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    Craigan focused on Final fling

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    McCall hoping to take Celtic scalp

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    ‘Well sign deal with Cash Converters

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    ’91 heroes hope for ‘Well

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    Kirk hoping for ’91 repeat

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    ‘Well fans start to party on Friday

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    Humphrey included in Jamaica squad

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    Murray to referee Cup Final

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    Fans’ team net British crown

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    McCall focuses on Final

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    Craigan focused on Final fling

    The final whistle goes, the 16,000 Motherwell fans roars in unison; the Cup is won. Stephen Craigan climbs the famous steps at Hampden, receives his medal and lifts the trophy above his head as the national stadium erupts. Motherwell have new heroes.

    It is a scenario which will have played out in the minds of every Motherwell fan ahead of the Saturday showpiece; a dream conclusion to the Cup fever which is currently spreading through North Lanarkshire.

    But the man who will lead the Steelmen out against Celtic insists that he hasn’t allowed himself to think that far ahead, describing that as ‘dangerous.’ Instead he will focus on the 90 minutes [maybe more] and trying to upset the overwhelming favourites from Glasgow’s East End.

    “I’ve been asked that question a couple of times, and no, I haven’t thought that far away,” the Motherwell captain insisted. “You have to just focus on the match and focus on your opponents.

    “There is a lot of things going on that the boys won’t be used to, like the increased media coverage. We’re also maybe not as used to playing in front of big crowds as Celtic are. So, I’ll not be thinking that far ahead. If it happens then it will be special – but until then I’ll be concentrating on the 90 minutes to play.

    “We know what it would mean to the club to win the trophy, but you can’t think about glory – because the moment you do the glory will get snatched away.”

    The stalwart knows all about having Hampden glory snatched away from him.

    Craigan is one of the few players left at Motherwell from the last major Cup final which the club participated in; the 2005 Co-operative Insurance Cup. A match which was something of a let-down for Motherwell, as Rangers romped ahead early on, with the first goal coming from current ‘Well star Maurice Ross.

    The Northern Irishman knows how vital it is, this time, to perform well in the match, contain their illustrious opponents – and not get caught up in the prestige of the occasion.

    “I was there for the [League] Cup final back in 2005, and it was over as soon as it started. We all enjoyed the day, waved to our families and enjoyed the experience, but the game was over far too soon.

    “This time we have to defend better and play very well. It is also vital not to concede an early goal. That can happen in every match, but it is particularly dangerous against either side of the Old Firm.

    In the transient nature of football it is fitting that Motherwell legend Craigan may have the opportunity to lift the oldest national trophy in World football. Having been at the club since 1994, the skipper knows better than most what it would mean to win the Cup.

    But, modestly, Craigan insists that it would be special for every player, and a wonderful way to end what has been a tumultuous, varied season at Fir Park. And, should any of the squad leave over the Summer there is the hope that they will leave as Steelmen legends.

    “The end of the season can be sad sometimes; players you’ve played with, fought with and argued with and it has to come to a conclusion,” Craigan mused. “Some players will be here and some others might not be. It could be the last time we all play together as a squad.

    “We all want to do well for each other, and it’s great that we can spend the next few days together, knowing that there is a Cup final at the end of it.”

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    McCall hoping to take Celtic scalp

    You wouldn’t always associate Stuart McCall with being the underdog.

    Six Premier League titles, three Scottish Cups and two League Cups certainly tell a story of a player who was accustomed to success. Yet, as a coach, he will be drawing on his experiences as ‘the little guy’ as he plots the downfall of Celtic on Wednesday.

    Celtic, narrowly pipped to the SPL crown last weekend, are overwhelming favourites to lift the oldest national trophy in World football, but that’s not something the Steelmen gaffer will be obsessing about.

    “There’s definitely a difference in expectation, but football – sport, everywhere – is littered with the underdog rising,” McCall enthused. “I look back on my own career and my Scotland debut; we played Argentina who were the World champions, nobody gave us a prayer, and we beat them 1-0.

