Category: Blog

Keith Lasley – Picture This

As published in the Motherwell v Hearts programme – 11/5/22

Debut v Rangers – 10 December, 2000

The day prior to the game, it was my dad that took the call from Billy Davies to say I’d be playing. That night’s sleep didn’t really go as expected – there was a lot going through my head. It was excitement really, at that time we had a really experienced squad, with a lot of big characters. Making my debut at Ibrox against Rangers at Ibrox, it was a baptism of fire, they were a very accomplished team with many established players like Jörg Albertz and Barry Ferguson in the area of the pitch I was playing in. I loved every minute of it, I’ve only got two shirts up in my house, one is my debut shirt and one is my testimonial shirt. Those are the ones that meant the most to me, the chance to play for Motherwell first team was fantastic. The chance for me, as a boy who left school and walked on to a building site, to walk out as a Motherwell player at Ibrox was a pinch me moment and it is one of the moments I’ll cherish forever.

Move to Plymouth – June, 2004

That was the first season of the rebrand as the Championship, and that was one of my reasons for going. I never thought I’d get to experience that sort of challenge, it was an exciting time. There were some massive clubs, the likes of Leeds, Sunderland, West Ham – great places to go and experience. It was a big move for me and my wife too. Did it work out? Probably not, though I certainly believe it made me return to Motherwell a far better player and better person – that experience helped me, there’s no doubt about that.

Return to Motherwell – August, 2006

Visiting Fir Park | Getting to Fir Park | Motherwell FC

I was within about 24 hours of signing for Kilmarnock. I had a loan spell at Blackpool and there was an option to make the move a permanent one, however, due to their financial issues that were well documented, that contract was pulled away at the last minute. I found myself training at Killie, and Jim Jeffries and Billy Brown were good to let me go there and tick me over until I found a club – they were fantastic and after a couple of weeks they offered me a contract. I didn’t have too many other offers to be honest. I’d enjoyed my time training there, I was very close signing. At the time, I was staying back at my mum and dad’s place and took a call from Stewart Robertson, who was at Motherwell at the time, he’s now the Managing Director at Rangers. I was due to sign for Kilmarnock the following day, but I got the call and the opportunity to sign for Motherwell again – from that moment my mind was made up instantly. It was a tough phone call to Jim, someone I’ve still got a huge amount of respect for in the game, but my mind was made up as soon as I knew Motherwell were interested. It was a bit of a sliding doors moment, as you do have along your career, but I was certainly delighted I got the chance to make that choice.

UEFA Cup Qualification – May, 2008

Team. 18/09/08 UEFA CUP 1ST RND 1ST LEG AS NANCY V (Photos Framed,  Prints,...) #1608541

There was so much emotion in that season, both up and down. It was the toughest time for the club. There of course was administration, but the passing of Phil was something else altogether. How Mark McGhee and the club handled that situation was just first class. We all stuck together, it almost galvanised us. Phil is someone I still look back to for inspiration, certainly when I took over as captain, I thought back to how he represented the club, and moving on, he was certainly someone I thought about pretty much on a daily basis. It was a difficult time, but to honour Phil and to do him proud was strong in our thoughts – fortunately we managed to finish the season strongly and qualify for Europe. Given how the previous season had went, both for me personally with the injury and for the team on the pitch, we knew we had to be better. Hopefully, although it was such a sad time,  what we achieved that season paid tribute to Phil and showed how much he meant to us all. The club is at its best when we work as a collective, players and fans together, and that season showed it at its peak – you saw that with the first game back at Tynecastle – thinking about that just now, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, it was so special.

Motherwell v Panathinaikos – 31 July, 2012

GALLERY: Motherwell v Panathinaikos - Daily Record

Walking out and the Champions League music playing, which I’m not sure we were meant to play, but they did it anyway. To think I led the team out in the Champions League, it was ridiculous and I mean that in the sense of where I came from personally. That game is right up there, and is so vivid in the memory. Fir Park, pretty much full for a Champions League qualifier, it was such a special occasion. It is one of those moments I always will cherish, I’ve said before that the team had a really good balance. We had enough in terms of skill, character, a bit of grit and determination – all those factors that are required to make a good football team – we had all of those things. Many of the players have went on to achieve great things in the game and while you couldn’t see everyone’s path individually, you always felt you had that something and it clicked to make a special time for the football club.

Aberdeen 0-1 Motherwell – 11 May, 2014

Skipper Keith Lasley signs new contract at Motherwell - BBC Sport

I didn’t spot him off his line, I couldn’t see the keeper, he was too far away! Just thinking about that, it brings a smile to my face, more than that actually. Unfortunately, I look back on my time at Motherwell, and our record in the cup competitions, it’s certainly something we could have been better at, however that certainly felt like winning a cup. We under achieved in the cup competitions, but perhaps over achieved in our consistent league finishes. That 30 seconds, is certainly the best I’ve had on a football pitch. Bedlam! From hitting the crossbar, John Sutton having Jamie Langfield in a headlock, Mark Reynolds clearing the ball off the line with his hand, before Craig Reid finally bundles the ball into the net – it was just chaos, but good chaos. It felt like winning something, I know it did get us second in the league, but it really felt like we’d won something on that day – the emotion was unbelievable. Any time I think of that, and obviously with Twitter you get anniversaries and reminders, it takes me back to how special a moment it was. I remember the bus back from that game to around Dundee, the sat nav was programmed around most of the carry-out shops across Scotland, I think we zig-zagged home and it took a lot longer than it should have. There was a bit of karaoke going on, these are the you remember in your career. In terms of the players, the staff and the fans, everybody, there was a great connection among us all at that time. I would say it was really memorable, but given the trip home, half of it was pretty memorable.

