The opening fixture of Motherwell’s Betfred League Cup campaign was a nice way to kick-off the season, a trip to Hampden for a meeting with Queen’s Park, the club’s first visit to the national stadium since 2011 – an encounter that ended in a 3-0 defeat to Celtic in the final of the Scottish Cup.
I’m not one to take in friendly matches unless they involve a decent trip on the bevvy, so it was to be my first viewing of Stephen Robinson’s massively overhauled squad. It was also my first venture out of the house following a rather unfortunate encounter with two arseholes with a taste for stealing mobile phones and face rearranging, the day felt like a step into the unknown for more reasons than one.
On the drive to Hampden we discussed the big changes within the ‘Well squad over the summer, there was excitement at the calibre of some while there were others were a complete step into the unknown. Meanwhile there was also chat over the future of our talisman Louis Moult, who had been linked with a host of clubs during the close season and also our uncertainty over the capabilities of our manager who although had achieved the goal of survival in the previous season, had done so in fairly unattractive fashion – cards on the table I was very unsure as to whether we had the right man in charge – I don’t think I could have been any more wrong.
Motherwell would defeat Queen’s 5-1 at Hampden and go on to win their remaining three group fixtures – the early signs were positive and despite losing our opening two league fixtures, there was an excellent extra-time victory over Ross Country on a sunny Tuesday evening in Dingwall and slowly but surely the results started to come in the league fixtures too.
The attitudes and committed style of play on the park was transcending into the stands, the supporters were taking to the new group of players who were giving them something to believe in – a team working as hard as they possibly can to achieve the very most they could. Even just typing that puts a smile on my face, as a Motherwell supporter I’ve seen great teams and downright rotten teams, where would this team rank? Probably somewhere in between, but in terms of desire – I don’t think a Motherwell team I’ve ever seen has come close.
The good games kept coming…the 3-0 demolition of Aberdeen in the League Cup quarter-final and the subsequent 2-0 triumph over Rangers to reach the final are both occasions that will live long in the memory. And while Moult hadn’t committed his future to the club, his performance levels were that of a player at the peak of his powers, an absolute game changer in claret and amber.
Although the final didn’t go the way we hoped, the immense feeling of pride in and around Fir Park remained, however the rest of the week would lead to the lowest points of the season. The disappointment of Celtic’s late penalty equaliser at Fir Park, seemed to badly rock the confidence of the squad and a heavy defeat at Celtic Park four days later would be followed by taking just one point from the next six fixtures.
During the barren spell, Moult who had been sidelined with injury agreed a deal with Preston, when you are at your lowest point there is always someone around to step on your head…
The winter break came at a good time, although Robinson had a huge Louis Moult sized void within his starting-eleven to fill and when Curtis Main arrived on a free with a fairly modest goal record, the doubters quickly emerged.
The team returned with a 2-0 win over Hamilton in the Scottish Cup and it’s fair to say it was the pick me up that everyone around the club badly needed. Main got on the scoresheet in the ‘Well’s return to league action, a comfortable home success against Ross County only a few days later and suddenly things seemed to be back on track.
Results since have been much improved and although the team missed out on a place in the top-six of the Premiership table, Dundee and Hearts were both dispatched on the way to a place in Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final where they will face Aberdeen.
While finding a replacement for Louis’ goals and ability was an unenviable task, the work-rate, power and his eye for goal have seen Main more than ease the pain felt by many as our star man headed South.
In Allan Campbell, Motherwell fans have found a youth product who they have good reason could reach the very top of the game (just as long as he stays at Fir Park forever), or what about Cedric Kipre who has went from having no first-time football experience to an Ivory Coast call-up in the space of nine months?
And then there’s Trevor Carson, Richard Tait, Craig Tanner, Peter Hartley to name but four. All guys who you can’t help but feel would run through a brick wall if it were to be for the greater good of the football club.
On to tomorrow and the scale of the occasion…
It will have been seven years since the last time since Motherwell and their fans have been able to look forward to a semi-final of the Scottish Cup, an opportunity to take their place in the final of Scotland’s biggest cup tournament and to have the chance to follow in the footsteps of club legends such as Stevie Kirk, Phil O’Donnell, Davie Cooper, Andy Paton and Wilson Humphries – Scottish Cup winners wearing with the ‘Well.
It’s a day that everyone who supports the club will rightfully lose a little sleep over tonight, the excitement of the occasion can’t be underestimated, the work from everyone involved at the club from the ticket office right up to the Chief Executive and manager – a team effort and one that we’ll all share together.
Whether that be with your family, with your friends, whether you’ve travelled from near or far, whether you’ve seen the team kick every ball this term or you are watching the boys in claret and amber for the first time this season – it quite simply doesn’t matter – this is a day for everyone who calls themselves a supporter of Motherwell FC.
We win and it will be a day to savour, a defeat will hurt like hell, but at the end of the day, if we were in this all for the winning would we really be sitting here looking forward to a rare semi-final? Of course, we wouldn’t, we’ve made our choices and we experience whatever goes with them – the achievement of getting to the last-four is significant, reaching the final even more so…
We’ll go in larger numbers that usual, yet we’ll be mocked by some for those numbers, if only they knew how we feel tonight and that’s before the excitement, the passion, the highs and the lows that come after the referee blows his whistle tomorrow – I can’t wait!