Category: Blog

The Best Matches of the Decade

It’s been a memorable last 10 years for ‘Well fans. From the high of successive second place finishes, three cup finals and European adventures to struggles at the wrong end of the table.

Let’s countdown the 10 most memorable matches of the last decade.

10. Motherwell 3-0 Aalesunds FK – Europa League – 5/8/2010

After suffering late disappointment in the first-leg as the Norwegian side levelled from the penalty spot, it was all to play for one week later at Fir Park.

‘Well made a dream start when Jamie Murphy opened the scoring after just four minutes and John Sutton swept home nine minutes later to double their advantage.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who at the time held the post of reserve manager at Manchester United, was in the crowd to watch future signing Anders Lindegaard and he witnessed the keeper concede his third goal of the evening when Jonathan Page tapped home in the final minutes to seal progression to the final qualifying round for Stuart McCall’s exciting side.

9. Motherwell 3-0 St Johnstone – Scottish Cup – 16-4-2011

In a semi final encounter billed as far too close to call, Motherwell sealed a place in their first Scottish Cup finalin 20 years with a blistering first half display.

Stephen Craigan headed the Steelmen in front after five minutes and his celebration after breaking the deadlock typified the passion that the ‘Well legend would demonstrate every time he pulled on a claret and amber jersey.

Jamie Murphy drove into the box and drilled a low effort into the bottom corner to make it 2-0 and before the break it was three when John Sutton found the net with a quite incredible dipping volley from 35-yards out.

8. Celtic 1-2 Motherwell – Scottish Premiership – 19/12/2015

At the time of writing it’s been over four years since Celtic last lost a league fixture at Celtic Park, that was when Louis Moult’s double gave Motherwell all three points in the East End of Glasgow.

Mark McGhee’s ‘Well side held firm in the opening 45, but fell behind to Nir Bitton’s deflected strike just after the restart. It looked like the Hoops were on their way to a routine victory, but instead they were stunned as the visitors responded brilliantly.

Moult slotted home after great work by Marvin Johnson to level matters and he would double his tally six minutes later from the penalty spot to turn the match on its head. Celtic piled on the pressure in the closing stages, but Motherwell weren’t to be denied a memorable victory.

7. Motherwell 3-1 Celtic – Scottish Premiership – 28/04/2013

European football was guaranteed by a sparkling performance against the champions in waiting at Fir Park. Gary Hooper opened the scoring, but Neil Lennon’s side were powerless to resist what would follow.

Keith Lasley combined with Henrik Ojamaa and the Estonian finished wonderfully, restoring parity before half time and Michael Higdon scored from the penalty spot to put Motherwell ahead.

Lennon had cast some doubt on Higdon’s PFA ‘Player of the Year’ nomination in the build up to the game and the striker sent the Celtic gaffer a message with his celebration after finding the net. The third goal arrived when Mikael Lustig’s clearing header rebounded off his own post and ended up in net after striking Fraser Forster on the back.

6. Motherwell 3-0 Rangers – Scottish Premiership – Play Off – 31/5/2015

Despite a 3-1 victory at Ibrox just three days earlier, there were plenty of nerves as Rangers visited Fir Park for the second leg of their Scottish Premiership play-off.

A cagey first half did little to remove the tension, but Fir Park would erupt when Marvin Johnson’s deflected shot looped into the air and through the hands of CammyBell. As the famous commentary from Derek Rae described, ‘Fir Park was twisting, shouting, shaking’.

Lionel Ainsworth drilled home to put the game beyond doubt and the gloss was put on a quite brilliant few days at the end of a difficult season when John Sutton converted from the penalty spot – the last of his 79 goals for the club.

5. Motherwell 6-6 Hibernian – Scottish Premier League – 5/5/2010

The only match on this list that isn’t a victory, though there can be little disputing the merit of including what was arguably the most incredible 90 minutes in Scottish football history.

Motherwell were dead and buried at 4-1 down and also at 6-2, yet they weren’t and Craig Brown’s men would clinch a draw in the most dramatic of circumstances. Anthony Stokes made it 6-2 for Hibs after 65 minutes, but 11 minutes later it was 6-5.

When referee Willie Collum pointed at the spot to award ‘Well a penalty, the clock read 87, substitute Ross Forbes stepped up to take it and he saw his effort kept out by former ‘Well keeper Graeme Smith.

It didn’t end there though, in the third minute of time added on, Lucas Jutkiewicz thundered home a volley from what seemed like an impossible angle, sparking wild scenes among the players and they eternal optimists within the support who remained inside the ground when all looked to be lost.

4. Motherwell 3-0 Aberdeen – Scottish Cup –14/4/2018

Motherwell under Stephen Robinson had already reached the final of the Betfred Cup during the 2017/18 season when they took on Aberdeen looking to make it a double.

They did so in emphatic style, quite simply steamrollering their way to a richly deserved victory over the Dons – a second 3-0 victory in a cup competition over Derek McIness’ side that season.

Richard Tait did brilliantly to square the ball for Curtis Main to knock the ball home for the opening goal and within two minutes Motherwell had established a position of command when Ryan Bowman reacted quickly after seeing his initial effort blocked to turn the ball into the net and make it 2-0.

After the break, Main added another when he seized upon Kari Arnason’s error before driving into the box and dispatching the ball superbly beyond Joe Lewis. The scenes of celebration at full-time showed just how much the win meant to fans and players alike as an incredible season continued at pace.

3. Rangers 0-2 Motherwell – Betfred Cup – 22/10/2017

We’d become quite well versed on what to expect from these occasions. When it came to coming up against Rangers at Hampden, Motherwell just couldn’t get the job done.

Thankfully, nobody had filled Stephen Robibnson’s side in on the script and they produced a performance to defy the odds and book their place in the 2017 BetfredCup final.

The first half was one sided and much was owed to Trevor Carson in helping keeping Rangers at bay, though as the game went on it became increasingly apparent that it might just be our day.

That belief increased when Louis Moult found the net after Peter Hartley’s header had struck the crossbar and he the talismanic striker was at it again when he sent a sublime shot over the head of Jak Alnwick in the Rangers goal and into the gaping goal.

It’s one to watch time and time again – the silence as the ball leaves Louis’ foot, time seems to stand still and then the noise of the ball hitting the net, followed by an explosion of noise from the ‘Well fans – brilliant!

2. Aberdeen 0-1 Motherwell – Scottish Premiership

There’s little dressing up that as a footballing spectacle, this game was right up there with the very worst, though it was an occasion where the result mattered much more than the manner in which it was achieved.

Motherwell made the trip to Pittodrie knowing that anything less than a win would see them having to settle for third spot, though over the course of the 90 minutes it was the hosts would enjoyed the majority of both the possession and the chances.

A fairly dire goalless draw seemed inevitable as the fourth official signalled just one minute of injury time, but there was to be a late twist that would propel this match into Motherwell folklore.

Keith Lasley launched a free-kick from his own half that sailed over everyone inside the Dons penalty area and clattered the crossbar, an almighty scramble would follow before Craig Reid prodded the ball into the net and secure second spot for the Steelmen.

There were plenty of protests from the Dons players who felt that Jamie Langfield had been impeded by John Suton in the build-up, but their protests were in vain as the bumper travelling support soaked up a triumph that earned them second spot in the most dramatic of circumstances.

1. Rangers 1-3 Motherwell – Scottish Premiership Play Off – 28/5/2015

After successive second place finishes, the 2014-15 season was markedly different for ‘Well and the team would finish second bottom of the Scottish Premiership.