Surviving the play-off – May 31, 2015

It was just relief, we all knew the consequences of losing. Speaking to the likes of Stevie Hammell who also had been about the club a long time, we felt a lot of pressure. I found the week very draining, the build-up, the time between the two games, the feeling we could only throw it away – we were just desperate to get over the line. I always remember looking up at the clock in the second-leg and it only being 11 minutes, a bit too early to be trying to wind it down. Now when looking back on it, we look back with a lot more fondness, but I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy the experience one bit. We had to put a brave face on it, but there was a feeling of fear as to what the consequences may be – it was the toughest time I faced as a Motherwell player mentally for sure.

Testimonial v Bolton – September, 2015

Testimonial a day to remember for Keith Lasley as son scores for the  Steelmen - Daily Record

Alfie did need a bit of persuasion to score that goal, it was special though. To have the chance to have a testimonial at the club, not only that game, the whole time was really special for me and the family. To feel the affection from the supporters is a really humbling experience. Any time I think back to it, it brings a smile to my face – I’ll be forever grateful for the experience and I know my family are too.

Move into coaching – July, 2017

Robbo: Louis Moult is worshipped by Motherwell fans and we want him to stay  | GlasgowWorld

It was a difficult decision to stop playing, I was still relatively fit and believed I could make a contribution to the team. However, when I made that decision, I wanted to make sure I was making a valuable contribution, but in a different way. I was pleased to help in my way to get the club some success. To do that was really satisfying. In the Scottish Cup final we weren’t really at the races, but in the League Cup final we were right in the game and just a couple of key decisions went against us at crucial points. It’s the one game I look back on and think that we probably could have won that. There were some fantastic moments on the way, one of my favourite moments was the Scottish Cup quarter final and Carl McHugh’s goal – that is certainly one of the best moments since I moved into the coaching side of things. I knew it was getting us to Hampden and that last minute element too – I absolutely loved that. Then there was standing on the touchline myself at Hampden against Rangers as the manager had been sent to the stand and the team going on to win the game 2-0. There have been some brilliant memories. When I moved into the coaching side, I was determined to do as well as I could and to get the opportunity to make two finals at Hampden as a coach was fantastic. It was unfortunate we couldn’t get the job done, but hopefully that is in the post for Motherwell some time soon.

Moving to St Mirren – May, 2022

Motherwell thank Keith Lasley as 'legend' leaves to take up key St Mirren  role at 'hometown team' after two decades

I’m not saying I’m going to sing, I’ll wait until the night to decide on that. It’ll be a great occasion, all of my family are coming to the game, my wife and my kids – they have been on the journey with me. They are engrained in the club too, since I took up the role at St Mirren, my kids aren’t talking to me now to be honest. Motherwell has been my life for the last 20 years, the club has defined what my life has been for that time. It wasn’t an easy decision, it feels like it is the right one at the time though. In terms of being back at the club, it’s not something I’d rule out in the future put it that way. I’ve got an exciting challenge up ahead, it’s a different challenge that alongside my masters at university, that I’ve been planning for that type of role in the future. As what always seems to happen in football, you don’t get to plan out your career, opportunities arise and decisions have to be made. It was a really difficult decision, but one that I feel is right for me at this time. I’m really looking forward to tonight, it will be a very special one for me, and a special night for my family – I’ll never forget what this club means to me.

Keith Lasley was speaking to Andy Ross

University Challenge

Keith Lasley is on another steep learning curve – something he has become quite accustomed to during his time in football.

From leaving behind his job as an apprentice electrician to join ‘Well in 1999, to completing his coaching badges prior to hanging up his boots, Lasley is relentless in his desire to develop and learn.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Keith admits adding in his studies to his role at Fir Park and busy family life will not be easy, though insists his commitment to helping the Steelmen continue their push in the Scottish Premiership remains as strong as ever.

“I’ve always been someone that wants to push myself and I’m not happy just standing still,” he said. “I started my coaching badges when I was still playing and luckily, I managed to make it all the way through to my pro licence which I completed in my last few years of playing – achieving that before I stopped playing had always been an ambition of mine.

“I then took on the job of assistant manager under Stephen Robinson and threw myself into that role.

“I felt as if I hadn’t pushed myself in terms of my education and improvement – I’m hungry to keep doing that. The degree is in sporting directorship, and it takes in pretty much everything the role entails, how it fits into a football club and gives a brilliant insight into how clubs are run top to bottom – I believe I had to take myself out of my comfort zone – I find when I’m pushing myself, I’m at my best.

“As someone who never went to university and left school at 15 to walk out on to a building site as an apprentice electrician, it’s definitely new. It can be hard to juggle, I think I have to be careful and realise that first and foremost my job is the assistant manager at Motherwell, working to help develop the team and win games – that is my bread and butter, and I certainly won’t veer away from that.”

Perhaps more associated with football clubs in England and abroad, the use of a sporting director in Scotland is not quite as common, though in recent times the likes of Rangers, Hibernian, Ayr United and Falkirk have implemented the role with varying degrees of success.

Lasley believes that a sporting director can help bring more stability to a club, though maintains that having the correct people in and around the club is the most important factor.

“I think it has to be done right, a lot of people get caught up in the labels and the names,” he added. “Essentially in any successful structure, the be all and end all is the people within it and not a name tag.

“I do believe a good structure helps, as well as everyone having a clear and defined role within that structure. It can be a sporting director, a technical director, the roles do manifest in different guises.

“In Scotland I think we are playing a little bit of catch up in terms of these models, they have been brought into football to bring a bit more consistency. There’s such a high turnover of players and staff, this role brings a stability – it becomes more of a club strategy where everything is stuck to for a little bit longer than usual.

“We’re probably a bit behind in this country in terms of understanding that and it being as prevalent, but just having a particular strategy is no silver bullet – it’s the people who fill these roles that is the most important factor.

“At Motherwell, because we have a tight group of staff, we do know what is going on in each other’s work daily. Everyone stays in their lanes in terms of getting their job done, but there’s certainly that crossover in terms of encountering each other every day be that on a personal level or there being a few work issues that you think you can help with.

