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.”