If they were to ensure their top flight survival, it would have to be done by overcoming Rangers in a two-leg play-off, with the first fixture taking place on a Thursday night at Ibrox.

All the build-up to the game surrounded Rangers competing their journey back to the top league of Scottish football, with some pundits predicting that Motherwell would be doing well to even be in the tie come the return leg at Fir Park.

The early exchanges of the match saw Rangers lay siege on the ‘Well goal, forcing George Long into a number of good stops. As time progressed, the visitors began to show signs of settling into the game and just before the half hour mark Lee Erwin’s deflected shot found its way past Cammy Bell and into the net.

Rangers were stunned and before half time it was 2-0 when Stephen McManus headed home from Marvin Johnson’s free-kick.

‘Well fans were delirious at half time, though that was nothing compared to when Lionel Ainsworth drove the ball home following a lightening quick counter.

Darren McGregor did get one back for the home side before the end, but it was a night that belonged to Motherwell and the 950 ‘travelling fans lapped up every single second of their first win at Ibrox since 1997 and one that gave the perfect platform to finish the job three days later. 

Phil O’Donnell – Forever 10

This afternoon’s fixture against Hamilton promises to be an emotional occasion as supporters honour the life of Phil O’Donnell.

On the 12th anniversary of his tragic passing, the legacy of our inspirational captain continues to burn brightly around Fir Park.

Last month he was posthumously entered as one of the first group of inductees into the Motherwell FC Hall of Fame – a fitting tribute to the joy he brought to ‘Well fans while wearing a claret and amber shirt.

Progressing through the ranks at Motherwell, Phil made his debut in a 2-2 draw against St Mirren in November 1990. By the end of that season he was playing a pivotal role as the Steelmen sampled Scottish Cup glory, throwing himself into a sea of flying boots to head the ball beyond Alan Main and put ‘Well 2-1 ahead.

It was a goal that encapsulated O’Donnell’s all-action style, he was full of energy and demonstrated an exceptional level of skill and ability. Phil was the youngest member of the 1991 squad and his determination, energy and enthusiasm inspired his team-mates.

Speaking to Kenny MacDonald ahead of the 2017 Betfred Cup final that saw two of Phil’s former sides go head-to-head, 1991 Scottish Cup winning keeper, Ally Maxwell spoke of Phil’s role in the team’s success.

“I think we were all pretty aware that Phil was a special kid,” he said. “That season he’d started in the reserves but he trained with us – you looked at him and thought, ‘who the hell is this?

“I always thought of him as a natural player. He hadn’t been robotically coached, he got from box to box on enthusiasm and energy.

“We’d guys like Davie Cooper and Stevie Kirk so we really needed to have legs in the team.

“But Phil was in the starting side on merit because of the way he’d been playing and the thing people forget about him was that he had real bravery.

“His goal in the final was his first for the club but, after Davie Cooper’s free-kick was headed back across the goal, he threw himself in among the flying boots to get his header in to make it 2-1.

“I’d got to know him quite well because a couple of times a week Tom Boyd, me, Jim Griffin and Phil would go for a game of snooker after training.

“He was the youngest of the lot of us and you could tell he was a genuinely nice kid.”

Phil’s stock value was rising and he would win the Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year award in 1992 before going on to win his first full international cap the following year when he replaced Dave Bowman in the 1-1 draw with Switzerland at Pittodrie.

Craig Brown, the Scotland manager who capped O’Donnell described him as “a perfect gentleman” and “an ideal role model”, insisting injuries deprived him the opportunity of becoming a mainstay for the national team.

“But for injury, I’m sure he would have had many, many more caps,” he said. “I think in his first spell at Motherwell he was probably the best box-to-box midfield player maybe not just in Scotland but in the UK.

“He was a Steven Gerrard-type of player, and he went to Celtic and that was no surprise.”

The 1993-94 campaign ended with another PFA Young Player award before the all too familiar tale of a young player bursting on to the scene, attracting great plaudits from the ‘Well supporters and then inevitably the attention of the bigger clubs with greater resources became reality.

At the age of 22, O’Donnell swap Fir Park for Celtic Park. Tommy Burns splashed out £1.75million to bring him to Parkhead and the fee remains Motherwell’s highest ever transfer fee received.

That season he would earn his second Scottish Cup winners medal, coming off the bench as Pierre van Hooijdonk’s goal earned Celtic a 1-0 success over Airdrie.

Three years later he earned his sole league winner’s medal as the Hoops denied Rangers a historic tenth successive title. During his time at Celtic, Phil would play 90 times, hitting the net 15 times.

Unfortunately, as with much of his career, injuries proved to be a challenge for Phil and after departing Celtic for Sheffield Wednesday he managed just 20 appearances, scoring only once.

After his release in 2003, there were suggestions that his career was over, though the chance to train with his boyhood club would provide a last chance at top-flight football.

It was an opportunity he grabbed with both hands, he would go on to captain the club and flourished in the role – he was now the rode model and the driving force for the young players within the squad.

One of my favourite memories of Phil in his second spell at Fir Park was his role in a 1-0 victory at Rugby Park, just over a month before his devastating passing. He put in a tireless shift that day and would contribute the winning goal of the game – a deflected effort that found its way past Alan Combe in the Killie goal.

He celebrated that goal with all the enthusiasm of his first ever goal for the football club, it was evident that he was enjoying his football every bit as much as he did during the infancy of his career.

The devastating events of the 29 December, 2007 will always be difficult to reflect upon. The football world instantly became worse off the day we lost Phil O’Donnell. His stature within the game was reflected in the tributes which came in from far and wide.

As fans it was difficult to know how to react, I think we all felt we had lost someone close to us. We’d witnessed Phil burst on to the scene, help inspire the team to Scottish Cup success and later return to captain a side that under Mark McGhee were playing some of the best football seen at Fir Park in many years.

Sadly, I never had the pleasure of meeting Phil in person. Though I’ve greatly enjoyed the company of those who knew the man affectionately known as ‘Uncle Phil’ and listening to their stories of a dedicated family man, who would do anything for his family, friends and his team-mates.

When writing this piece, I stumbled across an interview with Henrik Larsson, speaking ahead of Phil’s tribute match at Celtic Park in 2008 and felt it beautifully summed up his contribution to the game and his fantastic qualities as a person.

“You always have guys who are talkers in the dressing room and guys who are a bit more calm,”Larsson said. “Phil was a bit calmer but a great guy.

“For me coming over here as a foreigner, he was always someone you could ask a question and trust his answer – Phil was not only important for me, but for a lot of the foreign players.”

It wasn’t just the overseas players; Phil O’Donnell will always be a massive part of Motherwell Football Club. Today we celebrate his memory and offer our support to his family and friends on this incredibly difficult day.

Forever 10 – Brave as a Lion

When the Steelmen went into meltdown

Motherwell’s dreams of the big time crashed in spectacular style 17 years ago, before a painful rebirth. Key figures look back.

By Andy Ross

The headlines painted a bleak picture: “Motherwell in turmoil”, “It’s hell at ’Well”, “Motherwell on the Brink”. Thursday, April 25, 2002 and Scottish football writers tried to explain the dire situation at Fir Park.

One day earlier at a press conference held in the Davie Cooper Suite inside the stadium, ’Well chairman John Boyle had announced that the club was seeking to gain a court order to put the club into interim administration as a result of serious financial problems at the club.

It was a far cry from the bravado and confidence emanating from Boyle following his purchase of the club in 1998. He quickly introduced a number of plans to entice punters through the gates at Fir Park – from reduced entry, kids go free, bring a friend, no initiative was off limits.