“We are all pulling in the one direction, and I think that is why our club has been relatively successful in recent times.”

During his two-year course, Keith will cover topics such as leading for high performance, strategic operations, innovation and change, governance, and best practice – developing the skills required to take on the role of sports director.

Course alumni include Hearts gaffer Robbie Neilson, his assistant Lee McCulloch, David Weir, and former Germany midfielder Didi Hamann.

As well as familiar names from the world of football, representatives from a wide range of sports across the globe have graduated from the course – presenting a great opportunity to get an insight into how different sporting organisations operate – though it was meetings with his Scottish counterparts that presented Lasley with the opportunity to get an insight into what the course would entail.

“I spoke to Lee (McCulloch) a few times before I signed up to get a feel for it and to learn what the course entailed and chatted to Robbie (Neilson) as well,” Keith added. “The feedback was it was an excellent course but challenging and today I can certainly verify that.

“What I’ve found really rewarding is it is not just football, it is various sports from Aussie rules to basketball and rugby – it’s very much a worldwide course.

“It’s great for me to see how other sports, other countries and other cultures do things and hopefully I can pick good bits out of that to bring back for myself and the club to use going forward.”

The fast-paced nature of football can be put into context when looking at the difference between how Lasley began 2021 and the start of 2022.

Following the departure of Stephen Robinson after the 2-0 defeat to Kilmarnock in the final game of 2020, Keith would take temporary charge of a struggling ‘Well side for 10 days – including the humbling derby defeat at Hamilton.

Looking back on his start to last year, the 42-year-old admits it was the most difficult period of his coaching career, though is delighted at the turnaround in fortunes the Steelmen have experienced following the arrival of the new gaffer.

“When I reflect on it, there was a lot of learning for me personally,” he explained. “From Stephen Robinson moving on and then bridging that gap for the Accies game before Chris and Graham came in.

“You are going to have these times in football, and I think I have come out of it a better coach and a better person as well.

“The gaffer and Chris have done a fantastic job in turning things around, stabilising first and then pushing on this season. For us, it’s never going to just be a linear line in an upwards direction – there’s going to be bumps along the way as we all know – it’s all about how you react to that as an individual and as a club – I think we’ve done that this year well, hopefully we can keep it going.

“I never knew the manager or Chris before they walked into the building, obviously I’d worked hard when I stopped playing to build up that relationship with Stephen Robinson and although I’d been a player under the previous manager, I’d never actually coached beside him – that was my real motivation moving into the role initially, to prove myself that I wasn’t just Keith Lasley the ex-player, but that I could really make an impact on a daily basis.

“As a coach, I want to be the best coach I can be and it was the same when Graham and Chris came in, I wanted to prove as quickly as I could that I can be a real asset and assist as much as I can – that’s what I continue to do every day.”

“It’s just about building relationships, naturally these things take time, but myself, Chris and the manager, along with Hinchy (Craig Hinchcliffe) and the rest of the coaching staff, we’re at our best when we are together, we’re tight and that’s something we are trying to build.

“I want to be doing this for a long time to come, coaching is a passion for me, that and improvement is something I feel really passionately about. I’m ambitious, I want to be as good as I can be and do as good a job for the manager alongside the other coaching staff and push Motherwell as much as we can – we are in a decent position, but we want more and are never satisfied.”

Beginning 2022 in fourth spot in the Premiership table, some ‘Well fans are letting their minds drift towards the possibility of clinching a European place come the end of the season.

Having turned out 20 times in European competition for Motherwell during his playing days, Lasley is well versed when it comes to the atmosphere that comes with those special occasions.

Unfortunately, during the Europa League qualifiers in 2020, Covid-19 restrictions meant that supporters were not permitted inside stadia and as a result the occasion felt somewhat underwhelming in comparison to previous campaigns.

With the landscape now looking much more positive, a chance to sample those special nights at Fir Park and abroad is looking increasingly possible, though Keith insists there is nobody at the club getting carried away.

“It would be absolutely amazing, when I get the chance to sit back and reminisce, my mind goes back to games against the likes of Panathinaikos and Levante,” he smiled. “To have the opportunity to coach at that level would be pretty special.

“So far, the semi final wins against Rangers and Aberdeen at Hampden have been the highlights for me coaching wise. To get the chance to coach in Europe would be fantastic there is no doubt about that, but we are a long way away from that right now.

“If we are still sitting in this position in two or three-months’ time then maybe we can start dreaming about that, but hypothetically it would be great to be involved in.

“We’ve given ourselves a platform, we are certainly not talking about Europe internally, our focus is just on the next game. The fixtures are coming thick and fast following the winter break being brought forward and we need to concentrate on these games.”

This afternoon, Fir Park welcomes supporters for the first time in 2022 for the Scottish Cup fourth round clash with Morton.

Due to restrictions introduced to help prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid 19, the final game of last year against Livingston was played in front of just 500 fans – sparking fears of a return to closed doors matches.

Thankfully, the measures taken and pushing forward the beginning of the winter break seem to have paid dividends and outdoor events were able to resume at full capacity earlier this week.

Lasley is delighted that the team will have the full backing of the loyal ‘Well supporters today and believes that the absence of supporters during the pandemic has emphasised what football is all about.

“I’ve always loved when we play at Fir Park whether that be as a player or a coach, but I think Covid has brought an appreciation across the board as to what football fans bring to a game of football,” said the former ‘Well captain. “We always knew that fans were important, but I think the situation has almost crystalised what football is in this country and that is it’s about the fans.

“Even the mini break and the Boxing Day game with limited numbers, it was so disappointing. You can tell with the players and coaches; we all feel that disappointment and that lull.

“The excitement of having fans being back in the stadium, it has just grown that appreciation for the players and everyone inside the club of why we play – essentially that is for the four or five thousand fans that come every week to watch us.