    “When I was at Bradford, we needed a win against Liverpool who were going for the Champions’ League place – with Owen, Gerrard and all those players – and nobody thought we would win and we managed to get the victory.”

    Indeed, the positivity of the ‘Well boss shines through ahead of the showdown with Celtic. Motherwell have, at times this season, shown an undeniable ability to compete with the best Scotland has to offer, and McCall is counting on that being the case against at Hampden.

    The whole town is buzzing, and the boss has no intention of taking his charges down the M74 to make up the numbers: “We’re under no illusions about just how tough the match will be. But the one thing we can take heart from is since I’ve come here we have turned in four or five really excellent performances against good quality opposition. We know we have got that in us.

    “We’ll have to take our best game to Hampden, but our performances against Rangers in the Co-operative Insurance, against Dundee United here [Fir Park] in the Cup and when we beat Celtic show that we can compete.

    “There are a lot of young boys in our dressing room, but the matches in Europe put them in good stead, as did the trips to Hampden, so there should be no danger of stagefright.

    “It’s up to the players. They have been outstanding this season and if they can play to their best then we will have a chance of an upset.”

    Stuart McCall, speaking at the packed media open day, was also keen to laud the way the town of Motherwell has embraced the forthcoming Final. Bars, streets and cars are decked out in bunting and banners everywhere you look as excitement builds before Saturday.

    ‘Cup Final fever’ may be a cliché, but it is palpable around Motherwell as 16,000 fans in claret and amber prepare to invade Mount Florida.

    That excitement has also taken over the “Well boss, as he looks forward to what he describes as ‘the biggest match of his managerial career.’

    “It’s great to be playing in the showpiece of the season; the whole place has been jumping for three or four weeks now and the game just can’t come quickly enough for us.” the 46-year old praised.

    “When the tickets came out for sale and we saw thousands of people queuing outside for theirs; that really got the Cup final fever going. Training has been keen and full of quality and I’m delighted to have a full squad to choose from, now it’s just a case of being at our best on Saturday.

    “I just want the players to go out there and be the best they can be.”

    The Motherwell boss was reluctant to give away any of the details regarding his week of preparation ahead of the Final. The gaffer has praised the fitness levels and intensity of his players ahead of the encounter, and also divulged that he’s a few pounds better off after a flutter on a trip to the bowling with the players.

    That mix of work and relaxation will continue in the lead up to the match, as Stuart McCall uses all of his vast experience of Cup Finals north and south of the border to put together the perfect lead-up to the big day.

    “We’ve got a couple of things lined up ahead of the game, but that’s between me and the boys in the dressing room,” said McCall, displaying a little reticence regarding his masterplan in the days leading up to the final.

    “Our players won’t need motivated, but there are a few things we can work on, especially going into the game as the underdog.

    “After all, it’s about belief: knowing that you can do it, believing that you can do it, then doing it.”

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    ‘Well sign deal with Cash Converters

    The Club is delighted to announce that it has agreed a deal with Cash Converters to become our new principal sponsor from the start of the 2011/2012 SPL season.

    In addition, the brand’s logo will also feature on the back of the shirts worn by the team for Scottish Cup Final on May 21.

    Motherwell Chief Executive, Leeann Dempster expressed her delight at the news of the deal: “We are thrilled to be working with such a recognised brand and are looking forward to a healthy relationship with Cash Converters.

    Cash Converters Chief Executive, David Patrick, said: “It is a tremendous honour to be beginning a partnership with the Club at such an important time in its history. Not only are the team days away from meeting Celtic in The Scottish FA Cup Final, but 2011 also marks 125 years since the Club was formed.

    Cash Converters plans to work closely with the Club and its supporters to enhance the matchday experience, and also offer fans the chance to win exclusive, money-can’t-buy prizes. We hope the new partnership will prove a great success for the brand, the Club and its excellent supporters. We’re very excited about it.”

    Cash Converters provides consumers with a modern and convenient environment in which to sell used or unwanted goods for instant cash. Stores also offer a place to shop for pre-owned bargains and a range of financial services including pawnbroking, cash advance and personal loans.

