Category: Blog

Ian St John – Motherwell Always

“The first result I look for is the ‘Well result and I’ve always done that.”

Over 50 years have passed since Ian St John dazzled the Fir Park crowds as part of the famous Ancell Babes, however his support for his boyhood team remains. Now 81 years old, the enthusiasm that emanates from St John at the mere mention of Motherwell is quite remarkable.

Growing up following the Steelmen, he was part of the 136,274 crowd that watched ‘Well defeat Dundee 4-0 to lift the Scottish Cup in 1952 and he would go on to make his debut for the club five years later.

“From a very young age I was a Motherwell fan,” St John explained. “I was lifted over the turnstiles and then when I was big enough, I climbed over the wall at the back, so I think I owed the club some money.”

What St John believes he owes Motherwell in money, he undoubtedly paid them back in goals. He scored 80 times in 113 league appearances in claret and amber and was part of some incredible displays.

Fans of a certain vintage still belt out the songs about the time the ‘Boys in Blue’ (Rangers) were turned over 5-2 at Ibrox by the boys in ‘Claret and Amber’ (Motherwell) and then what about the League Cup fixture against Hibs two years earlier in which St John netted a hat-trick in just over two-and-a-half-minutes?

“It was a special team, with terrific players in it,” he said of Bobby Ancell’s side. “Sometimes a football club can just get a team where it just happens for them.

“Certain styles gel and we were all small players, I don’t think any of the forwards were bigger than five foot eight, so we obviously played the ball on the ground and played tricky, passing football.

“We had two wing halves as they called them then in Charlie Aitken and Bert McCann, they were both class players and we got great support from them.

“It must have been good to watch and it was certainly great to play in.

“We really enjoyed it and could beat most teams, to be able to go to Ibrox and be able to beat Rangers who were the big team in Scotland at the time and beat them 5-2 was incredible.”

There is no doubt the Fir Park fans certainly enjoyed the football, crowds of over 30,000 regularly flocked to the stadium to see Ancell’s famous team. However, to the surprise of nobody but St John, his rapid hat-trick has yet to be repeated.

“Oh has nobody beaten that yet?” he laughed. “That’s not bad eh? I’ve still got the record – that’s good!

“The crowds at Fir Park were very good then, I think we missed a trick there; we should have been on a crowd bonus.”

Remarkably, while performing great feats in front of captivated crowds, St John was working full-time. It couldn’t be further removed from the realities facing top players in the modern day and he confesses the training facilities weren’t exactly up to standard.

“Most of us were part-time; I was still working in the Bridgeworks before going full-time when I was 21,” he recalled. “I worked at the Bridgeworks to stay out of the army; due to the conscription coming into effect when you turned 18.

“I hated working, but football wasn’t working for me, it was fun and it was enjoyable – I loved it.

“Those were strange days when you think back, I would think that most teams back then would have been part-time.

“You’d work during the day and then go to training at night.

“During the winter months it was obviously dark and we weren’t allowed on the pitch for fears that we’d carve the pitch up.

“Two lights from the car park behind the stand provided us with enough light for running around the pitch and then maybe a game of five-a-sides.

“When you compare it to the modern game, it’s like caveman times.

“Thinking about what we went on to achieve in the game and most of us going on to become internationals is incredible with that sort of training behind us!

“That being said it was just such a great time, we were all developing as players, it was great fun and exciting.”

After four magnificent years at Fir Park, football royalty came a calling. Liverpool boss Billy Shankly made the trip north to secure the signing of St John and he did in quite some fashion.

“He travelled up to collect me in the chairman’s Rolls Royce, the locals thought the Queen had arrived,” St John joked. “I was very fortunate in going to Liverpool, as the manager was different class.

“He was very different to Bobby Ancell, who was a quiet man.

“Billy Shankly was the world’s greatest talker when it came to football and a great motivator.

“I believe he was the ideal man to go to when you were a young player and he made you a better player.”

Success at Anfield quickly followed for St John, with Liverpool emerging from the second tier of English football to becoming a real force in European football.

After promotion to the top flight, the Reds would lift the First Division title in 1963-64 and again in 1965-66. He was also part of the Liverpool team that lost out 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund in the final of the Cup Winners Cup at Hampden in 1966.

“We won the Second Division and then that was us in the big time where we were very successful,” he recalled. “European football followed and all the fixtures against the cream of Europe.

“It was a wonderful rollercoaster ride for me; I couldn’t have wished it any better, to play for my own hometown team and then go on to Liverpool.”

In 1973 after rounding off his playing career at Tranmere Rovers, St John returned to Motherwell, this time as manager.The old place had not changed much, but he did manage to make some improvements to the training – much to the despair of the groundsman.

“They had put two or three more pegs in the dressing room, other than that the club hadn’t changed,” St John added. “I did get the players on the pitch for training, much to the pain of the groundsman – the park was his pride and joy.

“We were still a small team, punching above our weight, when I went back it would have taken a lot of money to buy players and get up there and Motherwell didn’t have that available.

“We had to bring through young players, as we didn’t have the money to buy and pay players.”

Charged with the task of bringing through youth prospects, St John handed a debut to young striker Willie Pettigrew. He also brought another striker in Bobby Graham back to Scotland from Liverpool and together with Pettigrew they would go on to form one of the most famous strike pairings in the history of the football club.

“Bobby couldn’t get a regular game, but he could play, it was a great move bringing him back to Scotland,” said St John, who would move on to manage Portsmouth after a year at Motherwell. “They managed to form a partnership and people still talk about them to this day don’t they?

“Bobby was a lovely player and Willie would score goals, if you can get a partnership like that at any team then that will do you.”

Though he admits the game in 2019 has changed to almost unrecognisable levels from the one in which he played in, those changes have done little to defuse Ian’s passion for the game. And he can’t hide his pride when quizzed on a Scottish star lighting up Anfield right now.

Andrew Robertson has climbed the ranks from a youth at Queen’s Park to playing a starring role for Liverpool in the Premier League and Champions League. Last year, the left-back was also handed the captaincy of the Scottish national side.

“Funnily enough I was with him the other day, doing a thing for Liverpool T.V,” he smiled.  “I had never seen behind the scenes at Anfield since I’d left, it was a real eye opener for me to see the training ground and the wonderful facilities they’ve got.

“We had a laugh and a joke; he’s really making a name for himself that kid.

“This is a huge change from the days where I went from Motherwell to Liverpool.

“When I joined the club we had one or two Scottish lads in and around the club, being Scottish back then was regarded as being foreign.

“Bill Shankly would add Ronnie Yates and Billy Stevenson, so we built a good Scottish contingent at Liverpool.

“Now you can sign players from all over the world as clubs can afford to do so.

“Liverpool had a lovely player in Coutinho from Brazil, who moved to Barcelona.

“I never thought in my lifetime that I’d see Brazilian’s play for Liverpool, but now we’ve got three or four of them.

“It’s fantastic, when I was a young player, Brazil were the team that everybody loved.

“They were always the class players, different from the rest.”

Now residing in Liverpool, St John was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2008 and to the Former Players Liverpool Hall of Fame in 2015. With the Reds firmly involved in the hunt for their first Premier League title in 29 years, the man affectionately known as ‘the Saint’ is hoping Jurgen Klopp’s side can end the drought.

He also explained that while he is hopeful of seeing one of his former club’s achieve success, his boyhood team are never far from his thoughts.

“Former players at Liverpool are baffled to read that we haven’t won the league for 29 years,” he considered. “It beggars belief that, but this group we have now and a class act manager in Jurgen Klopp – if all goes well then hopefully they can do it.

“Over the years we’ve dominated Europe and had some fantastic teams.

“After a game on a Saturday, the first result I look for is the ‘Wellresult, I’ve always done that and that will never change.”

