Steelmen boss Stuart McCall was pleased with how his side looked as the players returned for the first day of pre-season training.
After a mammoth 53-game season, the battle-weary ‘Well squad were given exactly five weeks to recover from what was an excellent 2010/11 campaign.
However, the nature of modern football is that each player works on individual programmes during the close season meaning the days of gut-bursting running during early training sessions are, by and large, a thing of the past.
Talking to motherwellfc.co.uk, McCall said, “Today was the first day; everyone came in this morning, weights were taken and, thankfully, they’ve (the players) all came back in good shape which, to be fair, I expected.
“Gone are the days when I used to play when you would have eight weeks off and come back in a stone or so overweight.
“Players are more sensible and are given programmes to do throughout the summer and first impressions today are positive to say the least.”
There were plenty of familiar faces amongst those being put through their paces at Dalziel Park this morning.
Indeed, the only new addition was that of former St Mirren ace Michael Higdon, who replaced striker John Sutton who opted to join Hearts at the tail end of last month.
McCall explained, in detail, his thoughts on the squad and his hopes and aspirations ahead of the season starting on July 23rd against Inverness Caley at Fir Park.
“I am pleased in one respect that we’ve not lost too many who had such a successful season last year,” he said.
“John Sutton was perhaps one who we would like to have kept but we’ve already replaced him with the excellent Michael Higdon.
“You look around the league and Kilmarnock and St Johnstone are bringing a lot of faces which can obviously be good for any club. But you’ve got to remember that they’ve lost quite a few, particularly in the case of Kilmarnock.
“We’ve managed to retain the core of our squad which I am really pleased about. Again, this season we’re probably going to look at carrying a squad that is possibly small in quantity but large in quality. When you go down that road, you’ve obviously got to be lucky with injuries and suspensions but I am happy with what we have.
“We’ll add a midfield player at the end of this week who is still under contract in England. That’ll leave us strong in that area of the park, particularly as young Stuart Carswell has pushed himself into contention and Ross Forbes has returned for pre-season in great shape.
“Beyond that, our budget extends to one, maybe two more faces. We’ve only really got five defenders so that remains a priority. Of course every manager would like more players but we’ve got a budget that the club simply won’t go beyond and rightly so. As much as our overall budget from last season has remained the same, we took the conscious call to tie a lot of our younger talent down to two and three year contracts.
“In that instance, players’ wages increase in the second and third year and that has happened to us, so much so it’s probably the combined equivalent of a first-team player. Our fans, I am sure, are sensible enough to grasp that and it’s a strategy that will, I am absolutely certain, pay-off and bear fruit in the long term.
“Every year you’ve obviously got to try and improve your squad but there’s no point filling the place with players who aren’t good enough; just to have numbers. Particularly if you are hopeful that some of your more promising kids, like Carswell, will break through and give you something extra. Some of the fringe guys – players like Jonathan Page and Robert McHugh – will also be given a chance to prove themselves as the club have invested in these guys.”