    For more information on Cash Converters, please visit www.cashconverters.co.uk.

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    ’91 heroes hope for ‘Well

    Some of Motherwell’s ’91 squad have urged the Steelmen to go on and take their place in history, twenty years after they achieved immortality.

    The stars of that famous day in May will be forever remembered in Motherwell folklore; the sights, sounds and smells etched on the memory of any ‘Well fan at Hampden that afternoon.

    But two decades later and the likes of Craig Paterson, Captain Tommy Boyd and manager Tommy McLean remain convinced that Motherwell have what it takes to upset the odds and win despite being massive underdogs.

    Craig Paterson, a sturdy defender who has etched out a career as one of the country’s leading broadcasters with the BBC, said, “Everything was geared to Celtic winning the title and Motherwell getting into Europe. But now it has come to needing to win it to be in it.

    “Stuart’s done remarkably well to get Motherwell into the top six and to get to this final. They did the hard bit by beating St Johnstone in the semi where they were firm favourites and I’m not sure the fans liked that.

    “I feel it’s better going in there as underdogs with people not expecting you to survive as that’s what happened in 91 against Celtic in the semi. Nobody gave us a chance but we managed to triumph.”

    Tom Boyd is one of only two Motherwell captains in the club’s 125-year history to have lifted the Scottish Cup.

    Boyd, who would go on to carve out a fantastic career with Saturday’s opponents Celtic, still remembers the day he won the Cup with the Steelmen and still talks with fans about it now.

    “Motherwell fans still stop me and talk about that day,” he said. “They still thank me and that’s nice.

    “It doesn’t feel like twenty years ago, I can say that much. The run was memorable as the final itself. It was not just about winning the Cup, which the fans would obviously remember, but it was the manner in which we did it and, of course, the final itself.

    “Sometimes cup finals are built up to be grand occasions and very rarely do they live up to expectations. But that one did – and I hope it’s the same on Saturday.

    “Celtic have played the best football in the SPL this year and Motherwell like to get it down and play, too. It’s two attack-minded teams so the potential is there for another classic.”

    Tommy McLean, voted the best manager in the club’s history by supporters a few years ago, is another who will be cheering on his former team on Saturday.

    The mastermind of the Cup success two decades ago thinks this weekend’s Final will be an altogether different proposition but is hopeful the Claret and Amber men can repeat history.

    “I won’t be going to the final but I’ll be watching on TV and will be rooting for Motherwell to win the Cup,” said McLean.

    “The club has had been on a wee run a month or so before the final when they were playing well and winning games. Since Stuart McCall has been chopping and changing his side and who can blame him? He wants to keep his team fresh for the final. Certainly, if Motherwell play to their capabilities they can definitely win the Cup.

    “It’s a different proposition when you play the Old Firm at Hampden, but if you can get everybody to click and have no passengers then I believe this Motherwell team could follow in the footsteps of our 1991 team.”

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    Kirk hoping for ’91 repeat

    ‘Well legend Stevie Kirk hopes John Sutton can emulate his ’91 feat and shoot the Steelmen to Scottish Cup glory.

    Kirk netted in every round of that famous run twenty years ago and with Sutton having repeated that feat this year, until the final at least, the 47-year old hopes there is at least one more goal left in the current ‘Well hitman.

    “John has been brilliant and I would love nothing more than to see him nod the winner in the final,” he said.

    “I know what it’s like to score in every round and for John to repeat that is simply testament to the way he’s been playing. He was getting played wide left or right of the midfield and it wasn’t his position.

    “They were asking him to get up and down the park and that’s not his game – he’s a striker. He’s a good target man, he’s good in the air and, as we’ve seen, he can finish.

    “He’s a nightmare for defenders and when the ball goes wide he makes sure he gets himself in the box. Listen, times move on and maybe it is time for new heroes to come along.

    “These guys can be it; there is a great mix of youth and experience.