Boyle also had a vision of making Motherwell the “third force” in Scotland, acknowledging that while they would be unable to match the financial clout and strength in depth that Celtic or Rangers possessed, there was no reason why the club couldn’t be the next best thing.

To achieve his goals Boyle would splash the cash both on transfer fees and wages with big names such as John Spencer and Andy Goram signing for the Steelmen. It was bold, exciting and it would also lead to their eventual downfall.

Financial troubles within the Scottish game were rife after the collapse of the Sky television deal and plans for SPL TV had fallen by the wayside. Motherwell’s troubles were compounded after losing their main sponsor Motorola.

Scottish football fans had already seen the demise of Airdrie and Clydebank, now crippling debts were threatening the existence of a top-flight team.  After the press conference it was down to chief executive Pat Nevin to break the crushing news to the playing and non-playing staff that many were being made redundant.

“My least favourite phrase in football is ‘let’s go to the next level’ as that more often than not means spending more money,” Nevin said. “When John and his advisors started saying that financially it wasn’t working and they were thinking of administration, I told them that I thought it was ridiculous.

“I had been running things on budget for all that time and now they wanted to scrap it, get rid of all the people and get them back in on cheaper contracts. You’ve got to remember I’m a former PFA chairman, I’m a union man – I’m not going to do that to people.

“What I did was suggest three plans: the first was that we sell the players of value like we had previously with Lee McCulloch and Stevie McMillan. I could get the wage bill down considerably and we’d be back on an even keel quickly. If you have debts it’s because you wanted and accepted them. It was important to consider that everyone else was going through this too and having to reconstruct due to the changing finances within Scottish football.

“The final plan which I made very clear was I had a buyer. I told them if they wanted to get out they could, and there would be no need to go into administration or anything like that, we could go on. The potential buyer was keen to get involved, he was going to take over the club and be quite strict in the way he ran it, which was good for me and that’s where we stood.

“There was a meeting set up between the potential buyer and John. I wasn’t allowed into this and unfortunately they couldn’t come to an agreement. One day later they placed the club into administration. John desperately wanted mayself and Eric Black to stay on, to which I said there was no way if he was sacking people and not paying debts owed to local community people.

“John and the directors asked me to do the press conference and I said I’d do that but was going to tell the truth. After that they decided that it wasn’t such a good idea. What I did instead was a much more important thing and that was to go downstairs and have a meeting with all of the staff. I told them all I knew about the situation and that they didn’t deserve to be left in the dark.

“Some of the people had been there for decades. I emphasised that I wasn’t taking a penny from the situation and that I was walking as well. I couldn’t watch on as people lost their jobs and swan about continuing to pick up money.

“All the players were asking questions and I was explaining everything, absolutely openly and straight to their face. That was one of the few positives that came out of the situation that many of the players came up to me afterwards, thanked me for doing everything I could and fighting for them.”

Bryan Jackson was the administrator tasked with saving Motherwell FC. Having previously worked on the administration process at Clydebank, he would later go on to oversee the same process at the likes of Dundee, Dunfermline, Hearts and Portsmouth.

Motherwell would release 19 players, including 10 players who still had a year or more left on their deals with the Fir Park club, something Jackson maintains was essential to become “leaner, more cost-effective and more attractive to a new buyer”.
Reflecting on his arrival at the club Jackson describes just how bleak the situation was and denied any suggestion that administration could have been avoided.

“It felt really dark and I think it was a real shock to Scottish football – there have been casualties here and there, but this was the first top flight casualty,” he explained. “People mistakenly thought, maybe understandably, that as football clubs have a fanbase, a scenario like this couldn’t happen and that the next white knight would be just around the corner.

“Pat was away by the time I arrived, though I’m unsure as to how he reached the conclusion that administration could have been avoided.

“Scottish football got overheated, the television money came in, and the wages went up as teams chased the Holy Grail. Unfortunately the television money dropped but the wages didn’t, certainly not at the same rate.”

Former Bolton and Wigan defender Greg Strong found himself without a club after learning he would be one of the 19 players made redundant. At the time he was public in his condemnation of the way in which the process was handled. However, 17 years on he admits his stance has softened somewhat.

Strong would move on to Hull City shortly after learning of his redundancy and the English defender believes he was one of the lucky ones, pointing to examples of players who fell away from the game after their time at Fir Park came to a sudden end.

“It was devastating really, there were a lot of us who had committed to the club and the club had committed to us by offering the contracts they had,” Strong said. “When all of a sudden the rug is pulled from beneath your feet, it’s horrendous.

“I had just bought a house and had a mortgage – we had no time to prepare for what happened at all. I won’t speak badly of the club, time moves on, though on reflection I’m sure those involved will now know that things could and should have been handled much better. We were all put in different rooms with people who didn’t know us and just told what our fate was.

“I remember the drive home and having so many things in my mind, thinking that I would have to tell my wife that I no longer had a job. It was even horrible for those who stayed. To this day I’m very good friends with Martyn Corrigan and he found it difficult being one of the ones who stayed. It was just seeing so many of his friends and their families upset and thinking how can I just carry on?

“I’m not sure Karl Ready ever kicked a ball again. It’s sad as that’s ultimately ended a player’s career.”

In the immediate aftermath of administration, a group of shell-shocked supporters put the wheels in motion to aid the cause and help the club they love survive.

Matt Johnstone was one of a small group of fans who had been invited to form a steering group shortly before the club entered administration. They would have just one meeting before the direction of the group swiftly changed and the ‘Well Worth Saving’ campaign was born.

Johnstone produced the popular fanzine One Step Beyond. He was backed up by John Wilson, who continues to run fan website Fir Park Corner, and other prominent members of the Fir Park fanbase.

He admits it was only at the press conference announcing administration that he realised the possibility of such a chain of events had been discussed previously – it was now down to ’Well Worth Saving to explain the situation to the fans.

“We had a meeting in the boardroom before administration where we were basically a sounding board for their ideas. The club was beginning to alienate supporters and the fans in turn were walking away in their droves,” Johnstone recalled.

“We represented a large chunk of the fanbase and knew the reaction that ideas would get. I think we had one meeting, but before we had the chance to get anything going, administration was put on everybody. As we already had that group in place, ’Well Worth Saving was basically already up and running.

“Keith Brown [a ’Well Worth Saving spokesperson] phoned me in the morning and explained we’d been invited up to the press conference, which was taking place at lunchtime inside Fir Park.

“We were just sitting there totally gobsmacked. We didn’t really understand what administration meant – it was a large step into the unknown. The press conference helped give us more information. We couldn’t go on what the papers were saying – they all had us liquidated.

“Keith reminded me that during the meeting in the boardroom one of the financial guys mentioned administration, which nobody else picked up on. As far as we were concerned he was just talking in business terms, though the plans were in place for administration before we even met with John Boyle and the board.

“After that we got our heads together and to work on getting some funds raised. It was at the forefront of our minds that the club might not survive, the fear that the club might disappear was there for us as much as it was everyone else.

“We were still responsible for explaining it all to the ordinary supporter, as not everyone had the access to the board that we did. We were able to put it in layman’s terms and get the message across that this didn’t have to be the end.

“The amount of money that John Boyle was spending just wasn’t sustainable and if he had kept on going like that it could have easily folded the club.

“We witnessed the players in tears and pointing fingers at directors, telling them they should be ashamed. Our main focus was Motherwell Football Club. You had Greg Strong slaughtering us in the papers but then walking into a contract at Hull City on more than he earned at Fir Park.

“It came to a point where although you felt sorry for some of the lower earners who were likely to struggle to find a club, it was the players earning the big wages that got all the attention.