“That is why we are here, that is why we are pushing ourselves and why we get up every morning and train as hard as we can – I think that has been a really key factor and there is no better feeling, particularly after a win of showing that appreciation and hopefully we’ll have many more opportunities to show that between now and the end of the season.”

First published in the matchday programme – Motherwell v Morton – 22/1/22

2021 in Review

2021 was a year that began in bleak circumstances. After a festive season in which many were separated from family and friends, the country was soon heading into a third national lockdown.

The mood was low and having finished 2020 with the departure of Stephen Robinson and a nine-match winless streak, the atmosphere around Fir Park was similarly grim.

There was to be setbacks as the new year began, though the appointment of Graham Alexander galvanised the ‘Well squad and secured Premiership safety.

The second half of the 2020/21 campaign, just like the first, was played out in empty stadiums. It was an extremely difficult experience for players and supporters alike.

Our usual matchday routine became turning on a laptop ahead of kick off to watch the team we love. Seeing the sections of the ground normally filled with colour and noise sitting empty – we had become outsiders.

But then then there were some glimmers of light, and many of us will remember the summer for being the time when the Fir Park gates reopened, and fans made their long-awaited return.

The shoots of recovery had emerged as a limited number of Scotland fans were at Hampden and Wembley as the national team finally ended their excruciating wait to play at a major tournament and then there was 17 July, the day that we returned to Fir Park – 500 days on from the last time we stepped foot inside the place that many of us regard our home away from home – the emotion, the excitement and the noise on that day was truly special.

Every visit since felt like it was a privilege and now as we begin 2022 with uncertainty over when supporters will return to stadiums, that feeling has only intensified.

Stepping into the new year, there are plenty of reason for optimism from a Motherwell perspective however, sitting in fourth place in the Premiership table, harbouring ambitions of competing for a European spot and new arrivals due to check in to Fir Park – 2022 promises to be an exciting year.

January 2021

Keith Lasley took charge of the team for the visit to Hamilton, searching to end a run of eight game without a victory, though the miserable run would continue as Accies eased to a 3-0 victory.

Graham Alexander was appointed as the new ‘Well boss ahead of the trip to St Mirren and the team responded with a much-improved showing in Paisley. Devante Cole opened the scoring, but the new gaffer was denied victory in his first match in controversial fashion when Bobby Madden awarded a penalty when Lee Erwin went down inside the box. Jamie McGrath converted the resulting kick and took the winless streak to 10.

Cole was on target again as Alexander’s side put in a spirited showing against runaway leaders Rangers, though again the boys in claret and amber were unable to hold on to their advantage – Cedric Itten equalising to ensure the spoils were shared.

Liam Polworth was dismissed in the 2-0 defeat at Aberdeen, before ‘Well finally celebrated a victory, defeating Ross County in Dingwall. Oli Shaw had fired the visitors ahead, but Cole levelled early in the second half before Bevis Mugabi’s extraordinary towering header earned a crucial three-points.

The January transfer window brought plenty of activity, with no fewer than eight new signings. Robbie Crawford, Sam Foley and Steven Lawless came in on permanent deals, while Liam Kelly, Tyler Maglorie, Eddie Nolan, Jordan Roberts and Harry Smith joined on loan.


Despite ending their long winless run, Motherwell were still heavily involved in a battle at the foot of the Premiership table, therefore it was imperative they followed up the win at County with a run of positive results. They did just that as goals from Cole and Chris Long inside the first 28 minutes had them looking comfortable against Dundee United at Fir Park. The visitors pulled a goal back late on but were unable to force a leveller – ensuring two wins on the spin for ‘Well.

Allan Campbell’s goal at Celtic Park was not enough to help the team from falling to a 2-1 defeat, but the midfielder came up with a precious goal four days later at Rugby Park to earn a 1-0 victory and move Motherwell eight-points above Hamilton at the bottom of the table.

It seemed things were looking up, but back-to-back crushing home defeats against Hamilton (1-4) and St Johnstone (0-3) set off alarm bells and suddenly the relegation dogfight was back on.

A 0-0 draw at St Mirren at least stopped the rot, though the trip to Easter Road in the final game of a busy February was of huge importance.

Against all odds and expectation levels, the team responded with one of their best showings of the season. Roberts linked magnificently with Tony Watt to open the scoring and Cole struck in the first minute of the second half to continue his impressive scoring streak and secure a 2-0 win.


The month began with another important victory to help ease relegation fears. Cole bagged a brace and Chris Long was on target as Livingston were defeated 3-1 at Fir Park.

In their last game prior to the split, Motherwell were thrashed 4-1 at Rugby Park – ensuring there was still work to do in the remaining five league matches.


The Scottish Cup brought some welcome respite from league endeavours and a handful of supporters managed to find a vantage point to take in the 5-0 victory at Formartine.

Cole grabbed the only goal of the game to defeat St Mirren at Fir Park and all but secure Premiership safety before the focus turned back to cup matters.

Morton travelled to Fir Park with a place in the last-eight of the Scottish Cup up for grabs. A terrible 90 minutes brought no goals, but Stephen O’Donnell netted what looked certain to be the winning goal in the final minute of extra time. In typical Motherwell style however, they would not do things the easy way – Markus Fjortoft equalising two minutes later and send the game to penalties. In the end, Liam Kelly was the hero, saving from Sean McGinty to set up a quarter final clash with Hibernian at Easter Road.

Mark O’Hara’s first half goal was enough to earn victory over Hamilton – the first time ‘Well had won a derby since August 2019 and in turn guarantee a thirty-seventh successive season in the top-flight.

Motherwell visited the capital with a place in the last four of the Scottish Cup up for grabs and despite a sensational late comeback to recover from 2-0 down to level at 2-2, O’Hara and Steven Lawless both missed penalties in the shootout – meaning the Steelmen exited the competition on penalties for the second year running.