    “Guys like Stephen Craigan, Keith Lasley and Stevie Hammell have been here a long time.

    “It’s also great to see the young ones like Jamie Murphy coming through. This is a chance to become legends.”

    On the night that Stuart McCall’s men dumped holders Dundee United in the quarter-final, a banner was unfurled by Well fans in the East Stand.

    It simply read: Time For New Heroes.

    And Kirk, now a community coach at Fir Park, hopes that time has come.

    He continued: “We are still held in great affection by the fans and I hope this current team do the business on May 21.

    “The ’91 squad wouldn’t be bombed out, but we’d be moved to the side and that’s fine with us. We probably shunted the 1952 team out the road but they are still rightly regarded as legends.

    “If this team wins then it will be the same for us. Listen, the chance of winning the Scottish Cup doesn’t come around that often for a club like Motherwell.

    “When we won in 1991 it ended a 39-year wait. Now here we are, 20 years on.”

    Kirk is well aware of the task faced by the Steelmen though – coming up against a wounded Celtic side that have just lost the League Championship by a single point.

    However, the Fir Parkers have proven, as recently as February, that they can beat their Parkhead opponents and the former striker has urged the current crop to believe in themselves.

    “It is going to be very difficult for Motherwell, Celtic will start as favourites”, he said.

    “But we have nothing to fear. We are solid all over the park and in Lasley and Jennings we have two of the best midfielders in the country. I call them the Kray Twins.

    “They go about mugging people. They take the ball off them and make things happen. Both these guys can play. The club has been through the mire in recent times especially with the deaths of four players. We’ve also come out of administration and John Boyle has decided he’ll walk away at the end of the season after gifting the club back.

    “That’s a huge gesture. It’s maybe come at the right time for him to step down now we’ve got to a final. There would be no better way to bow out than with the Scottish Cup.”

    And what a reward that would be for current boss Stuart McCall.

    Kirk speaks regularly to his former opponent and hailed the job he is doing at Fir Park.

    “Stuart has done a great job,” Kirk added. “I don’t think he’s changed too much because we were a pretty good footballing side.

    “But Stuart has added some steel and determination. We don’t get bullied now and we stand up and fight for ourselves.

    “That’s what he was like as a player and he’s instilled that in this team from the start.”

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    ‘Well fans start to party on Friday

    Motherwell Supporters Trust expects a big turnout for its Eve of Final Party on Friday evening (20 May).

    Early feedback suggests that local fans will be joined by many ‘Well exiles who will be returning for Saturday’s big day out at Hampden.

    The pre-final celebration will be hosted at the South Dalziel Studios in Windmillhill Street and the doors will be open from 7pm.  The 1991 final will shown on a big, big screen as supporters exchange both memories of the triumph twenty years ago and plans for their trip to this season’s final. 

    Jim Griffin, one of the ’91 heroes, will be on hand to chat to the expectant fans.

    The evening is open to supporters of all ages and many will use the night to parade their cup final outfits.  The hall will be decorated in claret and amber and the bar will be open.  What better way to get in the mood for Saturday than in the company of Motherwell fans?

    Entry for Trust members is £3 while the cost for non-members is £5.  The price includes a half time pie for the first 100 through the doors – a £1 thereafter!

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    Humphrey included in Jamaica squad

    Chris Humphrey has been included in the Jamaica squad for their training camp in Brazil ahead of next month’s Gold Cup.

    The Reggae Boyz have moved to fend off interest from Scotland to bring Humphrey into the international set-up.

    Humphrey, who was born in Jamaica, is eligible to play for Scotland due to the fact his mother was born in Kilmarnock and Craig Levein was thought to be considering calling the former Shrewsbury man after being impressed by his performances this season.

    The 22-year-old has been earning rave reviews and he has played a key role in helping the Steelmen reach the Scottish Cup final against Celtic.

    A number of Premier League clubs, including Liverpool, Bolton and Birmingham are all reported to be tracking the jet-heeled wide-man.