“You begin to think, wait a minute here, I know what you are on, you weren’t complaining when it was offered to you and you weren’t good enough to be getting it – it became apparent how much overspend there had been on a very average squad.

“The priority was the football club, rather than the individual players and if they had to take these actions then that was something as a group we were going to support.

“Our focus was on raising money to keep the club ticking over and seeing the season through. We helped pay the wages of those who were left for the last few games of the season and help see the club through the summer –we left it for others to point fingers.”

The next job for Jackson was tackling the spiralling debts accumulated over years of overspending at Fir Park and ensuring the existence of the football club established in 1886.

He admits he had to show a ruthless side when it came to redundancies and his actions brought significant backlash from many of those who lost their jobs.

“Motherwell had a huge squad on very high wages – their wage bill was 130% of their turnover,” he explained. “What happens in administration is that you have to self-generate and it has to be pound in and pound out in order to keep the doors open.

“The second option is that you close down; the club goes into liquidation and dies, basically. I couldn’t get the doors open with the wage bill as it was and it certainly wouldn’t be attractive to any potential buyer at those levels. We had to make absolutely brutal savings – there was no other option.

“There was a huge amount of anger; this was unprecedented in the scale of it. A lot of the anger was directed at me personally, but I understand that and that’s part and parcel of the job.”

The hostility building towards Motherwell wasn’t just confined to the players and staff made redundant following administration.

After finishing bottom of the table at the end of the 2002/03 campaign the club faced another battle, this time for their top flight safety. It looked like the Steelmen’s run of 17 successive seasons in the top flight was over, though Falkirk’s failure to fulfil stadium requirements meant ’Well were given a stay of execution.

Ahead of the 2003/04 season Alex Burns and Stephen Craigan both joined on free transfers, prompting outrage from their former club Thistle and in particular Jags chief executive Alan Dick.

“There were some clubs and some people and there was some support from clubs and less from others,” he reflected. “Overall I felt we were a nice, well liked club, if there is such a thing.

“As time went on the hostility began to grow, partly because clubs like Thistle, who had done their own unofficial administration with the Save The Jags campaign, felt we’d cheated and taken an easy route.

“Both players were out of contract and free to go. I understood why they were angry and they were quite personal towards me – I was fairly thick skinned and took it on the chin.”

As time went on, it became clear to Jackson that his hopes for a buyer for the Steelmen were becoming slimmer by the day.

He did have a backup plan though. Motherwell, under the guidance of Terry Butcher, were giving youngsters a chance and the likes of James McFadden and Stephen Pearson were flourishing.

It wasn’t long before both players were attracting interest from a host of clubs both home and abroad – suddenly Jackson saw another route.

Ultimately, McFadden would swap Fir Park for Goodison Park, joining Everton for £1.25 million – a deal that Jackson believes saved Motherwell Football Club.

“I expected a club like Motherwell to find a buyer quite easily and perhaps that was my own naivety. It wasn’t expensive to buy it and it is a really nice community club that has always brought great players through,” he said. “There were plenty of rumours of potential buyers. I have to tell you that all of those stories were all exactly that and that’s backed up by the fact we got to the end of year one and there was no buyer.

“By then I was grasping at any option. At one point myself and Terry [Butcher] were pondering whether we could get a consortium together. He felt we would work really well together, but I told him that we’d fall out.

“Terry would be wanting a new forward or centre half and as a football fan I’d want to give him that, though financially it wouldn’t be possible and it would have caused a falling out.

“I began to see a different route; if we could sell players for enough money then we could do a deal with the creditors. James McFadden and Stephen Pearson were coming through and I thought if we could sell those players for a certain amount of money, then there was a deal to be done.

“There was a bid of £300,000 from Craig Brown, who was the manager of Preston at the time. I don’t blame him, he was only trying to do the best for his club, but I think it was derisory. I replied in writing and my response was I’d have to reject the offer and added: did you miss a zero?

“I was on a beach on the Maldives and it was coming up to the end of the transfer window. We’d started negotiations before I left and John [Boyle] was involved in the deal and did a good job.

“John isn’t a successful businessman for no reason, he’s fairly hardnosed. The bidding started at £500,000 as one lump sum and that was going to do it for us. We got them up to £750,000 and I thought if we could get them up to a million then we could do a deal with the creditors.

“James was ready to go at that time and take the step up – we didn’t want a disgruntled player and I was also mindful of what would happen if James was to pick up an injury.

“There was no escaping the fact this was a distress sale – we were in administration. John got it up to a million and continued to push on. We ended up at £1.25 million and he was still negotiating for more but I eventually managed to get him agree to take the bird in the hand.”

On April 21, 2004 the news arrived that Motherwell fans had been desperate to hear: the club had come out of interim administration to end a two-year chapter of uncertainty. The work of Jackson, ‘Well Worth Saving and all involved with Motherwell had saved the football club.

In the years that followed, John Boyle would return to the role of chairman, before handing over his shares to the club’s supporters in 2011.

Today Motherwell are the only fan owned club in the Scottish Premiership and in November 2019 announced debts owed to former owners John Boyle and Les Hutchison had been paid back in full.

“When I tend to get these jobs, I say it feels like it’s 50/50 as to whether you can get it over the line and I felt that at Motherwell, though it was always a confident 50/50,” said Jackson when contemplating his time at Fir Park. “My subsequent jobs I never felt that way at all for a number of different types of reasons.

“There was a feeling that the fans would not allow the club to die in any type of way, there was a community spirit there and a real optimism that we would find a way. I was confident the club would go on to do well, had a good set of players and that was a nice feeling.

“Everyone deserves credit for what they contributed, to get it over the line John Boyle waived a massive part of the debt owed to him so that the dividend could be paid to the creditors and that was absolutely huge.

“Part of my heart is still with Motherwell, you can’t be involved in such a process with the club and that not be the case –  part of me will always be there.”

Article featured in Nutmeg 14 – Available now HERE

The Final Word – v Rangers 15/12/19

After Amazon broadcast a full round of English Premier League fixtures live on their online steaming service, could the way we watch football be set to change forever?

A Tuesday night fixture between Crystal Palaceand Bournemouth was perhaps a somewhat underwhelming way for Amazon to mark their first foray into broadcasting live football. But what would follow certainly offered plenty of food for thought.

All 10 midweek Premier League fixtures were shown on Amazon’s Prime streaming service, resulting in the two biggest sign-up days ever for the service in the UK.

In what is already a crowded market featuring both Sky Sports and BT Sport, fans of English football could be forgiven for letting out a sigh as they contemplate shelling out yet another subscription fee to follow their team.

Multiple subscription packages have become the norm for football fans in Scotland too. With BT Sport, Premier Sports and Sky Sports currently sharing the rights to show live matches, the life of an armchair fan is certainly an expensive one.  

There was intrigue ahead of Amazon’s debut and the general consensus was it was an impressive first showing. The picture quality was excellent, many of the pundits insightful and the goals show was a continuation of BT Sport’s brilliant efforts on Champions League nights, allowing fans to watch the big moments straight after they happen.

That allows big moments to be seen by many and quickly. When there’s a big moment in a game, whether that is a brilliant goal, magnificent individual skill or a controversial refereeing decision, why not put it out there?

In Scotland we have broadcasting restrictionswhich quite often result in having to wait over 24 hours to see televised highlights of matches.

Are we missing out on a big opportunity to get people talking about Scottish football? A chance to show off what is going on and make inroads at removing misconceptions that many hold about our game by being on the front foot and getting it out there instantly?