Motherwell 3-0 St Johnstone, Scottish Cup Semi-Final 2011

“It does feel a little while ago now I suppose, time flies by and you think of all the things that have happened since then, but I still remember the game really well.”

It was almost 10 years ago that Motherwell travelled to Hampden for only their second Scottish Cup semi-final in 20 years and their first in the competition against a side other than Celtic or Rangers since 1975.

The Steelmen were enjoying a superb cup adventurewhich began with a 4-0 success at Dens Park over Dundee and was followed up by a comfortable 2-0 win at Stranraer to book their quarter-final place.

In the last-eight, Scottish Cup holders Dundee United provided the opposition and the first encounter at Tannadice ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw, though Motherwell would advance after a spectacular showing under the lights at Fir Park in the replay – sweeping Peter Houston’s talented outfit aside and emerging 3-0 victors.

In the semi-final they would take on St Johnstone, who had recorded victories over Hearts, Partick Thistle and Brechin City to move within two wins of their first ever Scottish Cup triumph. 

John Sutton had scored at each stage of ‘Well’s journey to Hampden and he recalls a nervous start for Stuart McCall’s men, who were contesting their second semi-final of the season, having lost 2-1 to Rangers in the League Cup a few months earlier.

After just 90 seconds, St Johnstone striker Danny Invincible got on the end of Danny Grainger’s cross and Darren Randolph had to produce an acrobatic stop to avoid a disastrous start for the Steelmen. 

“We got off to a bit of a sticky start funnily enough and we weren’t playing great,” Sutton recalled. “You couldnot have really predicted how it would have gone from the opening minutes of the match.”

Having overcome a nervous start, Motherwell won a corner – presenting a chance to alleviate some of the early Saints pressure.

Tom Hateley flighted the ball across and St Johnstone keeper Peter Enckelman raced from his goal to try claim it. The Finnish stopper got it all wrong however, and Stephen Craigan was on hand to nod the ball into the empty net.

It was a sweet moment for the Steelmen captain who was riled by the shouts from the Saints coaching teamto ‘let him have the ball’ any time he received it in the early stages and his celebrations left the doubters on the opposition bench in no doubt how much it meant to the Northern Irishman.

“I was glad it was on his head and not his foot,” Sutton laughed. “I remember the coaching staff from St Johnstone instructing their players to leave Crags(Stephen Craigan) on the ball and it was really annoying him. 

“When he scored the goal, it is fair to say he got pretty excited by the whole thing, it is very unlike him to score and if you were looking for a good omen then Crags scoring is probably about as good an omen as you willget.”

A crowd of 11,920 meant that Hampden was less than a quarter full, but the ‘Well fans were making a noise that defied their numbers. They had a dream of a cup final and their heroes on the pitch moved one step closer to making it come true when they doubled their advantage on 14 minutes.

Jamie Murphy picked the ball up and drove at the Saints defence before unleashing a powerful low drive beyondEnckelman and into the bottom corner. 

“Murph (Jamie Murphy) has the ability to just glide past people, Keith Lasley used to refer to him as ‘snake hips’,” he added. “The big pitch at Hampden and the good surface that day really suited him.”

“The second goal was really important and gave us a bit of breathing space.”

Everything was going perfectly for McCall’s men who travelled to the National Stadium on the back of two wins and a draw in their previous three leagueencounters, however they had demonstrated their inconsistency throughout the 2010/11 campaign and there was a real unpredictable element when it came to both performances and results.

On this occasion, the men in claret and amber were showing their class and six minutes before half time they all but sealed their place in the final.

Francis Jeffers’ knockdown found Sutton who smashed a wonderful volley beyond Enckelman from 35-yards out. There were a few question marks over the Saints keepers positioning, but it was a sensational goal to continue the Englishman’s Scottish Cup hot streak. 

“It was one of the Jubulani balls that got a bit of fame at the South Africa World Cup in 2010,” he remembered. “They did fly away a bit in fairness and they were different from the Mitre’s that you played with on a Saturday.

“I took the keeper by surprise a little, I hit it quite well, though some will say that was an obvious error – I think the Crags’ one is the one he’ll look back on and think that he could have done a lot better with.

“I liked playing with Franny (Francis Jeffers) up front, he was a good guy as well. 

“He laid it off nicely and I caught it well with my left foot, you think at that point there is a decent chance, I could have hit it ever so slightly more in the corner and given the keeper no chance, but it was still in the top corner.

“It was fantastic when it went in, an amazing feeling to score at Hampden and especially when you are used to travelling with Keith Lasley who bobbled one in against Rangers with a cheap pair of boots in the previous semi-final.”

Leading 3-0 at half time it was inconceivable that Motherwell could squander their final place from such a position of strength, though many of those of who have followed the men in claret and amber for a long time were understandably nervous – it would not be the first time that defeat had been snatched from the jaws of victory.

On this occasion there would be no such collapse, indeed there was barely any nerves during anuneventful second 45 minutes, though Murray Davidson did see a late header crash off the crossbar.

The 20-year wait was over, Motherwell had clinched their first Scottish Cup final place in emphatic style. 

Sutton recalls a number of high scoring matches during his two spells at Fir Park in which ‘Well battled back and times where they were unable to preserve their lead, so admits the team were taking nothing for granted.

“We had played in games previously like the Hibs game where we were 6-2 down and battled back, so you can’t be too complacent,” reflected Sutton. “Of course, you’d much rather be 3-0 up than 3-0 down going into half time.

“During my time with Motherwell we had an extraordinary number of games where it was 3-2, 4-3and there was the 6-6 too – you would win 4-0 one week and lose 4-0 the next.

“There have been times where we have shot ourselves in the foot, so it was unlikely for it not to go 3-1 or maybe even 3-2 to make it that bit nervier.”

The elation among the ‘Well fans was evident on the full-time whistle and after making their way back to North Lanarkshire many toasted success for their heroes.

Sutton recalls the scenes as the team bus made its way up Airbles Road and the Electric Bar seemed to empty en masse as supporters brought the traffic to a standstill to show their appreciation for the team. 

“It was brilliant seeing the supporters spilling out the Electric Bar to applaud the team bus, you just think ‘wow, that’s how much it means to people’ – it was a really nice feeling,” he smiled. “I always say that Motherwell was fantastic and the people that were there great too.

“We were always written off and told we weren’t that good most years, but we proved them wrong many times – it was a great time to be a Motherwell player.

“It was a good team; I was blessed to play with a number of good players and meet some really good people as well.

“I think Motherwell have been unfortunate to an extent, people are always tipping them for top six and they have always punched above their weight.

“It is just a shame we haven’t went on to win a trophy, you look at the Betfred Cup this season and full credit to Livingston and St Johnstone, though neither side have had to play Celtic or Rangers to get to the final.

“Hopefully in the near future the Scottish Cup will be kind to Motherwell and it would be absolutely brilliant to see them go on and lift the trophy.”

The History of the Derby

Motherwell and Hamilton will go head-to-head for crucial Premiership points this afternoon in the 150th meeting between the two sides. A rivalry going back over 130-years, we look at the history of the rivalry between Accies and the Steelmen.

By Andy Ross

The first ever meeting between Accies and ‘Well took place 133 years ago in 1888 and would come in the Scottish Cup, a competition which was becoming increasingly competitive following a spell in which Queen’s Park ruled the Scottish game.

Incredibly, it took until 1875 for the Spiders to concede their first ever goal and it ended their run of eight years without concession. Such was their dominance they would be invited to take part in the English FA Cup and on two occasions they reached the final – losing to Blackburn Rovers in 1883/84 and 1884/85.

The first three Scottish Cup competitions all went the way of the side from Hampden Park, before Vale of Leven stepped up as challengers and lifted the trophy three years in succession between 1877 and 1879.

