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    Youths complete college studies

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    Saunders and McHugh get the call

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    Pitch programme continues apace

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    McGlinchey is South Africa bound

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    Darren Smith leaves the club

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    Midfielder picks up the first Gordon Russell Trophy

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    Work begins on pitch upgrades

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    Hero Jutkiewicz on cloud nine

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    Reynolds relishes Hibs test

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    Hateley gears up for ‘Biggest game’

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    Youths complete college studies

    Motherwell Football Club apprentices have shown they are as sharp off the pitch as they are on it after gaining certificates in Achieving Excellence in Sports Performance.

    In a unique partnership with Motherwell College and the Club, the players were released from training for one day a week for two seasons.  Netting the Modern Apprentices certificates ensures that they have a recognised qualification to rely on in the future.

    The partnership was established in 2000 and since then many young Motherwell FC footballers – including Mark Reynolds and Stephen Hammell – have been through the course which involves learning about performance, health and safety as well as sports skills.  The qualification gives players an alternative within a sports-specific career.

    Hugh Logan Principal and Chief Executive of Motherwell College said:  “Congratulations to the apprentices for achieving their certificates. This gives them a sound base on which to build a career. Motherwell Football Club should also be congratulated for continuing to support their young players through the Modern Apprenticeship scheme.”

    Gordon Young, Head of Youth Development at Motherwell Football Club, said: “I would like to congratulate the boys on completing the Modern Apprenticeship qualification. It requires a great deal of dedication, discipline and hard work to combine playing full time football with further education.

    “The high caliber of staff at Motherwell College make it possible for the boys to cross pollinate between football and education with continual emphasis on life if football were not an income provider. Their flexibility to our schedule combined with the boy’s appreciation of the system allows us to work in partnership.”

    The two year course is funded by Skills Development Scotland and supported by SkillsActive.

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    Saunders and McHugh get the call

    Motherwell duo Steven Saunders and Robert McHugh have been included in the Scotland squad for the European Under-19 Championship Elite Round Group 1 matches in Croatia this month.

    The duo will meet with the rest of Ross Mathie’s squad this coming Friday before flying to Zagreb next Monday for the trio of matches against Montenegro, Belgium and Croatia.

    Saunders has been excellent this term, playing 30 matches, and scoring his first goal for the club a few weeks ago at Tynecastle. McHugh, who made his debut two years ago, also made a big impact this term having being involved in 13 games, scoring against Inverness CT in the Co-operative Insurance Cup.

    Saunders, who recently signed a contract extension till 2013, told motherwellfc.co.uk, “I have been delighted with how things have gone this season and to be included in the Scotland squad for the trip to Croatia has topped it off.

    “Hopefully I can go out there and represent Motherwell in the best possible way. We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us; all three teams will provide very difficult opposition.

    “But this, along with playing in the SPL, will help my development.”

    In other news, Brannock High School Pupil, and current ‘Well Under 15’s defender, Morgyn Neill has been included in the Scotland U15’s squad to face Belgium at the end of the month.

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    Pitch programme continues apace

    Work to improve the stability of the Fir Park pitch is going extremely well and is expected to be fully completed by this Friday.

    Contractors have been working since last Saturday and are well on their way to completing the programme within the week.

    Head Groundsman Ian Wilson updated motherwellfc.co.uk on what has been going on, “We’ve added 400 tonnes of fibre reinforcement to the pitch that we hope holds together with greater stability next season.

    “The process of power harrowing has begun, which, in Laymen’s terms, is like big fingers that rotivates the fibre with the top four inches of rootzone. Almost like a whisk if you can imagine?

    “When that’s finished, we’ll firm it up with the rollers, grade it so it’s perfectly flat before adding a pre-seeder fertilizer. When that is complete, we’re hoping to seed the pitch and cover it with the germination covers this Friday which means the whole process will be complete within a week and ahead of schedule.”

    Wilson also spoke, in-depth; about the effect the fibresand will have on the drainage system and explained how the leaders in sports turf research have overseen the whole project.

    “This (adding fibresand) won’t cause the same problems we suffered a few years ago with drainage because we have got such a good rootzone.

    “Previously, our pitch was based almost purely on clay which, combined with the heat from the Under Soil Heating pipes, caused an almost impenetrable layer that the water couldn’t drain through.