Of course, the media team at Motherwell do great work to upload a highlights package online as soon as the restrictions are lifted at midnight on a Sunday morning, but the restrictions mean it is club-filmed footage, rather than the all singing, all dancing broadcast footage.

For supporters living abroad, the ability to stream live matches is a huge part of fuelling their passion and continuing to follow their team. The majority of sides in the top flight are now offering their own online broadcast services, allowing fans overseas to stream matches live.

It was brilliant to see the ‘Dubai Dossers’ converge on the Bidi Bondis Bar on Palm Jumeirah to see the Steelmen defeat Hearts last weekend. Those who previously would have had to miss out on watching their team in action no longer have that issue. As a fan-owned football club, having a highly engaged fanbase no matter where they happen to live is hugely significant.

Closer to home and just like with all broadcasting deals, there is an understandable fear that attendances will suffer as a result. There must be a real possibility that casual fans would opt for watching games on the cheaper streaming service rather than attending games.

There’s potential for this to have an influence on even the most dedicated of fans too. The option of watching from home or in the pub, especially when their team is playing away, could represent a real threat to attendances and that’s before considering the ever-increasing cost of attending matches.

Personally I don’t believe there is any substitute for watching a match from inside the confines of the stadium. Though at a time in which more and more of us have to pick and choose our games, then this would mean not being in the horrible position I’m sure many of you are familiar with.

Whether it be searching the internet for ‘a stream’, listening to radio updates, following the game on a live scores website or even worse a live betting page with the ‘safe, attack and dangerous attack’ updates that leave you imagining what is going on throughout every agonising second.

An interesting case study of a league that has embraced live streaming and reaped the reward is the German third tier 3.Liga.

Every single match in the league which features the likes of 1860 Munich and Kaiserslautern is shown live by Deutsche Telekom in high definition. It’s offered free to those with an internet and phone package with Deutsche Telekom or for €9.99 per month.

The deal is worth €18million to the clubs, with a further two million coming from a public station. 

Previous motions for a subscription-based service in Scottish football fell by the wayside, though habits, trends and crucially technology haveadvanced greatly since Roger Mitchell’s proposals for SPL TV back in 2002.

The Scottish game has widespread appeal and football fans across the country are some of the most engaged in the world. So many of us live and breathe football, we have no problem criticising our own game. But if an ill-informed outsider dares try put down the Scottish game – they have in turn attempted to take us all on.

I believe the hunger and passion of Scottish football fans would make a dedicated streaming service a huge success. But what about the fans who attend matches?

Many of the complaints when it comes to the live broadcasting of football tend to revolve around moving kick-off times.

Amazon shifted start times for their Premier League debut and the Crystal Palace fans made their feelings known with a banner that read ‘Kick offs sold to the highest bidder, Amazon profits, fans suffer.’

Fans often feel like an afterthought when it comes to these scheduling changes. The best recent examples of this in Scotland have come in the Scottish Cup semi-finals, with Aberdeen and Inverness supporters travelling to Hampden for 12:30 kick-offs – presenting significant challenges for those travelling by public transport.

Sadly when considering the implementation of a broadcast deal, supporters who attend games seem to be very far down the list of priorities.

Should the time come where Scottish football opts to go down the route of offering a live subscription streaming service there would be numerous big issues to consider. But with advancing technology, changing habits and a desire to expand the appeal of the Scottish game – a step into new territory could represent a massive step forward.

Episode two of the new official Motherwell FC podcast ‘The Longer Listen’ is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and via most major podcast apps.

Winning The Title In Style

With a win percentage of 66.6%, Davie Hay is statistically the most successful Motherwell manager of all time.

Stepping up from assistant boss to the role of manager after the resignation of Ally MacLeod in the summer of 1981, Hay took on the managerial reins and was tasked with taking the Steelmen back into the top-flight.

A memorable season followed in which Motherwell would romp away with the title, scoring 92 goals to create a First Division record for the number of goals scored.

Although the season ended in triumph for the ‘Well boss, Hay endured a difficult start to his managerial career as Motherwell dropped out of the League Cup at the group stages and in his first league match he saw his side defeated 1-0 at Kilmarnock.

The Motherwell board took eight weeks to give Hay the job, though their new gaffer didn’t have to wait as long before the supporters voiced their opinions.

“It took a while before I was appointed and think the club were just waiting to see how it would pan out,” Hay recalled. 

“I never thought anything of it at the time and never really doubted I would get the job.

“We didn’t get off to the best of starts in the league and we lost on the opening day at Kilmarnock.

“It was a really poor game, both teams were trying to play the offside trap and there was a lot of congestion in the middle of the park.

“I remember I was sitting in the old enclosure at Rugby Park and a punter turned round to shout at me that the style of football would get the game stopped.

“He added that I might have been alright as a player, but if this is what I’d be like as a manager then I should chuck it right away – I went down to the dugout in the second half after that.

“As a manager I watched a lot of games from the stand, I always felt that you got a better view from there.”

While life as a manager didn’t get off to the best of starts, it wasn’t long before Hay’s ‘Well team were blowing opposition away with their attractive brand of attacking play.

Dumbarton were dispatched 6-0 at Boghead, Clydebank suffered a 7-1 hammering at Kilbowie before a memorable week where a 6-1 victory over Dunfermline was followed by a 6-0 success over East Stirling.

Motherwell were in imperious form and enjoyed a 23 match unbeaten run between September 1981 and February 1982.

“We had a very good team,” Hay added. 

“The midfield was talented, skilful and well balanced with Brian McLaughlin, Alfie Conn and Graeme Forbes in the middle of the park.

“In Willie Irvine and Bruce Cleland we had two very good strikers and then you had the likes of Joe Wark who was the captain and Hughie Scott in goal.

“It was installed in my thinking process from my time with Celtic that we played attacking and exciting football – that’s exactly what we set out to do.”

In a season in which Motherwell were turning on the style, one of the game’s biggest icons visited Fir Park.

George Best was nearing the end of his career and after a spell with Hibernian had returned to America to play for San Jose Earthquakes.

Despite the presence of the former Manchester United star, San Jose were unable to stop the free scoring Steelmen from racking up another big victory however, and a bumper crowd witnessed a 5-2 victory for the home side.

“I can’t remember too much about it other than it being because George Best was playing for them and there weren’t many more glamorous players than he was,” the former Celtic and Livingston boss recalled. 

“Although he wasn’t at the height of his career, it certainly added an extra attraction to that particular game.”

Another match of note was the 1-0 Scottish Cup third round defeat to Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen at Fir Park.

John Hewitt broke the deadlock after just 9.6 seconds and his goal remains the fastest in the history of the Scottish Cup.

“We actually played very well that day and probably gave Aberdeen their toughest challenge on their way to winning the Scottish Cup that year,” remembered Hay. 

“The goal came from a mistake at the back, I remember who it was and I won’t name any names – it was John Hewitt who got the goal for Aberdeen.”

It would be a 3-1 victory over Falkirk at Brockville that would secure the league title for Motherwell and they would end the season 10 points ahead of Killie who finished in second spot.

Three players had scored 56 goals between them over the course of the season, with McLaughlin and Irvine scoring 20 each and Clelland chipping in with 16.

Despite enjoying a highly successful first season in charge at Fir Park, Hay would depart the club to take a job in America.

He would go on to manage Celtic where he won the Premier League title and the Scottish Cup. Spells at Lillestrøm, St Mirren, Dunfermline and Livingston followed for the 71-year-old, who currently works with New College Lanarkshire.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Motherwell,” the former Scotland international said. 