By the time Hamilton and Motherwell entered the Scottish Cup, Queen’s had managed to lift the trophy on eight occasions, though the emergence of teams such as Hearts, Hibs and Rangers was beginning to threaten their stranglehold on the game.

166 teams entered the 1888-89 Scottish Cup, 17 of which were based in Lanarkshire. As well as Hamilton Academical, Hamilton Wanderers also took part alongside the likes of Carfin Shamrock, Royal Albert and Wishaw Thistle.

Hamilton began their Scottish Cup campaign with a thumping 5-0 victory over Lanarkshire rivals Airdrie, while Motherwell were held to a 3-3 draw at home to Royal Albert meaning a replay would be required.

There were several eye-catching results at this early stage of the competition including the 16-0 victory for Kelvinside Athletic against Govan Athletic, Cowlairs defeating Temperance Athletic 18-2 and Dundee Our Boys coming out on top 5-4 against Dundee East End.

Motherwell defeated Royal Albert 2-1 in the replay played in Larkhall to book their place in round two and it would be there where they would face Hamilton for the first time. The game took place on 22 September 1888 at Dalziel Park and it was the Steelmen who would book their place in the next round with a resounding 5-1 triumph.

A 6-2 defeat at home to Dumbarton ended ‘Well’s hopes in the next round and eventually it would be Third Lanark who would go on to lift the trophy – winning at the second time of asking in strange circumstances.

The first match ended 3-0 to Third Lanark, though due to the ‘unplayable nature’ of the pitch a replay was ordered, though not to be denied they would come out on top again winning 2-1.

Records show it was over 10 years until Hamilton and Motherwell would play each other again, with a 3-3 draw in 1898 followed by a run of three wins and a draw for the Accies – leaving the boys in claret and amber without a win in almost 13 years by the time they won the derby 4-2 at the beginning of 1901.

In 1899/1900 and 1900/01, the Lanarkshire Football League was created as a supplementary competition to help increase the number of games for Scottish league clubs.

Information on the Lanarkshire League is scarce aside from Motherwell winning the trophy in its inception year and Albion Rovers claiming silverware the following season. Alongside Airdrie, Hamilton, Rovers and ‘Well, Carfin Emmett, Royal Albert, Wishaw Thistle and Wishaw United completed the league.

1906 saw Hamilton defeat Motherwell in the Scottish Cup for the first time, winning at Fir Park 3-2 and they also would claim promotion to the First Division that season to set up the first top-flight encounter between the two Lanarkshire rivals.

It was Motherwell who would comfortably win the first match between the two in the top division 3-0, but Accies turned the tables in the next meeting and came away from Fir Park 2-0 victors. Hamilton finished that campaign bottom, while Motherwell finished tenth in an eighteen-team league.

Quite like in their modern-day encounters, neither team could get a stranglehold on the derby and wins were exchanged through much of the next decade, though a 2-1 success for Hamilton in August 1924 saw a major momentum shift, though not in the direction they would have hoped.

Motherwell would go on to win 19 and draw four of their next 23 meetings with Hamilton – recording a 6-0 and two 5-1 wins during their dominant spell against their rivals and during this time they would become the Scottish champions for the only time in the club’s history.

The run was ended in emphatic style when Hamilton hammered ‘Well 6-1 in the New Year’s Day fixture in 1935 and the teams continued to face each other during the second World War in a variety of competitions including the Summer Cup in which Motherwell recorded their biggest win in this fixture – an 8-0 drubbing in June 1944.

In the seven post-war fixtures, Motherwell won four and drew on three occasions. Four of the matches took place in Scottish Division A, which was the name by which the top league went by following the war and there were three matches in the Scottish Cup.

After being such familiar foes since formation, it was unusual that a year would pass without a meeting between Accies and ‘Well, though following the 4-1 Scottish Cup victory for the Steelmen in February 1951, it would be over 14 years until the teams would next meet again.

It was the Fir Park side who would come out on top in that Division One encounter and by the time that Hamilton defeated ‘Well 2-1 in the League Cup in 1968, it had been 29 years since they had claimed success in the derby outside of war time competition.

The three meetings in the 1968/69 season where Bobby Howitt guided Motherwell back to the Premier League as champions would spell another decade without a derby fixture between the teams.

They would however be much more familiar in throughout the eighties where both competed in Division One until Motherwell were promoted in 1984/85 and Hamilton followed suit the very next season.

Accies were relegated in 1986/87, though they bounced back the next season only to face the drop again at the end of the 1988/89 campaign. Despite this, there was not much to separate either team throughout the eighties – though a miserable time was about to follow for the team in red and white.

During the nineties, financial insecurity caused havoc for Accies, they sold Douglas Park in 1994 and would groundshare with Albion Rovers and Partick Thistle during this time. In the 1999/00 season they were unable to fulfil a fixture as their unpaid players went on strike and a 15-point penalty saw them relegated to the bottom tier of the Scottish game.

Despite their woes, they still would prove to be a challenging opponent for Motherwell however, almost stunning the Premier League outfit when a José Quitongo inspired Accies side drew 1-1 at Fir Park before going down 2-0 in the replay – these were the only two occasions the teams squared off during a difficult chapter in the South Lanarkshire sides history.

After moving into their new stadium in 2001, Hamilton began to make strong progress on the pitch and by the time they visited Fir Park in the League Cup in 2005, they were back in the First Division and harbouring hopes of top-flight football. On that occasion it took a last-minute winner to send the Steelmen through, but the positives were there for Billy Reid’s men.

Accies achieved promotion to the SPL after winning the 2007/08 First Division title and they marked their arrival by dumping ‘Well out of the League Cup after a 2-1 extra-time victory at Fir Park in a fiery encounter in which Chris Porter and Simon Mensing both saw red.

Motherwell won three of the first four league meetings between the teams, though a James McCarthy double in December 2008 earned Accies a significant 2-0 win – their first over ‘Well in the top-flight since 1989.

After two seasons at the top table of the Scottish game, Hamilton were relegated, though again demonstrated their abilities to bounce back as they gained promotion after defeating Hibernian in a remarkable play-off.

Most of the 2014/15 Premiership campaign will be one to forget for ‘Well fans, but Accies supporters will continue to revel in a season in which they knocked their rivals out of the League Cup, won 4-0 at Fir Park and recorded a 5-0 hammering in the New Year’s Day fixture – though Motherwell did gain slight revenge with a 4-0 success against Accies during that season.

Since then both teams have remained in the top division and have faced each other with the regularity that they did following their formation back in the late 1800’s.

Motherwell have enjoyed a few convincing victories and knocked their rivals out of the Scottish Cup in 2018, though Accies have only failed to register a win over Motherwell in one of their six successive seasons in the Premiership and travel to Fir Park today on the back of three wins and one draw in their last four matches with the Steelmen.

It will be frantic; it will be passionate and yet another chapter in a rivalry that continues to prove a significant part in the history of both Hamilton and Motherwell.

A Debut to Remember

Yesterday marked the 19th anniversary of a game that will be forever remembered for the incredible impact of a pint-sized Frenchman, who would go on to make arguably the greatest debut in the club’s history.

By Andy Ross

Motherwell under the guidance of Eric Black were fighting a battle at the bottom of the SPL table, though a run of three wins in their previous five league fixtures prior to the visit of Hibernian to Fir Park looked to have stopped the rot and moved the team into ninth spot – well clear of St Johnstone who looked certainties for the drop.

Hibs made the journey from the capital in wretched form, having failed to win in their last 16 SPL matches as well as suffering a hugely disappointing defeat to Ayr United in the League Cup semi-final in their last outing.

The first half was an instantly forgettable one and certainly not one that gave any indication of what was to follow.

