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    Joe Wark: 1947 – 2015

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    New Match Attax collection launched

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    Club Statement: New manager update

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    TV: Highlights from Livingston

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    TV: Lasley reflects on Hearts draw

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    Motherwell U20s 1 – 1 Hearts U20s

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    U20s face Hearts in Livingston

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    TV: Highlights from Fir Park

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    TV: Cragain praises ‘Well spirit

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    Partick Thistle win in pictures

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    Joe Wark: 1947 – 2015

    Motherwell FC is today devastated to learn of the passing of one of its greatest sons, Joe Wark, after a long battle with illness.

    Everyone at the Club would like to express our deepest condolences to Joe’s wife Maureen, his sons Steven and Kenneth, along with his close family and friends at this difficult time.

    ‘Well fan Eddie Ferguson recently wrote an article for the Matchday Magazine that details the career of one of ‘the’ Motherwell legends of all time.

    ‘Joe Wark Knew My Father’

    Thursday the 9th of October 1947 may have been a typically cold clear autumnal day in Glasgow, but within the parameters of Motherwell Football Club surely the excitement would have been at fever pitch had they known what the effect of events a few miles away would eventually have on us all.

    Joe Wark may have been born a “Weegie”, and his boyhood heroes may well have been from somewhere north of ML1, but from the minute he made his debut in a Pre-Season Friendly against Tranmere Rovers in 1968, he was destined to be forever a Steelman.

    As was the norm at this time, Joe had begun his career in the Ayrshire Juniors, running up and down Cochrane Street Park playing in the Tangerine and Black of Irvine Victoria. It wasn’t long before scouts from the senior ranks all over Scotland were alerted to the performances of the strong, tidy and creative player with a throw-in akin to a corner kick, which led to reports landing on managers desk up and down the country.

    Of course it was Motherwell boss Bobby Howitt, who made the first move, and Joe was more than happy at the age of 20 to make the Fir Park dressing room his home for the next sixteen seasons.

    Strangely enough on his debut previously mentioned, Joe spent 87 minutes in goal after ‘Well ‘keeper Keith McRae was injured. The clean sheet he achieved was to be the first small step on his journey towards legendary status at our club, as a Jim “Jumbo” Muir double won the game for Motherwell.

    The fact that Motherwell had begun season 1968/9 in Scotland’s Division Two probably helped him make the step up in class a little easier. Joe was an ever present in midfield, driving the club forward in a glorious romp to the title, netting 112 times, conceding 23 and losing a mere two matches (Forfar and East Fife away) along the way.

    Joe showed in that first season that he could augment his excellent defensive duties with some attacking flair. He scored eight League goals in that campaign, including a memorable hat-trick against Montrose at Fir Park, which I’m delighted to say, I actually witnessed sitting on the wee white wall in front of the East Stand! It would be the following season, when the Steelmen returned to the top flight, that Joe would make the left back berth his own.

    That year would also signal his first national Semi-Final, in the League Cup against St Johnstone, after starring in an incredible come from behind win in the previous round against Morton. Sadly for us all, the disappointing defeat at Hampden Park would not be last Semi-Final anguish suffered by the great man.

    League wise, it was an efficient if unspectacular return to the First Division, although good enough to secure a place in the new British (Texaco) Cup, which was kicking off the following term.

    That inaugural tournament would provide the major highlights for ‘Well fans in Season 1970/71, a term in which Joe Wark would further endear himself to the Motherwell faithful , continually showing impeccable timing in the tackle and an ability to seemingly rescue a lost cause without committing any foul.

    First up in the new competition was Stoke City, with World Cup winning Goalkeeper, Gordon Banks between the sticks in the first leg at Fir Park. A terrific display by Banks wasn’t enough to stop John Goldthorp netting the only goal, and it was down to the Victoria Ground for the second instalment of an enthralling contest.