“I left to take up a job in America which didn’t materialise, it was my own doing and I can’t blame anyone for it.

“I’d always fancied living there and I tried again later in my career, unfortunately with the same outcome.

“I left Motherwell winning but I’d have liked to take the team into the top flight.

“I’m eternally grateful for Ally MacLeod for giving me the opportunity at the club; it was a good place to start my coaching career.

“The chairman at the time was Bill Samuel and he was the best chairman I ever worked with – I sometimes joke that maybe it’s because I only worked with him for a short period of time, so we never had room to fall out.

“I enjoyed the football side and the social side with him; he was a really good person to know.

“He took the directors and coaching staff to Madrid for the European Cup final between Nottingham Forest and Hamburg, then Liverpool v Real Madrid in Paris – it was a good bonding trip and very enjoyable I’ve got to say.

“I’m pleased to see how Motherwell are doing, they always tend to fight above their weight by bringing in young players.

“It looks like they’ll make the top-six this season and the structure is very good at Fir Park.”

The Final Word – v St Johnstone 30/11/19

An interview with Alan Burrows prior to our last home fixture against Livingston reignited the debate surrounding the potential of Motherwell leaving Fir Park.

One day prior to Burrows’ interview with the BBC, the club had announced that debts owed to former owners John Boyle and Les Hutchison had been repaid in full.

It was described as ‘a significant milestone in the club’s move towards long-term viability’ and all associated with Motherwell FC reacted with delight to the landmark news.

This was a collective effort from all involved both on and off the park, as well as a glowing endorsement of the positive effect of fan ownership.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Alan’s attention quickly turned to the future and looking at how collectively the club could kick on and become more ‘modern, vibrant and attractive’.

The ‘Well chief executive stressed that all options would be on the table and when discussing the option of moving from Fir Park he admitted that leaving the venue the club have called home since 1895 could be considered in order to fulfil the criteria of taking the club forward.

“From my own point of view, I have been working within the ground for a long period of time,” he said. “We are now in 2019 and the stadium probably has to be a debate and a question that is put on the agenda quite high in the not too distant future.

“A training ground goes without saying, we have a really good facility at Dalziel Park, but we need to look at how we can either develop that or somewhere else to try to take the club to the next level.”

It goes without saying the emotional attachment of Fir Park is huge. For many this is our home away from home and a constant throughout our lives. We have formed relationships with those who stood and now sit around us, shared joy and disappointments with fellow fans – many of who you share little in common with other than a deep love of the ‘Well.

If the walls of Fir Park could talk then they’d recount stories of hosting our Scottish champions in 1931-32, victories against the odds and European encounters. They would tell tales of glittering displays by the likes Andy Paton, Joe Wark, Willie Pettigrew, Tommy Coyne and James McFadden.

Of course there would be tales of heartache and tragedy too, within the confines of the stadium there can’t be many emotions we’ve not experienced.

The stadium has its quirks that make it that bit more special too. When the Main Stand (now the Phil O’Donnell Stand) was constructed in 1962 building had to be stopped 20 yards from the south end of the stadium due to a complaint from a local resident. By the time the property owner had decided to sell, Motherwell did not have the funds or will to complete a full length main stand.

Winning the Scottish Cup in 1991 financed the conversion of the East Enclosure to seating, the two-tier South Stand followed in 1993 and the Davie Cooper Stand completed the transition to an all-seated stadium. Four stands, none of which are the same size – as far removed from the type of soulless, flat-pack style stadia that many in Scotland have adopted following a move away from their original home.

I struggle to think of an example of a club moving to a new stadium in Scotland that I’ve enjoyed visiting more than their previous home. It would be difficult to argue that St Mirren Park (the Simply Digital Arena) has the atmosphere or the character of Love Street and memories of trips to Broomfield don’t really come flooding back when visiting Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium.

Falkirk (2004), Hamilton (2001) and going back a bit further St Johnstone (1989) have also departed their long-standing homes for new stadiums. The facilities have improved, though much of the atmosphere and that element of intimidation have gone, indeed new Hibernian boss Jack Ross, who played for both Falkirk and St Mirren has previously suggested that both of his former sides built stadiums that were ‘more pleasant and far less intimidating’ for opposition players.

Another element which adds to the fear of a move away is the location of the new stadium. When Aberdeen move on from Pittodrie to take up residence in their new ground, they will do so in Kingsford – eight miles to the west of Aberdeen city centre.

Fans will have to make changes to their match-day routine, travel arrangements and countless Dons supporters who have occupied the same part of the ground for many years will need to find a new spot – habits and traditions will have to be ripped up.

Of course, sentiment can only stretch so far. Like Pittodrie, the maintenance costs associated with the upkeep of Fir Park are substantial. It’s inevitable that when considering the operating costs of the football club, ways in which yearly reoccurring costs can be alleviated and a modern build stadium could do be a way of doing this.

The atmosphere inside Fir Park has improved drastically over the last 10 years or so, with much of that owed to the colour, enthusiasm and noise generated by the ‘Well Bois’.

During that time the group have been joined by fans of other sides from across Europe who share a similar enthusiasm for supporting their team in a noisy, colourful and passionate manner.

Aalesunds FK supporters are a good example of a group who able to do so within the confines of a modern stadium. The Norwegian club’s Color Line Stadion was built in 2005 and has a capacity of just below 11,000 with standing room for 1,180. Motherwell fans who visited the ground for the Europa League fixtures between the sides back in 2010 will have fond memories of a compact, modern ground that boasts an incredible atmosphere that seemed to drive on the home side.

It’s an encouraging example that shows a move to a new stadium doesn’t have to mean a move to a soulless venue and that if done right, the difficult moving process can be one that instead breathes new life into our fan owned football club.

Final Word – v Livingston 2/11/19

It was an end of season dead-rubber, but the match between Motherwell and Livingston at Fir Park in May 2003 is a fixture that ‘Well fans still remember fondly. 

The 2002-03 campaign was an exceptionally difficult one for Terry Butcher’s young Motherwell side, but they would end it on a delightfully unexpected high note.

After the announcement that Motherwell had entered interim administration in April 2002, Butcher replaced Eric Black as manager. A week later the scale of the task facing the Englishman became clearer when 19 players departed Fir Park in what was described as ‘brutal savings’ in order to preserve the very existence of the football club.

Butcher’s hand had been forced in regards to throwing in a number of young players over the course of the season and despite battling valiantly, defeat to Aberdeen in the penultimate game of the campaign confirmed the Steelmen would finish bottom of the table and as a consequence faced dropping out of the top flight for the first time since 1985.

Heading into the final game of the season, the match was very much secondary. In the background there was becoming an increasing likelihood that Falkrik’s attempts to ground-share with Airdrie would be denied, casting doubt on whether they would be able to take Motherwell’s place in the SPL.

In addition there was also increasing speculation surrounding James McFadden’s future at the football club. The 20-year-old had enjoyed a fantastic year, netting 21 times in all competitions and he would have the final say as the curtain came down on an exhausting season for all involved at ‘Well.

Livingston made the journey to North Lanarkshire in ninth spot, 10 points clear of Motherwell, who had managed just a solitary point from their last 11 league matches. 

It looked like Motherwell’s miserable form was set to continue when Lee Makel seized on a defensive lapse from Keith Lasley and then drilled home from outside the box to give the visitors the lead after 16 minutes.

Lasley would make amends for his error on the half hour mark when he glanced home David Clarkson’s pin-point cross to level matters. I’m happy to be corrected, but I think I can safely say this was Keith’s only headed goal during his Motherwell career in which he accumulated over 450 first-team appearances. 