Neither side looking offered much an attacking threat and it was clear Motherwell were missing the influence of James McFadden who was ruled out through suspension while Stephen Pearson had failed to recovery from injury.

At the interval, Black opted to introduce his latest signing, David Ferrère into the action – with the 5′ 5” striker replacing Scott Leitch.

The 25-year-old had scored one of the goals in an under-21 match against Kilmarnock at Fir Park in midweek and he arrived in Scotland highly recommended by Black’s former club, Metz.

Despite that, his inclusion, even on the substitutes bench surprised some. In their review of 2002, Fir Park Corner described Ferrère’s display for the second string as ‘one of the worst performances ever witnessed for the U21s’- it is fair to suggest that expectation levels were not too high.

Ferrère’s debut was only four minutes old when he first gave the Fir Park crowd a demonstration of his ability to strike a ball. Stepping up to take a free-kick 40-yards from goal, he had Nick Colgan in the visitors’ goal scrambling with a thunderous effort that drifted inches wide of the post.

The ‘Well fans reacted with a mixture of amazement and almost an element of hilarity. Here was an unknown debutant coming into the action, attempting an outrageous effort from distance, and almost succeeding in doing so.

There was certainly a buzz around the place, the crowd were lifted, there were cries of ‘shoot’ every time Ferrère’ got on the ball and it would not be long until the Frenchman had the fans on their feet again.

A long clearance by Karl Ready found Stuart Elliott who drove forward before releasing Ferrère to drill the ball low beyond the keeper.

Every outfield player in claret and amber joined in the celebrations – clearly loving the impact that their new teammate had made in his seven minutes on the park.

David clearly shared their delight too, wearing a shirt that looked at least three sizes too big for him, he lapped up the adulation – he was off the mark for the Steelmen and looking in the mood for more goals.

Hibs had opportunities through Derek Riordan and John O’Neil, however just as it looked like they may force their way back into the match, Ferrère struck again.

Stevie Woods launched a goal-kick that travelled deep into the Hibs half and Dirk Lehmann knocked the ball on to Elliott who again picked out Ferrère to slam home an almost identical shot into the bottom corner past the helpless Colgan.

‘Well were flying and it wouldn’t be long until they extended their lead even further as Lehmann got in on the act – heading home Steven Hammell’s free-kick.

The final act of an incredible second half came when Ferrère completed a quite magnificent debut.

O’Neil dwelled on the ball before being robbed by Lehmann and the German striker released the onrushing Ferrère who dispatched the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal – completing his hat-trick by hammering the ball into almost exactly the same section of the net.

He had been on the pitch 36 minutes and by this point was averaging a goal every 12 minutes – if the ‘Well fans were excited after his first two goals, they were now electrified – they had a new hero among their ranks and certainly not one they had in any way anticipated.

Inspired by the introduction of their latest signing, ‘Well emerged 4-0 victors from an encounter that look destined to be settled by the smallest of margins after an uneventful opening 45 minutes.

It had only taken a short period of time for Ferrère to receive the adulation of the Motherwell supporters, though unfortunately after his spectacular introduction, he would never come close to repeating his debut heroics.

He played a further nine times for the club but would fail to score another goal and he would make his last appearance for ‘Well in the 4-1 victory at Rugby Park, just days after the club entered administration.

The Frenchman’s time in North Lanarkshire came to a sudden end when he was released because of the cuts that followed administration and following his Fir Park departure he headed back to his homeland to join L’Entente SSG.

After a blistering start to life at the club, it was a low-key exit for a player who perhaps was always unlikely to be able to live up to his extraordinary debut.

The remainder of his career was spent in France with spells at FC Dieppe and AS Excelsior, before hanging up his boots after his time with FC Avirons.

Although it would be fair to say that his career never reached the heights of his extraordinary first showing at Fir Park, the name David Ferrère will always remain synonymous with the greatest Motherwell debut of all time.

First Impressions

Graham Alexander began his time in charge of the Steelmen with a 1-1 draw against St Mirren last Saturday.

A spirited showing gave Motherwell fans plenty of belief the team can recover from their recent disappointing run of results and push on in the final stages of the season.

We take look at how some of Alexander’s predecessors fared in their first match as ‘Well boss.

Alex McLeish – Motherwell 3-0 HB Torshavn – UEFA Cup – 9 August 1994

Alex McLeish enjoyed a comfortable evening on his managerial debut as the Steelmen cruised to a comfortable victory in the evening sunshine at Fir Park.

Tommy Coyne opened the scoring midway through the first half and Paul McGrillen doubled the lead 12 minutes later after some fine work by Jamie Dolan. 

Stevie Kirk rounded off a convincing showing late on – neatly controlling Brian Martin’s long-ball before coolly flicking the ball past the onrushing keeper. 

McLiesh’s side would go on to finish second in the league, with players such as Coyne, Rob McKinnon and Paul Lambert playing starring roles in one of the best ‘Well sides ever.

Harri Kampman – Dunfermline 2-1 Motherwell – Scottish Premier League  March 1998

The arrival of relatively unknown Finnish boss HarriKampman came as a surprise to not just ‘Well fans, but fans of Scottish football as a whole and his time at the helm in ML1 was rather uninspiring.

Kampman’s first match in charge got off to a positive start when Coyne fired Motherwell ahead after 12 minutes at East End Park, but Dunfermline soon found themselves on level terms as Andy Smith slotted beyond Stevie Woods.

Rob Newman turned the ball into his own goal just after the hour mark to ensure a disappointing start for the new boss, though a week later he would secure his first win as Motherwell stunned Rangers 2-1 at Fir Park.

The rest of his tenure was one littered with inconsistency, the summer of 1998 saw major upheaval at Fir Park, but a poor start to the 1998/99 campaign saw Kampman leave the club to be replaced by Billy Davies. 

Billy Davies – St Johnstone 5-0 Motherwell – Scottish Premier League – 17 October 1998

Billy Davies’ time as Motherwell boss got off to the worst possible start as his side were thrashed 5-0 at McDiarmid Park.

George O’Boyle opened the scoring just before the break and a second half onslaught saw the hapless Steelmen concede four times – including two goals in the last 10 minutes.

Like Kampman, Davies was able to galvanise his squad for their next fixture and four days later under the lights at Fir Park, John Spencer scored the only goal of the game to earn ‘Well a superb 1-0 home victory over Rangers.

He would take ‘Well to the brink of the UEFA Cup during the 1999/00 campaign, when despite a 2-0 victory over Rangers on the final day, Motherwell narrowly missed out to Hearts. 

He would leave the club in September 2001 after three years in charge.

Eric Black – Dundee United 1-1 Motherwell – Scottish Premier League  27 October 2001

A poor start to the 2001/02 season led to Davies’ resignation and again those in charge at Fir Park opted for an untested boss for the role of manager at the club. 

Eric Black took over with the side having won just two of their opening 10 league encounters and they were knocked out of the League Cup by local rivals Airdrie. 

Craig Easton had the hosts ahead on 23 minutes, but Motherwell would find a reply through David Kelly early in the second half to secure a share of the spoils. 

When Motherwell were placed into administration in April 2002, Black resigned as manager and was replaced by his assistant Terry Butcher shortly afterwards.

Terry Butcher – Kilmarnock 1-4 Motherwell – Scottish Premier League – 27 April 2002

On a day where football felt like an afterthought, Terry Butcher’s young Steelmen produced a sublime display to offer the large travelling support a bit of hope.

Motherwell had been plunged into administration days prior to the game, with several players and staff losing their jobs.

The future was looking uncertain at best, but on the field the team were magnificent. Derek Adams had his opening goal cancelled out by Tommy Johnson on 68 minutes before the ‘Well came roaring back – scoring three times in four minutes.