 With Premiership survival secure, the pressure was off for the last three games of the campaign. A good showing against Kilmarnock brought a 2-0 victory and for the second time in three matches, the team would battle back from 2-0 down – goals from Chris Long and Devante Cole turning things around to snatch a point at Tannadice.

The curtain came down on the 2020/21 season with a home defeat against Ross County, Sam Foley put ‘Well ahead early on, but Iain Vigurs and Michael Gardyne both netted in the second half to ensure County’s Premiership survival.

As the season ended, several players departed Fir Park, including fan favourite Allan Campbell, Devante Cole and Chris Long, while Connor Shields joined the club on a free transfer from Queen of the South.


Graham Alexander continued to bolster his attacking options with the additions of Justin Amaluzor from Maidstone United and Kaiyne Woolery who joined on a three-year-deal after leaving Tranmere Rovers.

Stephen O’Donnell played in all three of Scotland’s European Championship matches, including a superb showing in the 0-0 draw with England at Wembley.


Striker Kevin van Veen signed for Motherwell at the beginning of July, and this was followed up by Liam Kelly delighting ‘Well supporters by putting pen to paper on a permanent deal with the club.

Trevor Carson left Fir Park to join Dundee United shortly after the arrival of Kelly, though by the end of the month a further four new faces would be added to the squad including Callum Slattery and Juhani Ojala.

The Premier Sports Cup campaign began with a 1-0 victory over Queen’s Park at Firhill and Fir Park finally welcomed back fans for the 3-2 success over Queen of the South. After a lengthy wait to return to stadiums, 2,000 fans were picked from a ballot to attend, though things did not start well on an emotional day in ML1 as the Championship side scored twice in the final five minutes of the first half to take a 2-0 lead. Motherwell responded however, and goals from Tony Watt, Ricki Lamie and Kaiyne Woolery clinched a dramatic win.

Airdrie sprung a shock by defeating ‘Well 2-0 in the first derby match between the sides since 2007, but the Steelmen did recover to win the group by defeating Annan in their final group stage match.


The league season began with a 3-2 defeat at home to Hibernian in an entertaining encounter at Fir Park. Kevin van Veen got the opening goal of the game and Bevis Mugabi headed the hosts 2-1 in front, but Christian Doidge scrambled the ball into the net and Martin Boyle scored from the penalty spot to clinch all three points for the Easter Road side.

Tony Watt scored late on to help Motherwell pick up their first point of the season with a 1-1 draw at McDiarmid Park, but there was disappointment the week later when a poor display at Dens Park ended in a 1-0 defeat and sent Graham Alexander’s side crashing out of the Premier Sports Cup.

Liam Grimshaw finally netted his first goal in claret and amber to seal a 2-1 win at Livingston and the month ended with the first home league win – a 1-0 victory over Dundee courtesy of Watt’s third goal in four games.

Graham Alexander brought in Sean Goss, Sondre Johansen and Jordan Roberts as the transfer window drew to a close.


An excellent showing was rewarded with an excellent result as Aberdeen were dispatched 2-0 at Fir Park and despite no travelling fans being inside Ibrox for the league fixture at Ibrox the following week, Kaiyne Woolery silenced the home fans with a second half equaliser to ensure ‘Well left Ibrox with a share of the spoils.

The month ended with Ross County visiting Fir Park and although Motherwell were not at their best, Tony Watt fired home the winning goal 10 minutes from time to ensure a 2-1 win.

After picking up seven points from a possible nine in September, Graham Alexander was named the Premiership ‘Manager of the Month’ – his second monthly award in five months.


Hearts defeated ‘Well 2-0 at Tynecastle to start what would be an October to forget. Losses at home to Celtic and away to Dundee United followed, before a controversial 2-2 draw with St Mirren at Fir Park. Tony Watt’s double looked to have set the home side on the way to their first league win in three matches, but Saints struck back through Eamon Brophy. With 12 minutes left on the clock, Sondre Solholm Johansen  was adjudged to have fouled Brophy inside the box, the Saints striker was his initial effort saved by Liam Kelly, though after referee Bobby Madden deemed the Motherwell keeper to have strayed from his line – he made no mistake second time round.

Further misery followed in a Halloween horror show against Rangers, where despite taking the lead, the Steelmen were thrashed 6-1.


After only picking up a single point from their last five Premiership matches, a trip to Pittodrie looked to be a daunting prospect for ‘Well, though a superb double from Kevin van Veen sealed another 2-0 win against the Dons and moved the team back up to fifth in the table.

Stephen O’Donnell played a big role for Scotland once again as Steve Clarke’s side booked a World Cup play-off spot by defeating Denmark 2-0 at Hampden and the theme of 2-0 wins continued when goals from Connor Shields and Ricki Lamie saw off Hearts by the same scoreline at Fir Park.

Graham Alexander’s side were enjoying a good run of victories, though they were sent crashing back to earth with a bump when they were thrashed 3-0 at Dens Park in a match where they were second best throughout.

The Sky cameras were in attendance on St Andrew’s Day, with Dundee United visiting North Lanarkshire. Tony Watt scored the only goal of the game early on – a sensational effort from the edge of the box that left Benjamin Siegrist with no chance. The remainder of the game was played out in tropical conditions, but the Steelmen showed tremendous resolve to claim a richly deserved three-points.


Motherwell announced the signing of Republic of Ireland U21 international Ross Tierney on a three-year-deal. The 20-year-old will join in January at the start of the winter transfer window.

A hectic month began with a well-deserved point at Easter Road and again, it was Tony Watt who got the goal – moving the striker top of the Premiership scoring charts.

Eight days later, ‘Well took the trip along the M74 to take on Celtic and despite producing a spirited showing, they would leave empty handed. Callum Slattery’s shot rattled the crossbar and Sean Goss was denied brilliantly by Joe Hart, before the hosts scored the only goal of the game in first half stoppage time.

