Last night’s 3-2 League Cup victory was another turning point, in falling back in with football.
A League Cup second-round victory in the Highlands was always going to be a cause for celebration. A 370-mile round trip from Motherwell via various other stops to collect friends, an encounter where we experienced both highs and lows, from losing a lead on two separate occasions, to the perceived injustice of losing Charles Dunne to a red-card for the incident that led to Craig Curran levelling at 2-2, then there was the scenes that followed Ross MacLean’s wonderfully taken winning goal followed by the relief and jubilation on the referee’s final whistle.
Progression to a cup quarter-final isn’t something that many ‘Well fans will take lightly, particularly given cup failure has become almost a staple diet in recent seasons – I won’t mention any individual games but we all know of a few that will instantly spring to mind. For that reason winning a cup game in the circumstances in which the team did last night was very special.
The celebrations at full-time were brilliant, back to those moments of grabbing the nearest stranger for a hug, punching the air and generally feeling as if you had kicked every ball over the course of the 120-minutes. Is there any other form of ‘entertainment’ gives you those amazing highs and crushing lows? I don’t believe there is one.
Time moves quickly in football and incredibly it was only six months ago that I sat down and wrote about experiencing feelings that I had never encountered before; I had come to the conclusion that I had fallen out with football.
In that blog piece I described that:
“I don’t even think it’s a feeling of acceptance, there’s no arguing that the team and the manager are performing nowhere near the level they should be and that is reflected in our current league position. That makes it even more concerning that at a time where the club is now fan owned, that people are beginning to develop a feeling of indifference towards supporting Motherwell.”
For those who want to go back to unhappier times, you can read the piece in full HERE
Well thankfully things have changed quite a lot in the last six months or so, a huge number of factors both on and off the pitch that have made my experiences of following the team I love so much more enjoyable.
I’ll go back to last night to start things off, as the full-time whistle sounded, to a man the players and management team all came over to applaud the dedicated band of 200 or so travelling fans, in a moment where we could all celebrate as one – this Motherwell team seems very much built on an understanding that togetherness and spirit are key factors. I think as a support all we demand from those pulling on a Claret & Amber shirt is that they put in their very best on every occasion they do so – playing football is a privilege and it’s hugely important that those in a Motherwell shirt treat it as such. The club doesn’t operate on a budget that means we can compete with the very top teams in our league financially, but with the right attitude there’s absolutely no reason why on our day we can’t go to head-to-head with any team.
Of course me sitting battering at a keyboard isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference, this attitude has to on show throughout the club, from the very top down. Stephen Robinson has come into Fir Park and shown a real desire to make the squad, performances and results better. He achieved his first objective in ensuring the team remained in the top-flight of Scottish football last season and this season despite the fact we are in the very early stages appears to have instilled a feeling of belief and pride in the jersey. He kicks every ball on the sidelines and when bringing players to the club seems to try sell them a vision, that while we are unable to pay top wages, that Fir Park is the perfect place to come to and further your career – as long as you are willing to put the work in.
The appointment of Keith Lasley as his assistant of course will help this cause too – a man that never shirked a tackle during his esteemed playing career with the club, he knows what that MFC means to the supporters, the local community and most importantly loves the team. He has experienced the highs and the lows at Fir Park, from European adventures and second-place finishes, to relegation battles and administration. I struggle to see any player putting in any less than their very best for the cause and ‘Las being willing to accept that.
Behind the scenes the club sets the bar extremely high too, Alan Burrows’ Tweet, five hours after arriving home from Dingwall, that he was back in his office ‘buzzing’ raised as much of a laugh as it did a sense of real pride that we appear to have a wealth of people at Motherwell who are obsessed by the club – doing the very best they can every day to make the club better. The media and commercial teams also deserve huge amount of praise – for their tireless work and dedication to the cause – Lewis Irons’ post-match interview with the manager was posted at around 2:30am last night – it was much welcomed as we endured those final few miles of the journey.
In my blog written back in February, I had mentioned there were reasons for optimism, that my love would return and while perhaps my lack of sleep and trying to navigate my way through the final hours of my working day are playing a part on what may seem quite an over-reaction to a good night on the park, but frankly even without last night, things just seem better.
Season ticket initiatives have swelled and encouraged the younger generation to take up supporting Motherwell, some making their very strides into the years of highs and lows that I have described earlier. The players again have clearly bought into this, spending well over their allotted time at the recent club Open Day signing autographs, posing for selfies and chatting to fan old and new. In a time where footballers are often depicted as taking fans for granted, it was refreshing to see that at Motherwell that is quite simply not the case.
The ‘Well Society also appear to finally be making strides to reach out to the wider support and their recent initiative to welcome local Syrian refugees, brought acclaim and exposure in both the local and national press and the recent launch of an Exiles Club is sure to also help increase involvement in the Society from across the world – why stop at Lanarkshire?
Oh and then there was the launch of the new mascots, the fantastic work in the Summer Soccer Camps by the Community Trust and recent signing Charles Dunne lacking the faith in his singing abilities so instead forfeiting his initiation song and instead buying a young fan a new kit with his fine – a lovely gesture that the boy in question will never forget.
The feel good is back, the results might not always be how we like but Motherwell F.C. really feels like a club moving in the right direction – let’s see what the next six months bring.