James McFadden restored the lead, before Stuart Elliott doubled the advantage and Stephen Pearson put gloss on a tremendous victory in emotionally charged circumstances. 

Maurice Malpas – Motherwell 1-2 Rangers – Scottish Premier League – 30 July 2006

In his four years in charge at Motherwell, Terry Butcher restored some much-needed stability to the managers post at Fir Park and after he departed for Sydney FC it was hoped the appointment of his assistant Maurice Malpas would keep things moving in the right direction.

Malpas’ first game in charge saw a visit from Rangers to Fir Park, with the Ibrox side themselves under the guidance of a new boss after Paul Le Guen took over from Alex McLeish that summer.

Things got off to a bad start when Libor Sionko drilled home a rebound to give Rangers the lead after eight minutes, but Phil O’Donnell levelled shortly after half time.

The match was decided when Dado Prso headed home from Charlie Adam’s corner to ensure it would be a losing start for the new Steelmen gaffer who would have to wait until his fifth league game in charge before sampling victory for the first time. 

Mark McGhee – St Mirren 0-1 Motherwell – Scottish Premier League – 1 August 2007

After a season in which Motherwell narrowly escaped relegation, another managerial change took place and on this occasion, John Boyle opted for experience when he appointed former Wolves and Leicester boss Mark McGhee as the new boss.

McGhee’s tenure got off to a dream start when Steven McGarry slid home three minutes into his first match in charge at St Mirren.

It was a wonderful attacking move involving most of the team and was a great indicator of the fantastic football that would be on display as the Steelmen clinched third place and European qualification for the first time in 12 years.

Jim Gannon – Motherwell 0-1 Llanelli – Europa League – 2 July 2009

Motherwell boss Jim Gannon suffered an embarrassing defeat by Llanelli in Europa League qualifying in his first match in charge of the Steelmen.

Due to remedial work to the Fir Park surface, ‘Well played all of their Europa League ties at Airdrie and despite a bright start to the match they found themselves behind after Stuart Jones steered a header beyond Michael Fraser.

It was a disappointing start to what became a rambunctious spell for the club, though Gannon’s side would turn things around a week later with a 3-0 victory in Wales. 

Gannon certainly demonstrated an eye for a player during his short time at the helm, but less than six months later he would depart the club following a poor run of results over the festive period.

Craig Brown – Hearts 1-0 Motherwell – Scottish Premier League – 30 December 2009 

In the final weeks of Gannon’s time in North Lanarkshire, it became clear that the English boss had lost several of the more experienced players in the dressing room – with a number of them totally frozen out.

Supported by his assistant Archie Knox, Craig Brown quickly reintroduced Stephen Craigan into the starting-eleven, while Keith Lasley, Steven McGarry and John Sutton all came off from the bench.

Although the narrow defeat at Tynecastle was a disappointing start, it would be the last time Brown would suffer defeat in the league until late March – a run of 12 games without a loss – winning eight and drawing four.

Stuart McCall – Hamilton 0-0 Motherwell – Scottish Premier League – 1 January 2011

Stuart McCall’s successful time at ‘Well began in unremarkable style as his side played out a drab goalless draw on New Year’s Day 2011.

Chances were few and far between, though Dougie Imrie could have won it for the hosts in the dying minutes of the match.

McCall would not have to wait much longer for his first win, that came eight days later as Motherwell romped to a 4-0 victory at Dens Park to begin their Scottish Cup campaign in style and under the former Bradford boss,they would go all the way to the final – coming up short against Celtic.

Ian Baraclough – St Mirren 0-1 Motherwell – Scottish Premiership – 20 December 2014

Ian Baraclough picked up a vital win in his first game in charge of Motherwell – defeating St Mirren to move six-points clear of the Buddies at the foot of the Premiership table.

Stephen Thompson was sent off after 19 minutes, but it was Saints who looked the more likely to break the deadlock.

It took 72 minutes for the first goal to arrive and it was from familiar source – John Sutton sliding in to turn Josh Law’s cross into the net.

It was a good start but the struggles at the bottom of the table continued under Baraclough – culminating with a 6-1 aggregate victory over Rangers in the play-off securing another year of top-flight football. 

Mark McGhee – Motherwell 0-1 Celtic – Scottish Premiership – 17 October 2015

The return of Mark McGhee as manager garnered a mixed response from Motherwell fans and he was unable to mark his second spell with a victory against Celtic. 

Nadir Ciftci scored the only goal of the game and poor finishing was all that prevented the margin of defeat from being more emphatic.

McGhee’s starting line-up was certainly a statement with regulars Lasley, Lionel Ainsworth and Scott McDonald all on the bench. 

Taking over with the team in tenth spot, McGhee managed to steer his charges well clear of relegation – finishing the season in fifth.

Stephen Robinson – Kilmarnock 1-2 Motherwell – Scottish Premiership – 4 March 2017

Arriving in the heat of a relegation battle, it was imperative Stephen Robinson got off to a strong start after making the step up from assistant into the managerial hotseat and he did so courtesy of a gritty display at Rugby Park.

Kris Boyd had opened the scoring, but Carl McHugh smashed home the equaliser before Zak Jules nodded home the winner – moving the ‘Well out of the play-off spot.

Robinson would guide the team to safety and would go on to be one of Motherwell’s most successful managers in the club’s history.

He left Fir Park in December 2020 and was replaced by Graham Alexander shortly afterwards.

The Last Word

The return of fans to stadiums in England has served as a timely reminder of how much supporters are missed in Scotland.  

Like many of us, I watched on with great interest as the club’s down south welcomed back supporters into the grounds for the first time in almost nine months.  

Seeing excited punters take their place inside the stadium brought a mixture of emotions.  

The first was a feeling of excitement that soon we will experience the same emotions that the small numbers have in seeing their team up close again after being separated for almost a year. 

It has been 280 days since we last saw Motherwell contest a game with fans inside the stadium – the 1-1 draw at Tynecastle on 7 March for anyone who may have forgotten.  

280 days since we had the opportunity to experience the joy of the ball hitting the opposition net, that sinking feeling after conceding a late equaliser, the smell of the freshly cooked pies, a pre-match pint when expectations are at their highest, belief that the afternoon ahead will be the day that everything clicks and the team will produce a performance for the ages.  

Of course, it does not always quite play out like that, but when it does, sharing that incredible feeling of euphoria with like-minded people, who share that devotion and passion for the same club is a magnificent feeling – can anyone truly say they have felt the same at the end of a live stream? 

A victory can shape your weekend, no matter how you decide to celebrate. Leaving the stadium to Kool and the Gang’s ‘Celebration’ when the team have got a result, glancing around and seeing that your fellow supporters feel the same elation is something that has become a distant memory. 

 The same can be said for slumping back into the outside world after a demoralising loss, the sound of Chumbawamba, ‘Tubthumping (I Get Knocked Down)’ ringing in our ears – just to offer that little glimmer of hope that next week could be better.  

The second emotion was one of jealousy. Despite being able to watch the team home and away courtesy of the live streaming services on offer, there quite simply is no substitute for the real thing. 

I think the jealousy was intensified by some of the first games back being played under the lights. There is something about midweek fixtures that make them that little bit more special. Whether that be due to providing a release from the working week or that the atmosphere just feels different – many of my all-time favourite Motherwell games have taken place under the glow of the Fir Park floodlights. 

Some of the fans were interviewed entering the stadium and the one common denominator was each one had a huge smile on their face. They spoke of the excitement of being back ‘home’, taking a step towards normality after what has been an exceptionally difficult year and how much they enjoyed the experience and the atmosphere. 

On Sky Sports, the reporters referenced the difference that even a small number of supporters made to the occasion. They mentioned the notable change in the energy levels of the players, in making the game feel much more important and the sense of feeling that football had ‘got its soul back’. 

