GLF 58: Del finds a formula to work out the value of out players..... well, sums were never his stroing point ;-)
Talent divided by consistency equals?
The value of our players
In the last GLF I wrote an article urging the fans to stand by Terry Butcher if things did not go too well this season.Whether things are going well depends,I suppose, on what you look for in a Motherwell season.At the time of writing,we are in the Top Six with a winnable run of games coming up ( time for a disaster then...... ) and we are in our third major semi final inside four years.On that reading,things are good.
But,remarkably,it is undeniable that we could be in a much better league position.There is no point in lamenting the loss of late points to Celtic and Kilmarnock-these are typical breaks that happen throughout the course of the season.We ourselves were supremely fortunate with a late ‘ get out of jail free ’ card at home to Dunfermline.What is less excusable though is the loss of points in the Dundee United ( home ) and Aberdeen(away ) matches.These are games which we had won.They were over.They were in the bag.Or they should have been.And the sloppiness that allowed our opponents back into the game on each occasion was not merely an accidental one off,a freak occurrence.These dropped points have been perfect examples of the systematic problems we are suffering despite the fact we possess a team which is superior to many in the league.
What is causing these errors ?Obviously I don’t know the answers but it is fun to speculate.Is Terry Butcher responsible for creating an atmosphere within the dressing room which suggests that we are doing well to be where we are,that sixth place is a good achievement for a club our size and a suitable plateau for our talent ?It is possible ...... but I find it hard to believe.Terry Butcher is a determined winner of a man and it seems incredulous to suggest that he would settle for anything less than complete victory.He will be as frustrated as the rest of us.His comments in the media before and after old firm games are beginning to look ill - advised but surely he is building the players up within the dressing room.And he must be making it clear that abysmal defending is abysmal defending-Celtic are good enough to punish us severely for it but that’s a fact we were previously aware of,it does not excuse a pathetic effort by the team he picked.
Stephen Craigan,for example,played in a team which kept a clean sheet against Michael Owen,Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard.He can clearly play a bit.Yet in the SPL this season he has been made to look inadequate by average strikers.His dominant form of a couple of years ago has vanished and he is now,by some way, the weaker half of our centre - back combination regardless of who he is playing with.But what can we do about this ?It seems highly unlikely that we could attract a defender who is capable of playing at a higher level than Craigan can potentially reach.We might be able to bring in someone who can be ‘ okay ’ on a more consistent basis than Craigan but that is the dilemma which nearly all Motherwell managers have faced and will continue to face in the future.
Brian Kerr is another case.His recent glut of goals has given him tremendous confidence.At times he motors up and down the park,both tackling and defending our own goal and seconds later probing and attacking the opposition.He displays a level of technical skill which is rarely seen in a claret and amber midfield.Essentially,when he plays well,he is dangerously close to being a complete centre midfielder.However there are also times when the game passes him by.He wanders around the middle of the park looking like a little boy lost.But what can Terry do about it ?The answer sadly,is not a lot.
The problem is thus.Players who are a very good and consistent simply don’t play for Motherwell.They either don’t want to play for a club of our modest stature or if they are with us they get snapped up by bigger fish,either for transfer fees or on a Bosman.If the likes of Scott McDonald and Brian Kerr play to the absolute top of their game every time the step out on the pitch,they will be picked off by Hearts, Hibs,Rangers, Celtic or someone in England before next season rolls around.If Stephen Craigan could keep a player like Michael Owen quiet every time he played, he would be in the Premiership,not at Fir Park.The juggling to be done by the Motherwell manager,whoever he may be,is to find a squad which is made up of players who can be just above average nearly all the time and players who can be brilliant every third or fourth game.In essence,this why the Hamilton - McDonald striking partnership is so productive.Hamilton rarely has a terrible game.He is always available as a target,he holds the ball up,he wins headers.He does all the ugly work a striker needs to do and does it well.Skippy on the other hand can be a match winner.On his day he seems to be all over the front line taking on defenders and making chances for himself and others.There are times,of course,when he has a stinker.The occasional inexplicably poor performance when nothing works is the price we have to pay for breath-taking moments of magic.It is a simple trade off and what’s more,it’s fair.
In my many seasons watching Motherwell,there have been only two years when we played good football and won matches week in week out.I,thankfully,am still just under the twenty-season mark but looking back through history provides the proof that supporting Motherwell in the top flight generally goes one of two ways.Either we struggle pitifully against the drop or we can play occasionally inspiring but frequently frustrating mid-table stuff.Even the fourth place earned by Billy Davies’ side was undermined by a strong feeling of underachievement.So what should be done at the minute ?Nothing.Sit back and enjoy it.No - one supports Motherwell to see us win games week in week out or to pick up trophies every year or two.At the minute we are winning as many games as we lose and we have some players who can do magical things at times.We are in good position in the race for yet another Top Six finish and cup glory is within sight once again.These are good times to support the ‘Well.Things could be a wee bit better yes,but then football fans can always see how things could be better.
And,after all,if you do want success then you can relax in the knowledge that if Butcher maintains our season-by-season progress at the present rate,we’ll win a minor European competition within three generations.Not bad !
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