    Humphrey is delighted to win his first call-up with Jamaica for their training camp in Brazil ahead of next month’s Gold Cup.

    “It is a huge honour to get a call-up as every player wants to play international football,” said Humphrey

    “Even though I also qualify for Scotland, Jamaica were the first to pursue me and I am looking forward to linking up with the squad.

    “However, at the minute my main focus is on this weekend’s Scottish Cup final against Celtic.”

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    Murray to referee Cup Final

    Referee for this Saturday’s Scottish Cup Final with Celtic at Hampden Park is Calum Murray.

    Murray will be handling his fourth ‘Well game of the current campaign after previously overseeing the 1-0 defeat at McDiarmid Park in January, the Scottish Cup Quarter Final clash at Tannadice which finished 2-2 and the subsequent replay

    Saints won that night courtesy of a controversial penalty award when Stephen Craigan was adjudged to have clashed with Michael Duberry inside the area; Liam Craig dispatched the resulting kick from the spot.

    The draw at Tannadice won wide applause for being end-to-end and exciting and Murray played his part with an excellent display, including getting a number of penalty calls spot on.

    The replay was one of the best Motherwell displays of the campaign, Murphy, Humphrey and Jeffers scoring in an excellent all-round team display.

    Last season, he was the man in the middle for the 1-1 draw with Rangers; Tom Hateley netting a sensational equaliser for the Steelmen. That game was also marred by a controversial call when Ross Forbes’ goal was somehow disallowed for offside despite television pictures showing the midfielder to be at least two yards onside.

    He also took charge of the 3-2 home defeat by Sunday’s opponents Dundee Utd in April last year when a John Sutton double wasn’t enough to give ‘Well the points.

    His overall record in charge of the Steelmen is fairly decent. Of the fifteen games he has taken charge of, Motherwell have won seven, drawn three and lost five. The Fir Parkers have scored twenty-two whilst nineteen have hit the back of the ‘Well net.

    43 players have seen yellow on those fourteen matches, 23 of which were shown to a player wearing Claret and Amber. Only one player has been sent for an early bath, Bob Malcolm in the famous 1-0 win over Celtic back in early 2008.

    Calum will be ably assisted on the day by George Drummond and Gary Sweeney with Stevie O’Reilly on fourth official duties.

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    Fans’ team net British crown

    Fir Park Corner demolished Clyde in a ten minute first-half goal spree to lift both the IFA Scottish and British League titles, their first ever league wins, and the first Scottish club to win the British crown.

    The lads made the short trip …to Ferniegair for a supposed away match which saw their hosts further travelled, and certainly looked like the home team in the early stages. FPC were dominant in possession and territory from the outset, but the deadlock wasn’t broken until 28 minutes. McArthur played a one two with Stuart Jack which saw the full back drive into the box from the left, and he looked up and curled a beautiful shot into the far corner to ease the nerves.

    Within two minutes McArthur again was the provider when his cross looped off a Clyde defender to the back post, where Craig Anderson had the simple task of nodding home from a yard out. The title party started on the touchline a minute later when Davie T fed a lovely pass through the offside trap to Paul McArthur, who held off the defender to beat the keeper at his near post with rasping angled left foot strike, much deserved after his two earlier assists.

    Three minutes later Scott Anderson’s tricky wing play on the right saw him charge to the bye line and whip an enticing low ball across the six yard box, where stand-in captain Davie T arrived to power the ball home from close range. DT returned the favour as half time approached, where his close range shot was blocked by the defender and fell perfectly for Scott Anderson, who, not to be outdone by his wee bro, tapped home from a yard after excellent build up play on the left by Jack and McArthur.

    After the break play naturally eased off after the frantic finish to the first period, and Fraz took the chance to throw on some fresh legs. FPC continued to press, as wee Craig kept confusing everyone by repeating that it was still 0-0, but the ‘Corner made it six on the hour. A fine Macca corner from the left eluded everyone but dipped late at the back post for Davie T to bullet a header high into the net, earning his second of the day and lifting himself back to the top of the Scottish league scorers chart.