The game between Wycombe and Stoke City was one of the first matches where fans were allowed in the English Championship. 

Gareth Ainsworth’s Wanderers side fell to a 1-0 defeat, though he could not hide his delight and seeing fans back inside Adams Park. 

“We won a throw-in in the first minute and they cheered like it was a goal. It was eight months of frustration, desire and need coming out in that moment.” 

That sort of release is what every football fan has been yearning for since the pandemic took a stranglehold on the way we watch the game and that brings me to the final emotion – the passion and belief that supporters can be the heartbeat of a game. 

You might get off the couch when we win a corner today, encouraging the team in the only way you can right now. Though when a stadium drives on the team en masse, it often can prompt a positive reaction, players that find their energy levels waning, suddenly find a second wind, teams push on to get a winner, an equaliser – the fans playing their part as the twelfth-man. 

There was also a heart-warming moment during the Wycombe game when the home supporters voiced their displeasure at the failure of the referee to award what appeared to be a blatant penalty after Alex Samuel went down under Josef Bursik’s challenge, but referee Darren Bond instead booked the attacker for diving. 

Old habits and traditions should never leave the game and providing the match officials a friendly reminder that you feel they got a decision wrong are as much a staple of the game as a matchday programme, a pie and Bovril and the supporter in front of you exploding in rage as an opposition player steals two-yards at throw-in. 

While there can be little doubt that the absence of fans has made for a quieter life for our officials, it has also had an adverse effect on many of things we love about the beautiful game and the return of supporters to grounds in England is another positive sign that the day we return to experiencing all of the emotions that make us love our club and the game so much, will come flooding back in the not-too-distant future.  

When it does, we should soak up every single second. 

Record Breakers

Rangers’ seven straight clean sheets earlier this season attracted plenty plaudits. But in the not-too-distant past, the Steelmen were also embarking on a similar run which ensured Premier Division safety.

Rangers’ 2-2 draw with Hibernian last weekend ended a run of seven consecutive clean sheets for Steven Gerrard’s men.

While the Light Blues were rightly being lauded for their defensive form, the goals conceded in Edinburgh ensured that they could only match a record set by Motherwell 24 years ago.

The 1995-96 season was a strange campaign from a Motherwell perspective.

Coming off the back of a third-place finish in 93-94 and ending the following season as runners-up there was understandably great optimism among the claret and amber faithful for more success for the Steelmen.

The team had forged a reputation of challenging at the summit of the Scottish game, while playing an attractive and expansive brand of football. Among their ranks they had players such as Rob McKinnon, Paul Lambert, Dougie Arnott and Tommy Coyne – experienced and quality footballers who were reaching great heights for ‘Well.

Alex McLeish was heading into his second season in charge at Fir Park and the young boss followed up splashing out a then club record transfer fee of £400,000 on Mitchell van der Gaag from PSV Eindhoven towards the end of the previous season with the capture of striker John Hendry from Tottenham Hotspur looking like a move that would help bolster his attacking options.

Despite the additions of some high-profile new faces with the experience and quality of the side that had seen ‘Well challenge at the top end of the Scottish football in the previous two years, they would endure a disappointing start to the new season.

Exiting the UEFA Cup at the first hurdle to Mypa-47 started the season on a disappointing note and that was coupled with a serious injury to Van Der Gaag in the first-leg defeat at Fir Park which ruled him out for six months.

Motherwell opened the season with four draws on the spin before getting their first three points after a 3-0 success over Kilmarnock at Fir Park.

The joy was short-lived however, and a 2-1 midweek defeat at Ibrox was followed by a 2-0 defeat at home to Raith Rovers.

Defeating Aberdeen 2-1 at Fir Park seemed to have put things back on the right track for McLeish, though few could have predicted the horrendous run that followed – sending the team hurtling towards a relegation dogfight.

A 4-2 loss at Easter Road set the ball rolling on a fifteen-game run in which Motherwell would fail to record a single victory – losing nine times and drawing six. 

During the height of their slump, ‘Well would go eight games in succession without finding the net – a record that remains the club’s longest run of matches without scoring a goal in their 134-year history.

Ironically when that elusive goal finally arrived, it was a Falkirk player who scored Motherwell’s goal. On a drab Tuesday evening at Brockville, Joe McLaughlin put the ball into his own-net to clinch a 1-0 victory at Brockville and end a painful wait for the ‘Well fans who could have been forgiven for forgetting what it felt like to celebrate the ball hitting the net.

After the exhilaration of seeing their team win a match and scoring a goal (sort of), normal service was resumed one week later as Aberdeen recorded a 2-0 victory at Fir Park to send the Steelmen spinning out the Scottish Cup.

There were more league goals for McLeish’s side in their next league game against Rangers at Ibrox. Martin fired home a wonderful long-range effort and Willie Falconer notched his first goal for the club, but ‘Well were denied a well-deserved share of the spoils when Ally McCoist rolled home a penalty with 13 minutes left on the clock.

Having lost the next two matches after finally getting back to winning ways it was vitally important that Motherwell got back to winning ways when Aberdeen visited Lanarkshire for the second time in a fortnight and they managed to do just that when Alex Burns notched his fifth goal of the season to clinch a 1-0 success.

McLeish’s side would have to wait 11 days for their next league encounter, taking on Raith Rovers at Fir Park. Rovers had been rocked days prior to the fixture after seeing their extraordinarily successful boss Jimmy Nicholl depart the club for Millwall leaving Jimmy Thomson and Jim McInally in temporary stewardship.

Again, the match was decided by a single goal, Falconer getting his first on home soil to help ‘Well move off the foot of the Premier League table.

The Bairns were next up at as Motherwell enjoyed their third successive home fixture and again it was Falconer who netted the winner – the striker had endured the disappointment of missing a penalty on his debut against Kilmarnock, but was beginning to demonstrate his abilities to pop-up with a big goal and this was the case yet again as Falkirk were defeated 1-0.

Falconer lifted the ball over Tony Parks in the Falkirk goal before nodding the ball into the net, a goal of real quality, style and huge magnitude.

‘One-Nil, to the Motherwell’ was becoming a real favourite for ‘Well fans and for the fourth successive game the team battled to three-points in that fashion when Paul Lambert’s first half penalty was enough to see off Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

It was a case of another game and another clean sheet when Tommy Burns’ exciting Celtic side came to Fir Park. The Hoops were harbouring strong hopes of ending Rangers’ quest for an eighth successive league title, though they couldn’t breach the strong Motherwell backline featuring the likes of McKinnon, Van Der Gaag, Martin and McCart – it wasn’t a fifth successive win, but another game without conceding.

Given the team looked to be in serious relegation trouble, it had taken a quite superb run of form to turn Motherwell’s season around and defeating Partick Thistle 2-0 at Firhill in their final game of March moved them six points clear of the Jags who were occupying the relegation play-off position.

Billy Davies opened the scoring in the first half and Van Der Gaag put the game beyond doubt after the break. Theresult was made even more impressive by the fact their opponents were themselves enjoying a good run of results including a very impressive 5-2 demolition of Hearts at Tynecastle just one week earlier.

A club record seventh successive clean sheet was secured as Hibernian were swept aside at Fir Park in emphatic style. Coyne opened the scoring before Falconer and Martin put gloss on a fine afternoon’s work.

It was the most comprehensive victory in a tremendous run that saw the Steelmen ensure their top-flight safety – taking 19 points from a possible 21 – scoring nine goals without reply.

The run would end on game eight when Brian Irvine netted a second half equaliser for Aberdeen at Pittodrie to cancel out Falconer’s opener and the Dons would go on to take all three points after McCart’s own goal late in the game.