In their final game before Christmas, Motherwell eased past St Johnstone at Fir Park. Dean Cornelius scored his first goal in claret and amber to complete his journey from the stands to starring for the Steelmen and Kevin van Veen netted his fifth goal of the season to secure a valuable three-points.

The Dutch striker was on target again in the 2-1 victory over Livingston in the final game of the year – firing home a sensational free kick to open the scoring before heading home the second with 21 minute remaining in an encounter played out in front of just 500 fans.

Christmas Toy Drive 2021

The 2021 Christmas Toy Drive was a fantastic success with hundreds of gifts and toys donated to local children.

This year, the MFC Podcast worked alongside Motherwell Athletics Club and Wishaw Wycombe Boys Club to collect toys for Airth Court Temporary Housing.

The incredible generosity of those who supported the Toy Drive will help put a smile on the faces of a number of children in the local area.

Of course, we all look forward to a day that initiatives like this are not required, though while they are, we will do our best to try make a small difference.

With time restrictions and several logistical challenges encountered during the Toy Drive, we were so fortunate to have the support from many selfless individuals, who went over and above to ensure the success of the Toy Drive – we are so grateful for your help.

In addition to the Toy Drive, a fundraising page for mental health charity ‘Tiny Changes’ has currently raised £100. Donations can be made using this link.

Liam Grimshaw – Interview

Liam Grimshaw completed his journey back to action by netting his first ever senior goal in last Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Livingston.

His winning goal was met with hysteria by the ‘Well fans and players alike, though for the Burnley born defender it represented much more.

Floored by glandular fever in January, it has been a testing time for Grimshaw, who found himself unable to find the energy to leave his house during the initial stages of his illness.

The 26-year-old is thankful for the support of the club, his family and the supporters during the most challenging time of his career. Now after marking his return to league action with the first goal of a career in which he has made over 120 appearances – he is now focusing on what comes next.

“It was great to score and for us to get our first win – that was big and hopefully will give us the confidence to kick on in the next few games,” said Grimshaw. “I never had anything planned in terms of celebrations, I just went berserk really.

“It was great to see people genuinely happy on Saturday, during the time I was ill the club, my family and the fans have been really supportive – it was just a good day really and the supporters will remember it for a while. In football you must move on to the next thing though and last week is done with now, my focus has already turned to having a good game against Dundee.

“Obviously it is great to be back to good health, I think I probably took my health for granted as a fit, young lad who is a sportsman. When you do become ill it comes as a bit of a shock, but it is a brilliant feeling to be able to run about, train everyday and get back to my day-to-day life without feeling completely shattered.

“You go from that lively football environment to being at home, not able to work out, train and look forward to a game at the weekend. I was very lucky to have great support from my girlfriend Courtney and my family back home were always in touch.

“It was one of those things too, although it was serious, there were a lot of a people a lot worse off – I just had to have that mindset that with time things would work out and that I would get back to being healthy.”

Away from football, Liam has a keen interest in several other sports, fashion, and music.

During the six months where he was unable to leave the house, an ability to keep himself busy was very important, though he admits the feeling of finally being able to return to the club was a massive lift.  

“I’m big into my sport and there’s never a shortage of sport on the tele, whether that is a good or a bad thing I’m not sure,” he added. “I’m big a cricket fan and enjoy horse racing, golf, boxing, snooker – anything really!

“I read a lot of books during that time too and then when I was feeling a bit better, I started to go out for walks as well as going along to the club to watch training.

“It was great to be feeling strong enough to get out of the house after a period where I was spending 24 hours a day there – I did cope fairly well with it to be fair and I was lucky in that respect.”

Hailing from Burnley and a lifelong follower of the Clarets, Liam can see a lot of similarities between the people in his hometown and those from Motherwell.

Two towns where the local people are proud of where they come from, working hard all week to provide for their families and often living for the football at the weekend.

He says he feels a real sense of pride at representing the Steelmen, having formed a strong bond with the fans and witnessing the work done by the club and the Community Trust to help support the local area.

“Motherwell are a big community club, and the fans are a massive part of that,” said the former Manchester United youth. “Obviously, it is a fan owned club and the fans are the club – that’s the case wherever you go – the supporters are the ones that are always there, players, coaches and staff will move on, but the fans will remain and support them through thick and thin.

“I think the club does great work in various areas, there’s been a big issue with suicide in the local area and they’ve done really good work with Suicide Prevention and the local charity Chris’ House. Also, the support with under privileged people who are struggling to make ends meet and kids who aren’t getting a proper meal – the club step in and help there too.

“It is a real shame that people living in a modern country that is meant to be all singing and all dancing, but there’s people unable to put food on the table – all pretty hard to believe really.

“The fact that Motherwell are fan owned and the supporters are making the decisions to some extent, maybe not on the pitch, but certainly off it. For me that’s a good thing as they are the people who are living in the town every day and seeing what goes on, they have the best interests of the club at heart.

“I think that’s what makes Motherwell so special, they look out for people. Ever since I came to the club, I’ve been well looked after by the staff and the fans – they are genuine people and something that makes this club stand out from the rest.”

The return of supporters in stadia across the UK has been a huge lift for players and supporters alike.

Liam looks back on the games he played in during the first half of last season as a ‘soulless’ experience in which the colour, enthusiasm and noise was noticeably absent.

Now he feels it is the down to the ‘Well players to give their fans something to cheer about after their 16-month absence from Fir Park and is also excited about the prospect of having increased attendances over the course of the season due to the ‘Well In’ initiative raising funds to buy season tickets for low-income families and the unemployed in the local area.

“I think having the fans back is massive, the fans at Motherwell galvanise the players,” he said. “Last season was soulless you would find yourself 1-0 down with 10 minutes to go and when the ball goes out the park it is taking 30-40 seconds to come back.

“If the fans are there, the ball is returned right away and they give you that extra lift -we want to give the fans we a reason to turn up.