    “We also now have a partnership with STRI, who are the independent market leader in consultancy & research for sports surfaces. They are in twice a day to ensure that all the processes that are being carried out are being done correctly.

    “We have been dealing with Andy Cole and Richard Windows on this project. Andy is the stadium expert for the likes of FIFA and will be going to the World Cup in that capacity. He also works closely with the Premier League in England the English FA so we really have the guys who are leaders in their field in to help us.

    “They have conducted, on our behalf, a feeding and aeration programme. On their recommendation, we have also purchased machines like moisture meters, clegg hammers for firmness and twisting meters so we can continually monitor the pitch throughout the year. As well as that, we will be installing a weather station here at Fir Park to give us the best possible chance of monitoring weather trends so we can react appropriately.

    “STRI will continue to work with us throughout the year, popping in to ensure everything is working well to give us the best possible chance.”

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    McGlinchey is South Africa bound

    On-loan Motherwell midfielder Michael McGlinchey has been named in Ricki Herbert’s 23-man New Zealand World Cup squad.

    Former Celtic youngster McGlinchey, on-loan to ‘Well from Aussie A-League side Central Coast Mariners, made his first start in the final game of the season at Ibrox on Sunday.

    Speaking exclusively to motherwellfc.co.uk, McGlinchey said, “I am absolutely delighted to be included in the squad; going to the World Cup is a dream come true.

    “I’ve been over at Motherwell to keep my fitness topped up and I have a lot to thank Craig Brown and Archie Knox for. Obviously, I would like to have played more but my arrival coincided with the boys going on a fantastic run so all credit to them for that.

    “But I’ve got the summer to look forward to and the prospect of lining up against the World Champions (Italy) in South Africa.”

    The 23-year-old is the only “Scottish” based player in the squad although former Hibernian and Celtic striker Chris Killen, now at Middlesbrough, has also been included.

    Also included is the veteran former Fulham midfielder Simon Elliott, who spent a fortnight at Fir Park on trial in January of 2009 trying to win a contract with the then ‘Well boss Mark McGhee. Elliott, who left Fir Park to return to American to sign for San Jose Earthquakes, will provide experience in the All Whites camp.

    Full New Zealand Squad: James Bannatyne (Team Wellington), Glen Moss (Melbourne Victory) Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix); Andy Boyens (New York Red Bulls), Tony Lochhead (Wellington Phoenix), Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn), Winston Reid (FC Midtjylland), Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix), Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town), Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City); Andy Barron (Team Wellington), Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix), Jeremy Brockie (Newcastle Jets), Tim Brown (Wellington Phoenix), Jeremy Christie (Tampa Bay Rowdies), Aaron Clapham (Canterbury United), Simon Elliott (unattached), Michael McGlinchey (Motherwell), David Mulligan (unattached); Rory Fallon (Plymouth), Chris Killen (Middlesbrough), Shane Smeltz (Gold Coast), Chris Wood (West Brom).

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    Darren Smith leaves the club

    Motherwell winger Darren Smith today paid tribute to the ‘Well fans as his eight years at Fir Park came to an end.

    Local boy Smith, 22, made his debut for the Steelmen as a fresh-faced sixteen-year-old back in the autumn of 2004 as an 88th minute substitute for Scott McDonald against Inverness CT at Pittodrie.

    Since then, the winger has gone on to appear 71 times in Claret and Amber and scored some vital goals along the way. However, as a former East Stand Season Ticket holder, Smith wanted to thank the fans before he left the club for the last time.

    Speaking to motherwellfc.co.uk, Smith said, “It’s quite sad and emotional for me as my time at Motherwell has come to an end.

    “I’ve had a great time here and I have nothing but fond memories. Not many people get the opportunity to come and play for the team they supported when they were younger. I used to sit in the East Stand with my friends when I was at school and a couple of years later I was out on the pitch playing which was a great honour and privilege for me.

    “It’s really been great and I am really thankful to everybody, particularly the fans who have always been fantastic with me. I’ve always been treated so well; people in the street or outside the club, after games, have always chatted away, gave me a lot of respect and supported me and for that I am extremely grateful and appreciative.”

    After his contract expiring at Fir Park, Smith’s main focus is to find a new club and put the last twelve-months behind him.

