GLF 72:Andy looks back at the McGhee era.
Even though I was I something of a strong defender of Mark McGhee after his departure, I initially believed that given that particular chapter in the club's history was now closed - and that the new era which had begun and had started with some promise - it would be better for all concerned if we moved on and generally tried to forget all about him.It's a stance, however, I've been unable to keep.
At the moment at least, it remains very difficult to put McGhee into the background with barely a week going by without some sound bite from the Granite City striking a chord with the Motherwell support, a revelation or rumour of questionable methods at Fir Park or for even making comparisons between his team and that of Jim Gannon.Yeah, it's going to be a wee while before we can remain free of his shadow yet I think.
I don't quite share the venom that some now hold for him or the attempts by some to repaint history and marginalise his achievements while he was at Fir Park. Though that's not to say I haven't felt let down by some of the stories that have come out since his departure. I find myself torn somewhat between being grateful for some really good times, whilst increasingly coming to terms with the fact that he buggered off and left us in arguably a more threadbare state than when he took over.
I wasn't overly enthused at McGhee's appointment though he quickly won me over with the style of play introduced to the team, the transformation of several of the squad who were at best treading water and impetus built up in the early part of the 2007/08 season. I also enjoyed the profile he brought to the club through his newspaper columns and regular television appearances.His lengthy, well thought out interviews online about the club and team were insightful to a degree that I can't recollect before from a Motherwell manager.
I sometimes wonder how things would have panned out had Uncle Phil not been tragically taken from us for it seemed our star rarely burned quite so brightly after his passing. Though McGhee argued that it was some of the best stuff we were watching in forty odd years, by close of the 2007/08 campaign our football was much less free-flowing and more pragmatic.
That said, however the games panned it was still an incredible achievement to finish 3rd and make the UEFA Cup.Throw in the pitch problems too, the fact that we were almost relegated the previous campaign, makes it in my view one of finest feats orchestrated by a 'Well manager in recent times.You would have to go back to Tommy McLean's last two seasons to draw something of a genuine comparison and before that, who knows?
Season two was much more "Motherwell-like" and in retrospect I'm sure McGhee will regret having not taken the Hearts job.I was delighted when he chose to stay after seemingly being so close to moving to Tynecastle but it really does seem that everything we had budget-wise went on retaining him and Leitchy and any hope of building up the squad went into their bank accounts.
I would imagine that the sale of Chris Porter would have been the pivotal moment in his mind that he would be moving on.The transfer was sound business sense for the board, largely understood by the support but for McGhee it would have surely been the signal if he was any doubt that barring a Cup win he would never better what he had achieved in that first season.I share the view that when our interest in the Scottish Cup ended so did largely McGhee's interest in Motherwell.
Where contract business was tied up quickly in year one, there was little done and even less talked of in his second season.Even when we knew we'd be in the bottom six and further still when 7th was confirmed there was precious little introduction of the youngsters in the squad further suggestion an indifference to what was bubbling under the surface.Yet for all that, 7th place in the SPL is far from a disaster for Motherwell and when the dust settles and we look back on his tenure further down the line, finishes of 3rd and 7th with qualification for Europe thrown in twice is pretty good going.
It was almost inevitable he was going to move on this summer.With so many jobs available in the SPL and his decent record at Fir Park one of them was going to come calling.Was he ever a realistic bet for the Celtic job?The claim that a couple of our younger players were being lined up for moves to Parkhead for a supposedly derisory figure lends weight to the often repeated claims that Gordon Strachan was going to put in a good word for him when he departed, but surely if he was ever going to go Strachan would have had to have left on a high, last summer and cleared the way after McGhee's sensational first season with us.
Another suggestion made on the boards is that McGhee showed an apparent total disinterest in Gordon Young's youth side which given the form of Ross Forbes, Paul Slane et al seems completely folly.It also makes a mockery of the claim that he didn't have the stomach for a rebuilding job at Fir Park, when in fact it seems a half a team was already there in waiting, only requiring a suitably guiding hand to nurture it to its full potential.
But we both are where we are.I believe his move away from Motherwell to be too little too late.If he couldn't face a rebuild of the team at Motherwell then surely he's jumped from the frying pan into the fire at Aberdeen.As for us its still very early days but we don't appear to have missed the talents of Mark and his assistant thus far.If anything the club is actually a more together and vibrant place than its been for some time - Gannon and Motherwell are on the up.
Yeah McGhee did us a power of good but as more and more time passed his effect and impetus was lessening all the while. Whilst the parting of the ways was always on the cards this summer, in retrospect I think it will have been no bad thing for MFC.
Time may prove me wrong but I think the best we'll see from him in Scotland has been and gone.His time for Celtic has passed.His frustration at not being able to realise his lofty ambitions of managing a genuinely big club in England has gone too.
At best he can only hope to stand still.
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