“That is what it is all about, the fans work all week, and they want to come and watch some form of entertainment – if we can do that by working hard and adding a bit of quality to our game then I’m sure they’ll get behind us. Following a team like Burnley is probably quite like supporting Motherwell. If you can get a team that are going out and giving their all on the pitch – I think fans can resonate with that.

“Football is a form of escapism from people’s everyday lives and if we can get people along that might not have had the chance before then that is a great thing.

“Kids especially nowadays tend to grow up just watching football on the television and don’t go to games. Motherwell tend to try target that generation and that’s the way to do it. It can be difficult because the town is situated just outside Glasgow and a lot of people go and watch Celtic and Rangers, we’ve got that hardcore following though and if we can build on that it can only be a benefit to the club.”

A firm fan favourite from very early in his ‘Well career, Grimshaw is now heading into his fifth full season with the club.

Given the high turnover of players at Fir Park on almost a yearly basis, he believes it is important the core of the squad who have been around the club for a length of time lead by example and help the new faces settle in.

Grimshaw also pinpoints his time at Manchester United as a great example of how to make people feel a part of the setup and reveals he received a surprise contact from the Premier League giants during the first lockdown in April of last year.

“There’s always been guys that have been here for four or five years that know what it is all about and I think it is down to those guys to help new guys bed in and let them know what is expected,” he assessed. “It is something that comes with modern football that you often have 12-13 new players coming in every season and it makes it difficult to hit the ground running.

“Some of them won’t know the league, some haven’t been playing for a while for whatever reason – therefore those that have been here longer feel a responsibility to help move them in the right direction.

“I had a fantastic experience at Man Utd, I was there from the age of eight right up until the age of 19 when I came to Motherwell on loan. As you would imagine, it is a brilliant club, probably the biggest in the world.

“In the last few years, I know United haven’t had the success they might have hoped for, but for a club of that size, how they treated me when I was there and also after I left was incredible.

“There is a lot of brilliant people that work there and during the first lockdown, I got a message from someone from United explaining they were getting in touch with people who had played there previously to offer courses and checking in if we needed any support – I think in football you can sometimes be forgotten about when you move on, but that just shows they look after people who have been there and do things the right way.”

Another demonstration of Liam’s popularity among the Motherwell fans came following the loss of a popular figure who was a lifelong supporter.

Andrew Paterson passed away at the age of 47 in June and as a tribute his family and friends raised money to sponsor a player in his honour. The fundraising target was smashed within a few hours and when the time came to pick the player, Liam was the overwhelmingly popular choice.

The former Preston and Chesterfield defender is proud to have been chosen by Andrew’s family and is determined to do them proud during the new campaign.

“I didn’t know Andrew personally, but it has been mentioned to me by people at the club and they explained he was a big Motherwell fan,” he said. “It is a great honour to be able to represent his family and friends – hopefully I can have a good season personally and the team can do as well to make them proud.”

Craig Brown – Interview

By Andy Ross

Former Motherwell and Scotland manager Craig Brown is expecting an exciting season in the Scottish Premiership after a summer to remember for fans across the country.

There were plenty of opportunities for Brown to take a trip down memory lane in recent months, as Scotland finally ended their 21-year absence from a major tournament – with much of the build-up based around a nostalgic look back on times where qualification was almost taken for granted.

The 81-year-old, who led the Scots to the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 1996, was thrilled to see the national side grace the big stage again and feels the foundations have been laid for more of the same when it comes to qualification.

“I’m just trying to imagine if we weren’t in that tournament what a summer would have been like, it would have been quite a disaster in my view,” Brown said. “It was great for us to be back, there’s no doubt about it.

“I have travelled across the world and I’m still a part of the European Coaches Association and when we meet, they all admit a tournament without Scotland is just not the same – the fans bring a colour and noise to the occasion.

“It was a delight to see the team back, though I was a wee bit disappointed we were a bit meek against Croatia in the crucial game especially. We played brilliantly against England and if we had maintained that against Croatia then we maybe would be talking about having progressed out of the group.”

Despite Steve Clark’s men falling short in their quest to progress through to the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time, Brown is confident the future is looking bright for the national side.

He pinpoints the likes of Andy Robertston, John McGinn, Kieran Tierney and Scott McTominay as the players who will drive the team on to future success, though believes it is too early to hail Chelsea youngster Billy Gilmour as a future star in the dark blue.

“I think everything is in place absolutely, the fans are behind the team and the manager,” he added. Hopefully we can take advantage of the groundwork that has been done so far.

“We have some smashing young players and that’s even without Billy Gilmour who really has only had one outstanding game.

“I think back to Barry Ferguson who at the same age commanded the game against England in the play-off at Wembley, they had a very powerful midfield that had the likes of Paul Ince, Paul Scholes, Jamie Redknapp and David Beckham, but the best player on the park was Ferguson.

“At that time, he was just a year older than Gilmour is just now. I think he has a bit to do yet to get to that standard, though having won the Champions League at Chelsea and earning Man of the Match against England at Wembley he has already achieved a lot in the game.”

Brown oversaw the national team for 70 international fixtures, more than any other Scotland manager. After stepping down after the Scots failed to reach the 2002 World Cup, he took up the hotseat at Preston North End six months later.

It was at Deepdale where he would work with ‘Well boss Graham Alexander and his assistant Chris Lucketti – two individuals he has retained a great level of respect for.

“Along with Keith Lasley, Motherwell have three great guys in charge of the team – I really hope they do well,” he said. “Lucketti was the most expensive signing that Moyesie (David Moyes) made for Preston, he signed him from Bury and he was the captain of the club –Chris is a brilliant guy and a very good player.

“Graham Alexander was a massive player for Preston, he’s a club legend there and went on to captain the side. As for ‘Las, he is outstanding as a guy, and he was an outstanding player.”

Brown’s time at Preston would come to end in August 2004 and he would be replaced by former Motherwell gaffer Billy Davies. He reflects on his time with the Lilywhites as one where financial constraints played a big factor, something that denied him the chance to secure the services of two future Scotland stars.