    And, with 8 goals from 19 starts including appearances in the UEFA Cup, it’s little wonder there’s already a great deal of interest in the former Scotland U21 star.

    “I look back with some pride at what I managed to achieve,” he said.

    “I scored some important goals, I seemed to pop up at the right time; thinking back to the last-minute goal to get a draw against Celtic and the goal against Aberdeen in the game we secured third spot under Mark McGhee.

    “But I’ve had a bad season with injuries which has been particularly disappointing. It is all about getting my career back on track, playing regular first-team football, scoring goals and enjoying it again.

    “It’s been a frustrating time lately but I am still very thankful to do the job that I do. Sometimes though, in this sport, you need to take one step back to go two forward. If that has to be the case now then so be it. I just want to get back playing; I know I can do it. I know I have the ability, I have scored goals here and played at the highest level (SPL and UEFA Cup) so I just need someone to take a chance on me.

    “In the meantime, I’ll keep myself fit over the summer so if I do get a shot, I will give myself the best possible chance.”

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    Midfielder picks up the first Gordon Russell Trophy

    Hot prospect Peter Innes has crowned an excellent season by being named the first ever Under 19’s Player of the Year.

    The youth Captain picked up the inaugural Gordon Russell Trophy, named in honour of a late fan who appreciated the Steelmen’s record of producing young Scottish talent, at last Wednesday’s amazing 6-6 draw with Hibs at Fir Park.

    And Gordon Young, Motherwell’s Head of Youth Development, explained how the award came about and how the winner was chosen.

    “Firstly, I want to say how pleased I am that we now have a trophy to present to the Under 19’s team,” he said.

    “We only have two senior teams at the club and we rightly recognise the cream of our first-team players. I think it is also right we acknowledge the best of our youth team players.

    “Peter has won it for the first time and I think few would argue with the result. The process of choosing the winner was pretty in-depth.

    “Every week the Under 19’s play, the opposition coach and I nominate our best player and their best player.  I decided I would contact the SPL and get a list of all the coaches’ picks. I then gave every player and every member of staff, who watch the games on a regular basis, a vote.

    “Peter was, by far and away, the winner and came out on top on all polls that were taken.”

    Young also reflected on the role of Innes who has turned his career and his life around in the last twelve months to become the influential figure in the youth side.

    He said: “It must be very pleasing for Peter to be recognised as he is often asked to do the less glamorous side of the game that is so vital but often unnoticed. Having said that, his game has came on so much that we’ve asked him not to be just a sitting midfield player at the age of eighteen – he can be that when he’s thirty.

    “We encourage him to get forward; I’d still like him to score more goals. We don’t want to stereotype him but he is a genuine linchpin; he’s got a real talent for passing the ball. But what we’ve really worked on with him is his ability to get over the ground quicker.

    “His attitude, which I must say, in the space of two years, has improved a 100%. I am not afraid to say that he was losing his way a wee bit; I genuinely think he’s turned his life around. His attitude to training, his commitment in games and the fact that he has taken the captain’s armband following Steven Meechan’s promotion to the first team have been exemplary. He’s led by example and I think he’s been a credit to himself and his family.

    “He must now kick-on. He must continue to show the improvement and his own personal development will be the key to whether he makes it to the top.”

    Innes himself was magnanimous with the gong and praised his team-mates who have played alongside the East Kilbride-born youngster in a successful campaign.

    “I am honoured to pick up the award, particularly as it will be the first, but it could’ve been any number of the boys in the Under 19’s squad.

    “We’ve had a good season, finishing second to Celtic who have spent massive amounts on their team, and scoring a barrel load of goals.

    “It shows that nine of the regular eleven players for the Under 19’s have been given contracts to stay beyond this summer and its credit to all the guys. Gordon Young has also been brilliant and the big challenge for me and all the other lads is how far can we progress at Motherwell?”

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    Work begins on pitch upgrades

    The diggers moved into Fir Park this morning as work began on shoring up the Fir Park pitch.

    The contractors will remove an inch and install an area of fibresand that will be worked into the pitch, making it much more durable.

    It is expected the work will take approximately five days with the reseeding process due to begin on Thursday of next week.