Colin McMenamin scrambled home from close range to restore Livi’s lead early in the second half, but again the young Motherwell team responded in emphatic fashion.

Steven Craig rounded Alan Main and blasted home superbly to level just three minutes after falling behind for a second time and when Clarkson saw his effort strike the post, McFadden was on hand to walk the ball into the net and put ‘Well 3-2 to the good.

Scotland boss Vogts was in the stand to take in the match and there was little doubt that McFadden was the man he was there to see. He was the undoubted talisman of the ‘Well team, every time he had the ball at his feet you felt something was about to happen, he played with great swagger and the fans loved it.

McFadden had been given a taste of international football and after making his debut against South Africa in the summer of 2002, he infamously missed his flight home. Opportunities with the national team had followed, though he had yet to cement his place within the Scotland setup. 

The youngster had a point to prove and yet again he had the fans in raptures when he added his second goal of the game, audaciously chipping his penalty over the despairing Main. Fir Park responded with chants of ‘are you watching Berti Vogts’ and their enthusiasm only seemed to drive ‘Faddy’ on. 

He completed his hat-trick after collecting the ball up just inside the Livingston half, gliding past a host of white jerseys before firing past Main. The goal sparked a mass pile-up among including every outfield player in the team, the stadium erupted – this goal wouldn’t change where the Steelmen would end up in the table, but everyone inside Fir Park knew they were witnessing something special.

There was still time for one more goal and if the mention of a Keith Lasley headed goal took you by surprise, the revelation that he would go on to score another later (this time from roughly two inches out) might come as an even bigger shock!

Motherwell prevailed 6-2, a victory that encapsulated a season in which many youngsters stepped up to the mark. There were plenty of disappointments over the course, especially in the horrendous run of form at the towards the conclusion, though a run to Scottish Cup semi-final, victories over Celtic, Rangers and a 6-1 mauling of Hearts demonstrated the immense talents within the squad.

The likes of Lasley, Clarkson, Steven Hammell, Stephen Pearson and Paul Quinn all would go on to have fantastic careers with Motherwell and beyond, though the 24 May, 2003 will always be remembered for the performance of one man.

McFadden was named Young Player of the Year for the 2002-03 season and three days later he would start for Scotland in a 1-1 draw with New Zealand. Less than a month into the 2003-04 campaign he would move to Everton for a fee of £1.25million.

From there his career continued on an upward trajectory and he would go on to demonstrate his talents to a wider audience at club level and on the international stage where he would be just as revered for a number of inspirational performances and famous goals such as the stunning winner against France in Paris back in 2007. 

Two further spells at Fir Park as a player followed before taking up the position of assistant manager for the 2016-17 season, though arguably his finest hour in claret and amber came in a meaningless end of season encounter in which he demonstrated all of his very best attributes in an unforgettable display of class.

The Final Word – v Kilmarnock 30/10/19

The continued pressure on managers in Scotland shows no sign of slowing down, though Scottish Premiership clubs appear to be demonstrating more patience.

He’d only been in job just over a month and the knives were already out.

Following on from Kilmanrock’s shock Europa League exit to Connah’s Quay Nomads, sections of the press decided that Angelo Alessio’s time was already up.

While there was no getting away from what was arguably one of the most embarrassing in the history of Scottish sides competing in Europe, the case for sacking a manager after just 180 minutes of football is every bit as absurd as the justification that was offered for doing so.

Referenced in one particular article was Alessio’s ‘pidgin English’, his failure to follow what was described as the ‘basics and the dotted lines of management’ as well as the addition of foreign players to a squad that had finished third under Steve Clarke last season.

Former Killie defender Kirk Broadfoot added further fuel to the fire by suggesting Alessio’s methods weren’t suited to the players at Kilmarnock. The former Scotland internationalist is absolutely entitled to his opinion; he’s worked with a number of highly regarded bosses during his career, though it also could be argued that you’ll struggle to find a player who has enjoyed working with every single manager they have played for.

It also strikes you that there appears to be a degree of fear when it comes to something different or something new in the Scottish game.

Last season Kilmarnock recorded their highest league finish since 2001. Clarke was lauded for his role in their success and just a few days after the curtain came down on a memorable he would depart to take up the managerial reigns of the Scottish national side.

Killie undoubtedly overcame the odds to finish above a number of sides who operate with a higher budget and in defeating both Celtic and Rangers (twice) over the course; they showed they were more than capable of going head-to-head with the top teams in the country.

A ‘more of the same’ approach was never likely to be possible for Alessio given the number of changes in personnel at the club. The summer saw the departure of Jordan Jones, Kris Boyd’s decision to retire and Greg Taylor’s move to Celtic just before the transfer window slammed shut.

Scaling those heights for a second successive season was always going to be a big ask, though despite a challenging start, the signs are there that Alessio and Killie are beginning to find their feet. They have shown themselves to be extremely difficult to breakdown and while their lack of goals may continue to be a bit of a concern, Saturday’s 1-0 victory over St Mirren took them third in the Premiership table.

Just like it was far too early to suggest that Alessio should be removed from his position, it’s too early to hail him as a success story. However those in the positions of power at Kilmarnock look like they’ll be rewarded for exercising some patience when it comes to their manager.

Patience seems like a trait that appears to be in limited supply for managers in the modern game.

It’s the job of the manager to front up win, lose or draw and while fans can get caught up in the emotion of a result whether it is good or bad – results are pivotal in dictating those emotions.

Look at social media after a game and you’ll see this all play out, after a win everything is brilliant and the positivity is flowing, yet if you lose a week later then the same team is absolutely no use and the manager needs to go – there’s rarely any sort of middle ground.

Ahead of last month’s game against Hibernian, Stephen Robinson discussed the constant pressure placed on bosses in an interview with the Herald.

“The reality is that it’s my job to make decisions, some of them are unpopular, but you ultimately make them on what you see in games and training,” the ‘Well gaffer said. “We had one poor game against Hearts, so it puts into perspective the crazy hysteria around management.”

Robinson, not for the first time during his time in charge at Fir Park has steered Motherwell back on the right track after a disappointing run of form and again more than repaid the faith shown in him in by the board.

That resilience and ability to react has been essential for Robinson and he’s often quoted as saying that he won’t get carried away after a win, just like he doesn’t get too down after a loss – an element of perspective is very important.

He has been in the same position as his counterpart in the dugout this evening during his time at ‘Well, especially during a torrid run towards the end of last year, though just like Alessio he emerged from troubled times and repaid the faith shown in him as a manager.

Both managers in charge tonight are perfect examples of the benefits of exercising a degree of patience when it comes to making big decisions on the future of a manager.

The Final Word – Aberdeen 19/10

The new season is only eight games old and therefore we should focus on 2019 as a whole when getting excited about matters at Fir Park.

The majority of the 5101 crowd inside Fir Park left in high spirits; a 2-0 victory for Motherwell over St Mirren ensured they would head into the international break in third place, four points clear of today’s visitors Aberdeen.

Over the PA system, Phil Speedie speculated that the win had taken the Steelmen three points closer to Europe and social media speculation has went into overdrive that the ‘Well are going to win the league.

It’s been a really pleasing start for Stephen Robinson’s team and the fans have absolutely every right to be soaking it all up. There has been good football, great goals, plenty of excitement and as shown in the 1-0 victory at McDiarmid Park, an abundance of steely determination. 

‘Well have won five of their first eight matches and have yet to experience defeat away from home. 

A quick look back to this time last season and the contrast is substantial. The team would win just once in their opening nine games and had managed just a solitary victory – a 3-1 success at Dens Park against a Dundee side that were making bottom spot their own. 