“We didn’t have much of a transfer budget at Preston,” he remembered. “We had to sell but didn’t have much to buy with.

“We had an offer for James McFadden rejected when he was at Motherwell and I actually also tried to sign McFadden for Aberdeen when he was at Birmingham. The selling point was that he has family in Stonehaven and we’d get him a house there, though it didn’t come to pass.

“Ricardo Fuller who we had signed for Preston from Hearts, was sold to Portsmouth who were in the Premier League at the time, and I was given £400,000 to spend.

“I didn’t spend it as the guy I wanted was a lot more expensive – that player was Scott Brown from Hibs. I had £400,000 to spend and he went to Celtic for over four million, I only was able to offer 10% of that – we were nowhere near in the offer we made.”

Over five years would pass before Craig returned to management, stepping in on what initially appeared to be a temporary basis when Jim Gannon was sacked by Motherwell. It would be his first in Scottish club management since he left Clyde in 1986.

His predecessor Gannon was a controversial character, who despite success in the transfer market, found himself clashing with the more experienced players at the club as well as the footballing authorities.

Brown’s close friend and vastly experienced assistant manager, Archie Knox accompanied him to ‘Well and the pair were hailed the ‘Jack and Victor’ of Scottish football.

Their impact was almost instant and from struggling at the foot of the table, the Steelmen would finish in fifth spot and as a result secured a place in the qualifying stages for the Europa League.

“Jim Gannon signed a few good players, but the team weren’t playing well, myself and Archie came in temporarily to help out, but it went well and the club were happy to keep us,” he recounted. “Jim wanted a young team, but it was quite easy to change the fortunes at Motherwell, when you looked at the quality of the guys who weren’t playing, the likes of Stephen Craigan, Stevie Hammell and Keith Lasley had been frozen out.

“Bringing in these experienced players improved the team immediately and we had a very good record with them. We didn’t have money to go out and buy players, we had to look for transfers that wouldn’t involve a fee or look at loan signings.

“We had a very good goalkeeper in John Ruddy during the first season and managed to get one every bit as good in Darren Randolph for the following campaign, a good goalkeeper helps you a lot – getting him on a free was a huge boost for the team.”

In the qualifying stages for the Europa League, Motherwell would impress. Icelandic side Breidablik were dispatched before a superb showing in the 4-1 aggregate triumph against Aalesunds FK set up a play-off encounter with Danish outfit Odense.

It would end in disappointment for the Steelmen, who lost the tie 3-1 on aggregate and even 11 years on, the former ‘Well boss has some regrets of how the tie unfolded – including the actions of the Odense Sporting Director who learned the hard way not to upset Craig Brown.

“I think it has to be said that it was a massive achievement to reach the play-off stage,” he said. “Aberdeen have been in Europe the past five seasons and haven’t reached the play-off yet, we had one year at Motherwell and reached that stage.

“I have major regret about it the Odense tie as I feel we should have beaten them over the two-legs, it would have been marvellous to get to the group stages – John Boyle would have been happy then.

“There was an incident with their Sporting Director at the end of the second match, he barged into me – rather than go round me, he tried to go through me – so I had a wee punch at him. It was just an impulsive reaction, there was a wee bit of bitterness about it, it is not usually associated with Danish football, and I was astonished by the way he acted.”

Motherwell and Hibernian both open their respective Scottish Premiership campaigns here at Fir Park this afternoon in a fixture that has served up more than its fair share of drama over the years – though there undoubtedly is one encounter that stands out from the rest.

In May 2010, the two sides played out an incredible 12 goal thriller, with Lukas Jutkiewicz’s sublime volley in injury time completing a remarkable Motherwell comeback from 6-2 behind to level the match at 6-6 in the most dramatic of circumstances.

It was a night that nobody involved or in attendance will ever forget, though the memories of watching his side concede six goals on home soil still frustrates Brown.

“I joke about the game, when people ask, I tell them that Archie was coaching the defence and I was coaching the attack – you can imagine Archie’s response to that,” he laughed. “It was embarrassing to be behind in the game as we were, Colin Nish scored every time he shot – it was quite unheralded for him to play as well as he did that night.

“It was a very exciting game for the fans, but as a manager it isn’t one you are proud of, to lose six goals at home is quite frankly a disgrace. If you remember the next game, we went to Ibrox and came back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 against Rangers, so we made a habit of big comebacks.

“Although it was an exciting one, I look back on that night with a bit of embarrassment – our defence just fell apart.”

Although Brown and Knox were only at the club just short of a year before moving on to Aberdeen, the veteran manager still holds a strong affinity for the Steelmen.

He admits the controversial circumstances of his departure perhaps ‘blotted his copybook’ with some supporters, though is keen to stress that had certain circumstances been met, history would have taken a different course.

“We were working without a contract – if we had signed a contract there is no way we would have left,” said Brown. “I loved Motherwell and still do.

“Even when I left, initially I had said no, as we had a far better team than Aberdeen – we had been up to Pittodrie and beat them 3-0. Leeann Dempster talked about a contact and presented one to us, we said we would sign it providing the bit was removed that said we would not oversee the full football operation.

“I oversaw the first team only and Gordon Young, who was excellent incidentally, oversaw the youths. He had a watertight contract that stated he was in full charge of the teams from under 20’s down.

“All Motherwell had to do was alter that and give me full control over the whole football operation and if they had done so I would never have broken the contract.

“What could have come up from that was that if Gordon Young wanted to play Steven Saunders who was coming through at that stage for a Youth Cup tie and I wanted him for the first team, he could overrule me because he had sole charge of every player under the age of 20.

“I would have been happy to delegate and give control to Gordon as he’s an outstanding coach – it is a shame we weren’t able to resolve the issue as if we could have sorted that we would have remained here and have been very happy.”

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.