Good evening ‘Well fans – I hope you are all well.
I am writing this update before I rush off on a scouting mission to the Rangers versus Kilmarnock match ahead of our game against Kenny Shiels’ men in a few weeks time. Staff at the club will send it out on my behalf so hopefully it will reach you all okay.
It has been a few weeks since I last sent out an email so I will get my apologies in early for that. I felt it important to type this out as there is quite a bit happened over the last few weeks and one or two things I am keen to say.
It was great relief to get the win against Aberdeen after what was, unquestionably, a difficult week for everyone here at Fir Park.
The St Johnstone game was probably the most disappointing performance we have had since I arrived at Motherwell last December. We were poor in possession, we lacked a cutting edge and there wasn’t enough urgency about our play.
When I looked back on it, I don’t think, as a unit, we defended too badly. It was two individual, and uncharacteristic, errors (an own goal and a pass back) that really sealed our fate. However, more disappointingly, we created next to nothing and had no spark or energy which is most unlike us.
It was important that we bounced back in the Cup a few days later. Reviewing it again, offensively we were excellent. I have watched the full 120 minutes back or two separate occasions and there is little doubt Hibs deserved to take us to extra-time after the chances they created during the second half. In extra-time, I thought we dominated and had five or six great opportunities to win and I have no doubt that if the assistant referee gets that big call right, which he should have, or we go through on penalties, people would have left Fir Park seven days ago buzzing after a terrific game of football.
The ironic thing is that collectively, we defended much worse against Hibs than we did against St Johnstone. The Saints game was lost, as I’ve said, from two errors from two top professionals – and please be assured I am not having a go at either Tim Clancy or Stevie Hammell – it could have been anyone in those circumstances. Whereas against Hibs, our general defending allowed them too many chances throughout the match.
It was sore to go out the Cup as the whole staff, the players and I were desperate to give you all another memorable run to Hampden.
We then faced Aberdeen three days ago and I felt we defended much better as a team and restricted them to half chances, mainly from set-pieces. We perhaps didn’t click into gear as much as we would have liked going forward but still managed to hit the woodwork twice and eventually won the game through an excellent Bob McHugh winner.
So a mixed bag – the usual highs and lows. But if you step back and look at the bigger picture, it has been a fantastic start to the SPL season. If you will forgive me for taking the two defeats from the Old Firm out of it – from the other games against the teams in and around us, we have played seven, won five, drawn one and lost one; a great record in anyone’s book.
With that success comes the added weight of expectation and people were disappointed that we did not beat St Johnstone. Yes, we had a bad day at the office, but outwith the Rangers and Celtic, anyone can beat anyone; there is such a fine line! For us to be sitting third, with sixteen points, is a credit to the players. We can’t let a couple of disappointing defeats detract from that.
I nearly choked on my Fruit and Fibre when I read in one of the Sunday papers, following the St Johnstone defeat, that our “title credentials” had been severely dented. That’s just ridiculous! We are under no illusions, our aim from the start of the season hasn’t changed and that is to fight hard to be in the top six against a number of good sides in the SPL this year.
[pullquote]At the end of the day, surely you as supporters, and me as a manager, all want to see every player doing the very best they can to try and win the game for Motherwell. Lads have much more chances of achieving that if they have support as opposed to constant criticism and heckling.[/pullquote]
I have one other thing to address before I finish. During the Aberdeen game I wanted to introduce Bob and I decided that he would replace Jamie Murphy. I knew it wasn’t going to be popular taking Jamie off but managers aren’t in football to be popular, you have got to make what you think is the correct decision and thankfully, it turned out to be the correct one.
I will try and give you an insight into my thinking; I did touch on it when I spoke to the Press after the match. Cast you mind back to April 2nd this year when we last faced Aberdeen and Vujadinovic scores from a corner to make the last few minutes more than nervous. Last week, Aberdeen are 2-0 down to Kilmarnock and haul themselves back into the game with goals from a free-kick and a long throw.
They have a big team with Gonzales, Mawene, Considine, Vernon, Arnason, Fallon, Osbourne and Magennis, all six foot plus. Compare that to us, we only have Randolph and Higdon who are in that category and Craigan and Clancy who are six foot exactly – not great when defending set plays.
Although Higgy was going through a sticky spell, it was important that he stayed on for us because I felt that was the only way they were ever likely to score. We have the likes of Hammell picking up Vernon and Jennings marking Considine. We don’t have a tall team so we have to try and defend the best we can and I wouldn’t have been comfortable taking off our biggest guy – who had already one his fair share of flicks inside our box – with fifteen minutes left to play with the match so evenly poised. That doesn’t mean to say that if a similar scenario arises in future, Michael is immune to being substituted. He is not. We will have to take it game by game, and each opposition at their own merits, strengths and weaknesses.
I understand there were some disgruntled voices and I don’t mind that coming to myself in terms of team selections, substitutions, whether I’ve got ginger hair or wearing shorts, it doesn’t matter. I’ve been in football now for forty years, watching, playing, scouting and managing, and I have never, ever – not even once – seen any situation where a crowd are getting on top of a player and it doing him any good.
I didn’t enjoy hearing it when I stood on the terraces at Elland Road as a kid, I hated it when one of my teammates was getting abuse when I played the game and certainly don’t enjoy it when I am a manager and one of my players is getting it to the point where it is putting him off his game.
If you use your common sense, and I know it is frustrating, there is no logical way that any individual will respond positively to personal abuse.
At the end of the day, surely you as supporters, and me as a manager, all want to see every player doing the very best they can to try and win the game for Motherwell. Lads have much more chances of achieving that if they have support as opposed to constant criticism and heckling.
I am not stupid, I know it goes on at every club but I want us here at Motherwell to rise above it. This is our team, we all want to win a game of football and the very best way is to get behind the lads and support them when things aren’t going well.
Our support in general this year has been absolutely terrific, both home and away, and I appreciate that it is only a small minority. But sometimes that minority can be loud and it becomes like a domino effect. We are a small, tight-knit club from the players on the park and the management to the staff who work behind the scenes. We are all disappointed when we lose or feel the pain of any individual when things are going wrong and, importantly, we all take pride in doing well and winning and I include the fans in that.
There are not many of us; it’s us against everyone else so let’s get right behind everyone in the team. Let’s give every player the backing and the encouragement they need, particularly when things aren’t going well because I can guarantee you that to a man, we have a squad of battlers who will put it all on the line for each other.
Look forward to seeing you at Tannadice this Saturday.
All the best,