at Juventus was rough and so was the Argentina centre-half Daniel Passarella but they were nothing compared to Stuart McLaren and Peter Millar. They thought the centre-forward and the ball were part of the same thing. I was genuinely scared in that game and it's the only time I ever felt like that when I was playing football. Facing Rangers at Ibrox with Celtic was a walk in the park compared to that day.”
McGarvey was to equalise Davidson’s opener but a Pettigrew penalty sent us into the quarter finals and a 2-0 loss to Rangers. Ferguson was to have a rant afterwards - nothing changes!
In recent times results have gone either way but the win St Mirren earned in May 1977 is fondly remembered by the Buddies. Both teams were struggling in the league and Saints were a mere point ahead of bottom team St Johnstone when the came to Fir Park for the second last game of the season. More than 9,000 were in the ground to see us take a two goal lead thanks to a McCormack double and the big travelling support feared the worst. Almost an hour had passed before John Sutton gave them hope. Mehmet got the equaliser and we were wobbling. Sutton thundered in the winner six minutes from time and the away support celebrated their lifeline.
The game was to be the last that Malpas oversaw as Motherwell manager at Fir Park and his parting shot sealed his fate. "The fans can boo all they like but they won't get rid of me this way. I'm utterly disappointed in them. They should be supporting the team. As long as I have the support of the players, that'll do me."
Whether Saturday’s game is destined for the history books remains to be seen but Motherwell fans will be happy enough if we can record a routine win and consolidate our third place.