    Head Groundsman Ian Wilson said, “It’s a relief to get the season finished and the work started on the upgrades.

    “The fibre sand that is being installed will shore up the pitch, making it hold together much better. It will slow down the peculation rates but that will help us keep the moisture in the soil for longer.

    “We also have a fantastic drainage system, the best rootzone and everything is sand banded so we are hopefully this fibresand layer will give us what we need next season.”

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    Hero Jutkiewicz on cloud nine

    Lukas Jutkiewicz hailed his dramatic late equaliser against Hibs as his best goal ever – and then admitted he almost wasn’t on the pitch to score it.

    The talented young striker chased down a John Sutton punt forward deep into injury time and held off the challenge of Paul Hanlon before lashing home a devastating half-volley, belying the niggling knee injury he has suffered with recently…an injury that almost saw him subbed before his moment of glory.

    “It felt like I hit it pretty sweet, so I knew it had a chance – it was one of my better ones!” The Everton loan star smiled.

    “At that stage in the game I didn’t think I had the legs to run the defender, and there was no-one near me, so I thought ‘why not’ and luckily for me it found the corner.

    “The gaffer was thinking about bringing me off, they were talking about it on the bench. So I think I was pretty close to being hooked to save my knee for Sunday. I was hurting but I felt like there was still something in the game for me, as mad as it sounds I didn’t think the game was dead because it was so open.”

    The Steelmen had to come back from being 4-1 down ten minutes into the second period, and 6-2 down with just 25 minutes left on the clock. What followed was a comeback nobody in attendance at Fir Park will ever forget, and the hero of the encounter was full of praise for the character of the ‘Well squad.

    A beaming Jutkiewicz said: “We gave ourselves an awful lot to do, but that makes it all the sweeter when we finally did come back.”

    “Tonight was a really special night. We felt like we could score every time we went forward, but it was unbelievable that we could come back from 6-2 down with 25 minutes left. With the way we came back, and the character we showed to score such a late and dramatic goal it was probably the most exciting game of my career.”

    Motherwell now head to Ibrox knowing the must at least match John Hughes’ side’s result at Tannadice. ‘Well will be looking for a more positive result than last time they visited the home of the Champions, when coincidentally they also conceded six goals.

    When asked the difference between the Motherwell team that shifted six at Ibrox earlier in the season and the Motherwell team that will take the field on Sunday Lukas joked: “After tonight? No difference!”

    Regardless of the match earlier in the season Jutkiewicz is feeling confident ahead of the trip to Govan, and believes Europa Cup football will be enough of an incentive to get ‘Well across the line.

    “Rangers will be really up for the game. They are getting the trophy and there will be a big crowd, so we know that it will be a really difficult match,” Lukas acknowledged. “But the last time we played Rangers we were terrific and really unlucky not to win, so we will go there with the confidence that we can get a result.”

    “We’ve got experienced heads now, and players who know what it’s like to play in matches like this. So hopefully they will help us through and get the result.

    “European football is something every player strives for and it’s something we are desperate to achieve and if we can achieve fourth place then that would be job done.”

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    Reynolds relishes Hibs test

    Motherwell may have suffered a heavy defeat at the weekend but Mark Reynolds insists confidence is still sky high and the players can’t wait to face Hibs.

    A win on Wednesday will see ‘Well confirm European football for a third consecutive season, and Reynolds is in agreement with several others in the Motherwell squad that this fixture is the biggest game of the season.

    “It was a bad result on Saturday, and now everyone just wants to put it right. Perhaps we needed some experienced heads on the pitch to tell us not to chase the game at the weekend.” He admitted.

    “Now we know if we beat Hibs it secures fourth place and European place. It’s the biggest game of the season so far.

    “We’ll go into the game with confidence. If you take the Celtic game out of the equation then we have been playing some really good football – even in games we have lost. We need to show the defensive discipline we had when Craig and Archie first came in, and if we can do that then we definitely believe we can score and get the win.”

    This match is the culmination of an unbelievable spell of form since the management duo of Archie Knox and Craig Brown took over at the turn of the year when the club was in a pretty bad state, and Reynolds admits the situation the team now finds themselves in has exceeded his wildest expectations.