    Sub Bendy completed the scoring for the newly crowned Champions with a speculative back post cross which sailed too close to the keeper for comfort, and he could only palm the ball into his own net, leaving Bendy to celebrate with an embarrassed shrug and a smile. It wasn’t the end of the scoring however. The FPC defence, without Gav for the first time in months, had played tremendously, with Tatty and Mitch outstanding. Despite deserving of the clean sheet, FPC were undone fifteen minutes from the end, when Clyde worked a neat passing move down the left to send their striker clear to score a consolation goal. It could have been two late on, but for Glenny to pull off a wonder save, tipping a rasping shot over the bar.

    The final whistle was the cue for the champagne corks to pop as gaffer Fraz celebrated FPC’s tenth anniversary week with the club’s first ever title wins. Even more satisfyingly, it’s been done in style, winning the British League unbeaten with 19 wins and a draw, and romping the Scottish title with two games to spare, scoring freely from all areas of the pitch and with a mean defence and a real team spirit. FPC still have the quarter final of the British Cup to contend away to Kidderminster, and will receive their league championship trophies at a ceremony at Worldnet in Leeds this July.

    Attention now turns to Motherwell’s bid for the Scottish Cup next week, where they’ll be hoping a little of the Fir Park Corner magic dust will be sprinkled their way.

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    McCall focuses on Final

    Stuart McCall admitted he was glad to get this afternoon’s game out the way so he and the squad can fully concentrate on Saturday’s Cup Final.

    Motherwell and Celtic will meet again in six days time in the showpiece game in the Scottish Football calendar.

    Neil Lennon’s men ran out 4-0 winners today but McCall reckons a fully-fit and strong Motherwell side could post the Hoops more problems at Hamden.

    “I am just glad the games over with, it has been hard to prepare over the last couple of days,” the former Bradford boss admitted.

    “It is a difficult task to come to Celtic Park, particularly when they are going for the Championship and we have six or seven regulars missing. We were under no illusions how difficult it was going to be; but I am pleased it’s over and we have come out of it virtually unscathed. Shaun Hutchinson has picked up a slight knock but nothing untoward.

    “I said last week we didn’t want it to turn into a mauling but we wanted everyone fit to return to training on Tuesday and that is what we are going to have.

    “I am sure Neil (Lennon) will know that wasn’t our strongest side today. We did have a couple of niggles and there was no point in taking any risks. It will be different personnel and, hopefully, a different performance next week.

    “One or two good things to come out of it though, the young boy (Stuart) Carswell, at seventeen-years old, stuck to his role well against a Scottish International in Scott Brown. The keeper, Lee Hollis, also did exceptionally well as he needed to do.

    “We can look forward to a game that in my time as a manager which is the biggest of my career. It is the same for some of the lads in the dressing room. If you have been through the town of Motherwell you will see that everyone is up for it.

    “We have to bring our best game to the final next week; all the pressure and expectation levels are all on Celtic. Sometimes being the underdog isn’t a bad thing, and we will be looking to upset the apple cart.”

    McCall also addressed the concern of a loss in momentum but pointed out that keeping players fit and fresh was a bigger priority ahead of Motherwell’s biggest game in two decades.

    He said: “You look at the results and they are not the results we would have wanted.

    “We have finished sixth and we could have done an Inverness, and no disrespect to them, and taken on Hamilton, St. Johnstone and St. Mirren. But we finished sixth and the five who finished above us have been better than us. To go to Celtic Park, Tynecastle and Tannadice they were all difficult games. This is all on the back of us not playing our best side.

    “Now we have a chance to be all refreshed and give it one hell of a go next week, it’s a fantastic showpiece game to look forward and we can put on a good spectacle and come out winners. We have made it clear to the boys we have one game on our agenda, Celtic have had two or three blips this season; we have to be at our best next week and hope they are slightly off theirs.

    “We’ll see what happens; no one will give us a chance apart from the people in our dressing and the Motherwell fans who will turn up in their thousands. The real works starts for next Saturday.”