In the final three encounters of the season, Motherwell managed only a single point meaning they ended the campaign in eighth place – nine points clear of Partick Thistle who finished second bottom and 15 ahead of Falkirk who suffered automatic relegation after only picking up one point in their final 10 fixtures.

Following on from a season where the team were record breakers for both good and bad reasons, McLeish’s side again would struggle in the league during the 1996-97 season – only avoiding the relegation play-off on the final day of the season.

Derby day with a difference

The Lanarkshire derby is normally a well-contested and passionate affair, prompted further by the supporters. Now, the verve must come solely from the 22 on the pitch.

For Motherwell a Lanarkshire Derby hasn’t always meant a meeting with Hamilton, though in recent times this fixture has taken on an increasing level of importance.

It has been over 27-years since Motherwell last took on Airdrie in league action and it would take until 2008 for their next Lanarkshire Derby in the league.

Following on from Hamilton earning promotion to the top-flight for the first time in 20-years by clinching the Division One title in 2008, the teams would face off five times during the 2008-09 campaign.

Since Chris Porter’s brace earned ‘Well a 2-0 victory over Accies in November 2008, the teams have met a further 31 times in the league.

The Steelmen have come out on top 13 times, Hamilton have won 10 and eight fixtures have ended in stalemate.

“Even though it’s maybe not traditionally as big a derby as some of the others in Scotland, it was certainly a big occasion to be involved in both as a player and now as a coach,” said Motherwell assistant boss Keith Lasley.

“I think maybe it’s what generation you come from that dictates which one holds more significance in terms of the Lanarkshire Derby, though with Motherwell and Accies having been in the same league for quite some time now, it has built up a lot.”

Keith’s view is one that’s shared by Dougie Imrie, who over the years played a key-role for Accies in their meetings with Motherwell.

While there was never any love lost between the midfielder and the ‘Well support, Imrie thrived on playing in these fixtures and was rarely far away from the spotlight.

Now working for Accies as a youth coach, he holds both positive and negative memories of coming up against the Steelmen.

“For both teams, the bragging rights are massive,” Imrie explained.

“Anywhere I went to and got a bit of abuse, I rose my game a little bit and I think I always did that against Motherwell whether that be popping up with a goal or an assist – I enjoyed the games and the atmosphere was always fantastic too.

“There was the season where we won 4-0 at Fir Park and then won 5-0 in the next game at home.

“Everyone was bang at their game and both of those games are very memorable.

“I’ve also been on the end of a few heavy defeats against Motherwell as well, so I know how it feels to be on both sides and I’m well aware of how much it means to the supporters– the result will have a massive impact on people’s weekends.

“For today’s game I think the players will have to get themselves going and with it being a derby and crucial points at stake, that shouldn’t be too difficult.”

Unfortunately, fans will be unable to be inside Fir Park for this afternoon’s Scottish Premiership fixture, meaning both sets of supporters will have to watch on nervously from home as the teams do battle amidst a surreal atmosphere.

Motherwell season ticket holder Scott McClure, regards a game with Hamilton as a must win for his side, though is well aware of the ability of Accies to spring a surprise.

“When the fixtures are released you certainly look out for your games against Hamilton,” Scott said.

“It’s always crucial to get a result against Accies, every season they are tipped for relegation.

“I feel we are a far bigger team, but that makes it even harder when we don’t win.

“There’s certainly plenty of passion on show, I think of the games we didn’t win for example Peter Hartley pushing Dougie Imrie at full-time a few years ago.

“I don’t think the lack of fans will make too much of a difference today, we seem to be getting closer to form now and I’m sure after four games the players will be growing more used to the circumstances.”

Accies’ Supporter Liaison Officer, Sean McHugh admits it comes as a source of frustration that some ‘Well fans see a fixture with Accies as a lesser derby and believes that their small but loyal fanbase have big expectations when it comes to facing Motherwell.

“The significance to Hamilton fans I think is huge, we are always looking to better ourselves against Motherwell and get a result – at the start of the season we always aim to win two or three of the derby matches,” he said.

“I think it probably is a bit of an annoyance to Hamilton fans, that some ‘Well fans classify us as the smaller neighbours and that Airdrie is the bigger game for them.

“In recent years Airdrie have been down the leagues and we’ve been in the Premiership, during that time there has been some tightly contested games when we’ve given Motherwell a bit of a doing and then there’s been extended runs where we’ve struggled to get a result against you.”

When pressed for their Lanarkshire Derby highlights, both Imrie and Lasley have matches that instantly spring to mind.

Imrie was keen to recall a 4-0 success for Hamilton at Fir Park in 2014, followed by a 5-0 thumping on New Year’s Day 2015.

Lasley admits most of his memories come from victories at Hamilton, where the ‘Well are roared on by their supporters who pack out the away stand behind the goal.

“The memories I tend to hold tend to be the away games rather than the home games,” he explained.

“To walk out and see the Motherwell fans pack out the stand behind the goal was always great and some of my fondest memories came from getting a result there and seeing the supporters erupt – it was always a nice sight.

“The game where Louis Moult scored the winner in 2016 is one that springs to mind, from memory it wasn’t a great game of football, which can often be the case with derbies, though particularly at that venue where a game of football can sometimes struggle to break out. 

“It was a moment where my first reaction was to look up and see the fans going crazy.

“Tom Aldred getting a double a couple of years back was another big moment at that end too.

“There have been some disappointments as well, though the good moments are the ones that stand-out.”

With Accies often finding them outnumbered in terms of supporters inside the stadium, some have suggested that they may find the adjustment to playing behind closed doors easier.

McHugh disagrees with this assessment however, insisting the crowd are a hugely significant factor in driving the players on.

“I think the lack of a crowd will make a real difference,” he added. 

“I spoke to one of our players recently about the suggestion that no crowds would suit Hamilton players as they don’t particularly play in front of a bigger crowd and he argued that in fact it was the opposite – you take that extra adrenaline from playing in front of a crowd.

“It’s not just from your own fans, but also the opposition fans too – today’s game will be a totally different atmosphere from usual and who deals with it best will be a big factor in the outcome of the match.”

Many of Lasley’s derby highlights revolve round the scenes of celebrations with the ‘Well fans and despite their absence inside the ground this afternoon, he and Stephen Robinson have been reminding their players how much this game means to the fans.

“Playing in an empty stadium is different, the feeling of the game, the ebb and flow, as well as the momentum of the game doesn’t seem to be as clear when they fans aren’t there,” the ‘Well assistant continued.

“Fans can drive a game of football at times with the feeling and emotion coming from the stands, that’s always even more charged in a derby match.

“It will be different, but that’s the same for both teams and the players will be made well aware that even though our fans won’t be with us in the stadium, but they’ll still be right behind whether be watching on a TV screen or listening in on the radio – this is a derby match and one that we are determined to come out on top.”

My Last Match

25 February 2020

Motherwell 1-2 St Mirren

Donnelly (12)

Obika (50), Durmus (87)

For the second successive Tuesday, defeat to St Mirren had left me questioning why I even bother. Just like one week previously, I slumped out of Fir Park while the travelling contingent of Buddies fans revelled in what was an unexpected, but admittedly, a fully deserved victory.

Doing my best to get out of a freezing cold Lanarkshire night, I was back at the car in record time. The radio was quickly turned off. I’m not one for taking defeats badly, I’ve supported Motherwell from a very young age and I’m used to feeling that painful gut punch just when you begin to think that things are looking much brighter – though on this night I was sulking at best.

Was it as bad as one week before? On that occasion Saints were 4-1 up by half-time only for Motherwell to somehow recover to level at 4-4. Though of course there was a sting in the tail, penalties and a succession of wayward kicks from the spot ensured that for another year our Scottish Cup hopes were over.