The frustration of a poor opening to the campaign was compounded by the quality of the performances during the early stages and something Stephen Robinson has admitted he felt ‘had to change’. It’s a results driven game and when poor results are coupled with poor performances then something has to give. 

On the latest MFC Podcast, I asked Keith Lasley if the pressures of that run of results and poor performances began to take their toll.

The Motherwell assistant manager explained that while the difficult times were a real challenge to overcome, he believes drastic change has led to much improved fortunes for the team. 

“We knew something had to change andwe knew we might get the chance to bring in one or two during the January window,” Lasley explained. “While it may not be the ideal time to add new faces,the manager had decided we were going to make pretty drastic changes to how we played and what we did tactically.

“I think the key thing is to recognise when things aren’t going right and do something about it.

“Great credit has to go to the manager and the bravery to say this isn’t happening any more – it’s a big call to make, but one he and all the staff felt was necessary.

“Those changes made back in January gave us a big platform to build on and I think you’ve seen that in the early stages of this season.”

Those changes have undoubtedly paid off. Looking back at the Motherwell team in the first half of the 2018/19 season and the side that closed out the remainder of the campaign, the difference is night and day.

Robinson’s side won their first five Scottish Premiership encounters in 2019 and added a further four victories before the end of the season. Inspired by the performances of David Turnbull who deservedly swept the boards at the end of season awards evening and the likes of Jake Hastie, Liam Grimshaw and Gboly Ariyibi – the style of football changed and it was bringing positive results. 

They’ve been able to build on their good form too and Motherwell’s record so far in 2019 has seen them earn 46 points from 25 games. In comparison from the same number of fixtures, Aberdeen have managed 40, Kilmarnock 37, Hibernian 31 and Hearts 21.

As the fans are enjoying the chance to dream and get carried away, those within the football club are stressing the importance of keeping their feet firmly on the ground. 

“We didn’t go too down after losing games and the result dictates people’s emotions,” Stephen Robinson said after the victory over St Mirren. “It’s important that we continue to learn and to continue to get better.”

Much is often made of the recruitment process at the club and the fact that Motherwell operate with a transfer budget comparable to that of many English non-league sides.

It becomes the responsibility of the manager and chief scout Martin Foyle to sell the club to potential signings. Given the limitations of the budget available, new arrivals at Fir Park aren’t likely to be the finished article and some may have lost their way a little in the game.

What every new signing has in common is that they have potential, they have elements to their game that can be improved and in playing games in the top league of Scotland they will gain exposure through television coverage and the opportunity to play in front of much bigger crowds than they would have in the lower reaches of English football. 

Not every addition to the squad will be a success and I’m sure that there will be a few examples that spring to the forefront of your mind as you read this, though again that comes with the territory of the market Motherwell are shopping in.

The same can be said for performance levels, with young and inexperienced players there almost inevitably will be highs and lows, days where it all clicks into place and days when you contemplate whether the team on the pitch have ever been formally introduced to each other. 

The fans are have every right to be getting excited and as mentioned by the manager – results dictate emotions. Sowhile results are good let’s enjoy them,while keeping it in mind that there will be dips in form too.

When the tough times arrive, the acid testwill be the reaction of the management team and the players. What 2019 has shown us is that Stephen Robinson is more than capable of reacting to adversity and even if eight games into the season may be too early to reach for our passports, another positive display from this exciting young team today will allow us to enjoy another week of getting carried away.

The latest MFC Podcast with special guest Keith Lasley is available now on all major podcast apps, Spotify and via the podcast website MFCPodcast.co.uk.

The Final Word v St Mirren 5/10/19

The introduction of VAR in Scottish football could jeopardise a lot of what we love about the game. 

Picture the scene. Craig Reid has just forced the ball over the line and the away end erupts. Motherwell have secured second place with the final kick of the ball, but then referee Steven McLean signals he is going to consult with the video assistant referee (VAR).

The 1000 plus away supporters who until this point have been totally lost in scenes of unbridled joy stop dead, they now face an agonising wait to see if the goal will stand. When VAR finally returns its verdict, a foul on Jamie Langfield has been spotted in the build-up, the goal is ruled out, and it’s now the home fans that are delirious – Motherwell end the season in third place and it has been technology that has had the final say.

Here we have an illustration of a moment in football that could have been totally ruined by video technology.

Whether you are in the pub, in the stand, at work or pretty much anywhere else for that matter, we all love to have our say on controversial refereeing decisions. Some will decry the standard of officiating; some will allege bias against their team and almost every single time there will be disagreements. For me debating the referees performance is just as much of a tradition within the game as a pie at half time or losing our minds when an opposition player attempts to steal five yards when taking a throw in.

Controversy can quite often be what makes football brilliant and we can all point to examples of where our teams have benefited from a controversial decision and undoubtedly list 10 times more examples of occasions where we believe our team were given a raw deal.

Following on from the introduction of VAR in the English Premier League, a weekly debate has followed about the influence of video technology. It seems from crying out for what was previously heralded as a cure to poor decisions, has arguably thrown up just as many negatives as it has positives.

In the aftermath of the first week of EPL fixtures, English referees’ chief Mike Riley revealed that VAR had made four mistakes and as its use is limited to goals, penalties, straight red cards and cases of mistaken identity, there are key points in the game that will not be reviewed meaning the big decisions will remain the responsibility of the referee.

The intervention of VAR can also have a positive/negative impact on both the players and the crowd too. Take Tottenham’s recent fixture with Leicester City as a good example of this.

Son Heung-Min was found to be millimetres offside in the build to what looked to be the goal that put Spurs 2-0 ahead,  the decision to rule the goal out, which came after a lengthy two-minute review clearly had a major effect in what would happen in the remainder of the game.

The atmosphere inside the stadium lifted, the Leicester fans and players were buoyed while the high of thinking the game was almost put to bed followed by the subsequent disappointment, clearly had an opposite effect on the Spurs players – the Foxes would go on to win the game 2-1.

“I’m not disappointed with that, I’m disappointed because we conceded two goals and the emotion of the game changed,” Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino said after the game. “That is normal that it changes the emotions. For us it was a massive disappointment and for them it was a massive belief.”

Gary Lineker agreed with Pochettino’s assessment adding that VAR “could and should benefit the game but at present it’s sucking the life out of it.”

When former referee Hugh Dallas leapt to the defence of officials in Scotland last week, fans reacted with a scathing assessment of their abilities. In truth there’s almost a bit of pantomime to it all, football fans throughout the ages have portrayed the referee as the villain.

Unfortunately there are times where the lines get blurred, such as the threats to John Beaton following the Rangers v Celtic fixture last December. Behaviour like that shouldn’t ever be excused and while officials have to be capable of facing criticism, times in which their private lives are dragged into matters are clearly unacceptable in the minds of any right minded individual.

Would the introduction of video technology eradicate the issues with idiots taking things too far? I highly doubt that, though there has been support for the introduction of VAR in Scottish football.

In January, Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell said there was now “a real appetite to investigate VAR” from clubs and officials and Motherwell chief executive Alan Burrows, who also sits on the SPFL board was quoted last year as urging the SPFL board to “get on the front foot with VAR and see if there is a way to do it”.

It appears there is an enthusiasm from those in the positions of power to push forward with the potential introduction of video technology and while they will argue that the pressures of the game dictate that ensuring every big decision in a game is correct, I can’t help but feel a lot of what we love about the game will also come under real threat should we implement these measures.

As the first few months of VAR in the EPL have shown, there will still be incorrect decisions only now there is someone else to blame.