Craig Moore has always classed himself as a determined person but his edge has been further sharpened by some major challenges in the early part of his career.
After being told he was too short to be a footballer when he was released by Hearts at Under 15 level, he quickly bounced back and scored his first Motherwell goal against the Edinburgh club seconds into his Scottish Premiership debut at the age of 19.
Moore had already proved he could score at senior level during a prolific spell with Cowdenbeath, as he helped the Fife club avoid relegation from the First Division.
And this season he has recovered from a cracked rib to regain his place in the Motherwell team as they fight for a European place.
His next challenge is to rediscover his goalscoring touch – and experience has taught him that determination and hard work are the key.
Those attributes came to the fore when, in an era when Barcelona’s diminutive trio of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta have dominated world football, he became the latest Scottish youngster to be wrongly told he was too small to make the grade.
As with the likes of Pat Nevin before him – who suffered the same fate at Celtic – Moore fought back to prove his doubters wrong after then Motherwell youth supremo Gordon Young picked him up.
The teenager, who spent six years with Hearts, said: “They let me go because of my height. I was gutted. I didn’t know what to do. It was the first time I had really been knocked back from anything.
“Thankfully I got another team quite quickly and came to Motherwell, so it didn’t affect me as much. If I had a wee bit of time off I might have been thinking about it more and wondering what I was going to do. But I came to Motherwell more or less straight away.
“It’s just one of those things. You look at them now and they are not the biggest team. Maybe they used it as an excuse, I don’t know.
“My dad just told me not to let it affect me, just go out and let my ability do the talking rather than worrying about my height.
“When I came here, Youngy was brand new to me and told me I didn’t need to worry about my height at all, which gave me confidence.”
Moore got his chance at first-team level in the second half of last season with a successful loan spell with Cowdenbeath where the goals flowed.
“It should have been nine but it was seven because two got chalked off when a game got abandoned,” he said.
“It was great experience, it’s a lot more competitive than the under-20s. It helped me push on.
“We fought a relegation battle and won against Hamilton on the last game of the season and Dunfermline lost, so they went into the play-offs and ended up going down. We had to win and I scored in that game so it was good. It was a big relief.”
Moving to the do-or-die situation of a relegation dogfight helped prepare Moore for his surge into the Motherwell first team this season.
“We had to win every game, so you always had to be at your best.
“It woke you up a wee bit, you thought ‘there’s a wee bit more to this’. The club could go down and lose a lot of money.
“Fighting for something gave you a little bit more to work for.
“No footballer wants to get relegated. As soon as I went there it sunk in, everyone is fighting for their life so we better make sure we stay up.
“Colin Cameron was great, I thank him for giving me the chance to show what I can do.
“It was a pleasure playing under him and I felt welcome as soon as I went up, and never really looked back from there.
“The first game I scored against Partick, that was the game that got called off, but it gave me a confidence boost. Not just the goals, but playing a full game was a boost, it got me fitter and sharper.”
Moore made his Motherwell debut in the away leg of the Europa League tie with Kuban Krasnodar in August and netted a sensational 30-yard equaliser moments into his league debut – against the team that knocked him back.
The goal in a 2-1 win over Hearts was the perfect introduction to the Motherwell first team and he put in an impressive performance in a 2-0 win at Kilmarnock that marked his first start for the club.
But Moore is always focused on improvement and wants to kick on from that goal and grab his second for the club.
Speaking about the goal against Hearts, he said: “Don’t get me wrong, they treated me brilliantly, but they let me go so it was great to give that wee bit back to them.
“But I have wanted to kick on a wee bit more since that first goal. I’ve had chances and I should have had more goals, but it will come.
“I’m not going to lose confidence. I know I can do it.
“I am a bit critical of myself, I am probably my biggest critic. When I get chances, I know I should be taking them. I am working on it.
“You don’t let it affect you, you just keep getting in the positions, and you are going to take one at one point.
“I’m gaining experience. Coming on and scoring that goal straight away has probably been a stone round my neck as well. People are expecting another goal, another goal. I’ve been expecting it as well, but as soon as it comes, more will come.”
Moore’s chances of scoring again were not helped by a two-month lay-off with a cracked rib but he worked his way back into Stuart McCall’s plans last month and has made a significant contribution in recent weeks, setting up three goals in as many games.
Moore is not satisfied with that though and he wants to get back on the scoresheet and do everything he can to help Motherwell achieve their goal of securing another season of European football.
“I’ve been happy with getting a couple of assists as well but I think I should be scoring more,” he said.
“I’ve been working on it in training. I know I need to work hard, I have that instilled in me and I always work hard anyway.
“Even after training putting in extra work, going up the gym, that will help me. It’s all about hard work and determination.
“I’ve always had that and getting let go by Hearts has made me a wee bit more determined to prove everybody wrong as well. They let me go but I’ll come back stronger.
“I play every game as if it’s my last, like every game is the most important of the season. That’s the way I look at it.”
Words: Gavin McCafferty
Interview first appeared in the vs
Celtic Steelmen Matchday Magazine