Third spot in the Premiership table, though suddenly looking like we may never ever win a football match ever again. On the bright side after facing the St Mirren three times in the space of as many weeks, this would be the last we would see of the Paisley side, who were proving to be a source of great irritation.

That’s what we do isn’t it? Allow the glimmers of light to re-emerge, dust ourselves off and go again. Yet two months on, I’ve still not had the chance to go again.

I missed the 4-1 success against Ross County at Fir Park one week later due to illness. Watching on an online stream, I struggled to recognise those in claret and amber from those that played as if they had never been formally introduced to each other in the second half seven days previously. Typical luck, I’d endured all but one of the last eight ‘Well games in which they’d failed to register a single win and here they were turning on the style in my absence.

A rare Saturday shift meant that again I had to settle on following the 1-1 draw with Hearts from the couch, though at least there was the vital six-pointer with Aberdeen at Fir Park on the horizon and the team appeared to be emerging from their slump. A Friday night fixture under the lights that was sure to have a big say in the race for third in Scottish Premiership – what better an occasion to make my return?

Of course, the escalating concerns resulting from the coronavirus outbreak led to the postponement of the Dons fixture and indeed forced the suspension of the 2019/20 campaign until further notice.

Whether it was a lack of understanding or an unwillingness to accept the gravity of the situation at the point in time, never did I anticipate that a few months down the line, the day that football returns is even more uncertain as it was then.

Eight weeks on and we have grown increasingly used to watching on in horror as the devastation caused by COVID-19 becomes increasingly apparent. People losing loved ones, losing their jobs, their businesses, having to go long periods of time without seeing family or friends and a requirement not to leave their homes unless totally necessary – football is way down the priority list.

This has led to me feeling a fair amount of guilt for missing the football as much as I currently do. I watch an old match and the urge for the wonderful highs, the crushing lows and everything in-between is huge. I can’t ever remember reading as much football related material and the same can be said when it comes to listening to podcasts about the game or watching YouTube documentaries.

It seems I’m not alone either; social media is full of clubs, fans and players sharing memorable moments, group chats taking on a tone of desperation when it comes to that first game back, pre-match drinks are already planned – our excitement on the day that football returns will be off the scale.

Football for many can provide an escape and release – it’s 90 minutes away from the stresses of our everyday lives, part of our routines and for a number a social occasion. There will be those of us who only see some of our mates at the football, some use it as a family occasion, though for everyone it is special.

When you win it can shape the rest of your weekend, a loss quite often does the same – there’s a gaping hole in our schedules and traditions right now and it’s at that point where I begin to come to terms with why so many of us are missing the beautiful game.

Personally I’ve been following the game for over 25-years now, with the vast majority of my Saturday’s spent within the confines of a football stadium. It’s only natural that when something for which we hold a great passion for is removed as an option, that it will be missed.

Thinking back over those 25-years, there has been times where I’ve felt fed up perhaps even contemplating taking a big step back from how much effort, money and time I invest in following my team.

Though it’s quite like Michael Corleone in the Godfather – just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. Perhaps that’ll be the case for some of those who have lost some of their enthusiasm for the game for whatever reason will find a new found spark during this time where the element of choice has been removed. The option to turn on the television and catch a game live is gone, football teams up and down the country are going into survival mode and in times of crisis it’s so often the supporters who rally round and do all they can.

I have to go back to the 22 January for the last time I witnessed Motherwell win a football match in person, on that occasion a long midweek drive to Pittodrie proved to be a very worthwhile one.

When the time does arrive for football to return though, I’m not sure the result will matter whatsoever. All that time without experiencing any of the emotions that go with being a football fan means that even the thought of that all too familiar gut punch seems strangely appealing.

It Doesn’t Feel Like Saturday

It may not be more important than life or death, though there’s no denying the significance of football on our lives and for that we miss it desperately.

by Andy Ross

In a short space of time many of us have forgotten what a normal day feels like.

Personally, I’ve slowly grown used to the sun breaking through my curtains, stirring and remembering that the world outside is essentially off limits. These are exceptionally difficult times and while football is far down the priority list right now, it may also be one of the important factors in providing an escape, hope and inspiration during where many of the things that we were able to take for granted are absent from our lives for an indefinite period of time.

It’s quite incredible to consider that it was only 15 days ago that the SPFL announced the suspension of Scottish football matches and the events that have transpired since. Many of us will now be adjusting to working from home and substantial restrictions on our ability to leave our homes, though for some their lives have been turned upside down through the loss of employment as a consequence of this epidemic – the world has become a very confusing, scary and surreal place in recent weeks and as a result we’ll all feel significant mental challenges in the difficult days, weeks and months ahead.

This is where the absence of football is felt so badly.

‘Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.’

Bill Shankly

Perhaps the most famous quote in football has been debated in the last few weeks and surely in a time of global crisis we can reach the conclusion that while Mr Shankly’s passion for the game that we adore strikes a chord, it ultimately is factually incorrect.

Of course, there are much, much more serious issues going on in the world right now, life and death situations that are much more serious than whether the Scottish Premiership season is played to a conclusion or the potential restructuring of our league setup.

Though at times like this, we are reminded that football is so often the perfect release from the difficulties we face in our lives, it brings us together and allows us even just for 90 minutes to forget other (quite often more important) matters and together experience all sorts of emotions. From the highs of a last minute winner, the crushing disappointment of the opposition snatching one at the other end, losing your mind over a decision you in reality suspect the referee may have got right. When you win it can shape the rest of your weekend, a loss quite often does the same – there’s a gaping hole in our weekend schedules and traditions and we obviously miss it desperately.

A loss of routine coupled with the loss of our escape and the uncertainty that surrounds our day-to-day lives quite simply feels overwhelming. To reflect on the situation as it is causes me significant anxiety, boredom can rise to the surface quickly and it feels more important than ever to ensure that we are looking after those closest to us – it’s hard to imagine that there has ever been a time where so many of us are facing the same mental health challenges at the same point in time.

Football has again provided some respite in the most difficult points of the first few weeks of social distancing and lockdown. Revisiting recording episodes of the MFC Podcast has been a perfect distraction from what is happening outside, I’ve read more football content online than I think I ever have before, finally got round to reading some of the books that I glanced at in the bookcase and cursed myself for not getting round to – there’s still plenty to go and for that I feel like my sporadic overspending on football books has now been justified.

The wider football community has also continually shown real class throughout these bleak and uncertain times too. Whether it be the players and staff at Motherwell phoning their elderly season ticket holders to check in on their wellbeing, Celtic donating £150,000 to the vulnerable and to help support NHS staff or Livingston helping fund free meals for those in need within the local community. There has been so many brilliant acts of kindness and demonstrations of proper community spirit and human kindness in action it shows that we will get through this.

It’s a tough thing to consider that a resumption of what we once considered to be the ‘daily grind’ is still quite some distance away. Though that day will return and when it does I think it’s safe to say that life automatically will become a great deal brighter.

A life where we count down the days until a Saturday, where we escape our worries, revel in the highs, despair during the lows, spend time with those who matter most and take part in all of the silly (but hugely important) routines and superstitions .

In the meantime, regardless of your allegiances it seems like the one time where that doesn’t really matter. Talking about a memorable game, goal or player could really provide an escape and that connection that the loss of the beautiful game has caused.

Even those I consider to be the strongest mentally have been quick to admit that they are struggling right now, given the circumstance that’s totally natural. Though not everyone struggling is as comfortable speaking up, please make use of video calling, social media and messaging apps to check in on those closest to you – it could make all the difference.

And keep in mind that not every Saturday will be like today. It won’t be too long before you are hugging someone you’ve never met before, before you hear the roar of the crowd, you smell the pies, the freshly cut grass – it will be bliss and we’ll appreciate it more than we ever have before.