    “There were wholesale changes at the club at the beginning of the season. So if you had offered us the chance for a winner-takes-all match to get in to Europe against Hibs we would have taken it. It’s a great game to be involved in for the players and the fans and I think everyone’s just looking forward to it.” The young defender said.

    “European football is a great experience, and I think the lads that came in recently are sick of us telling them our tales of Europe!”

    “I would be magic for us and for the fans if we can get more games in Europe next season.”

    Hibs’ Europa Cup dream has been threatening to turn into a nightmare since the turn of the year and their woeful form has seen them concede third place to Dundee United, fourth place to Motherwell, and they are being caught by their Edinburgh rivals Hearts – to whom they suffered a last-minute defeat at home at the weekend.

    Any statistician would make The Steelmen heavy favourites, but Motherwell’s talented young stopper doesn’t believe the two sides contrasting form in 2010 will have any bearing on the result:

    “Results go against everybody once in a while. Especially in this league where every team has been on a good run and every team has been on a bad run.  It’s unfortunate for Hibs that their run of form has come at a bad time.” Reynolds insisted.

    “Tomorrow is the type of game where form goes out the window. It comes down to 90 minutes, and whoever wins can just about secure Europe for their team.”

    Rumours today suggested Reynolds may find himself in Europe – even if ‘Well don’t, after there were suggestions that a club on the continent have joined the swathes of clubs down south interested in Mark.

    Craig Brown has admitted he would let the player go for the right price and last week declared it ‘astonishing’ that a player of Reynolds capabilities has not made a big-money move yet. However the player certainly isn’t desperate to manoeuvre a transfer.

    “If a move to a club in Europe in a good league was to come up then it would definitely be something I would look at.” Reynolds said honestly. “But none of the players are looking past the end of the season and the match against Hibs.”

    “I’ve achieved a lot at Motherwell and if I have to move on then so be it. However I’d have no problem staying here – it’s a great club and I know that under the current management team I would keep learning and keep progressing as a player. I’m in no hurry.”

    Reynolds was speaking as Motherwell launched their support of the ‘see me’ campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues in the Lanarkshire area. A cause the 22 year-old was only too happy to back:

    “We’re just looking to raise awareness for the metal health campaign. Anything we can do to help the campaign in Lanarkshire can only be a good thing. Hopefully we can get a little publicity for it by getting a couple of familiar faces to back the campaign.”

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    Hateley gears up for ‘Biggest game’

    Saturday’s defeat against Celtic is already old news, and Motherwell are looking forward to the biggest game of their season on Wednesday night according to versatile midfielder Tom Hateley.

    ‘Well go into the match knowing a win against John Hughes’ men will guarantee a Europa Cup spot for The Steelmen next season, and Motherwell’s young player of the year is under no illusions about just how important the final home match of the season will be for the club.

    “It’s all got to come down to Wednesday now.” Hateley said bluntly. “We came here believing that we could get something from this game but it wasn’t to be. We just need to look forward to the Hibs game now – it’s pretty much like cup final for us!

    “Four points ahead of Hibs going into the last day would be just beautiful! Perfect! You can’t predict what the game will be like. Both teams will be going at it from the first whistle – it’s their cup final too. I’m sure it will be a great game to watch.”

    Fourth place is now close enough to touch for Craig Brown’s men; an achievement which would have been dismissed as ridiculous when ‘Well stumbled into January – and Hateley is quick to point out what a massive effort the last few weeks have been from the players and new management team.

    “At the start of the season we said top six was the aim. The new gaffer came in and we went on a great run to get into the top six. Now what we are all desperate and striving to do is get that fourth spot – which would be a magnificent achievement for the boys.” The 20 year old praised.

    “It’s great to have it in our own hands. We don’t need to look elsewhere and it’s just down to the boys on the pitch.”

    Goals from McGeady, O’Dea, Keane and James Forrest condemned the men from Fir Park to their heaviest defeat under the stewardship of Brown and Knox. But Hateley insists the score flattered the home side, and he has no doubts ‘Well will bounce back against Hibs.

    “We had a couple of chances to maybe get a foothold in the game. There was a chance from a corner that hit the post and Saunders had a volley cleared off the line that would have gone in any other day.” Hateley reflected.

    “It’s just one of those things. The game could have been different but we ended up getting battered 4-nil.

    “We now just think about Wednesday.”