    The English side managed to take the tie to penalties, but it was the ‘Well ‘keeper McRae who overshadowed his more illustrious counterpart and emerged the hero with two great saves as the Steelmen celebrated a deserved win.

    The mighty Tottenham Hotspur were next up, with a host of International stars and even more World Cup winners! Wark along with many of his teammates were not only enjoying the newfound national limelight, but were positively thriving on it.

    After a narrow 3-2 defeat at White Hart Lane, a near 23,000 crowd were encouraged to visit Fir Park to roar Motherwell on to what would become a famous victory, with goals from Tom Donnelly, Brian Heron and Bobby Watson.

    The Semi-Final saw heartache for “Guiseppe” (as my Dad called our hero), as an injury time Donald Ford goal for Hearts in front of 25,500 fans at Fir Park sent them through to the first ever Final, at the expense of the brave men in Claret and Amber.

    League form over the next few years continued to be rather in and out, with Joe yet again keeping a clean sheet as he took over in goal for the second half of a league game at home to St. Johnstone in January 1972. This time Billy Ritchie was the unlucky ‘Well ‘keeper who had broken his leg. It didn’t stop Motherwell though, running out convincing 2-0 winners with Billy Campbell and Kirkie Lawson scoring.

    By the time new manager Ian St. John arrived in 1973, it had become apparent that Scottish Football was heading for a radical change, with a ten team Premier League on the horizon.

    All efforts of not only Motherwell, but a host of clubs throughout the land were directed towards attaining a berth in the new set-up for the first campaign. “Sinjy’s” first full season in charge saw Joe complete yet another campaign as an ever present (his third in six years), playing 52 competitive matches, displaying tremendous enthusiasm, athleticism, dedication and a clever understanding of how not to fall foul of referees.

    League wise the club relied heavily on the scoring exploits of our dynamic striking partnership of Willie Pettigrew and Bobby Graham to guide them to the new top ten set-up, which was achieved on the final day of the season at Fir Park against Dumbarton. Graham scored his 14th goal of the season that afternoon (although Pettigrew failed to add to his 26) in a 3-1 win with the Fir Parkers resplendent in a kit almost identical to the one the boys will wear this afternoon.

    The season may have ended happily enough, but a month earlier, it’s fair to say the Scottish Cup caused major heartache not only to Joe, but for all Motherwell fans. Pettigrew had put the Steelmen ahead at Hampden Park in the Semi-Final against Airdrieonians, and were comfortable until a harmless looking late cross into our box was headed into his own net by Fir Park stopper Stewart McLaren.

    A couple of minutes from the end of the replay, ‘keeper Stuart Rennie was penalised for taking too many steps whilst carrying the ball, a long defunct rule, and one that was rarely enforced at that time. The resultant indirect free-kick was deflected past the helpless goalie, leaving the Diamonds, who we were to narrowly pip for the final place in the new Premier League, celebrating a place in the Final against Celtic.

    The following season would see the pinnacle of a terrific Motherwell side as Wark would once again be an ever-present over 54 games. 1975/76 also saw Joe return to the goal scoring charts, just. A fine strike at Ibrox would earn the Steelmen a creditable draw in the League Cup, although it wouldn’t be enough to help the side to progress out of a Section that also included Airdrieonians and Clyde.

    The Texaco Cup had a new name this term, as the Anglo-Scottish Cup made its bow, with Motherwell yet again “in amongst it”. Dundee and Blackburn Rovers were both seen off with ease by the Dossers to earn us a crack at Fulham, boasting an array of talent such as Bobby Moore, Alan Mullery, Rodney Marsh and George Best. A great draw down at Craven Cottage went for nothing as Fir Park witnessed a five-goal cracker, which sadly for Wark and his teammates went in favour of the visitors.

    For the second season on the bounce, the Scottish Cup would prove to be devastating to our, by now, captain of the Football Club. It had of course started so promisingly as Motherwell came from two down at home to Celtic at half time, to post a never to be forgotten win with goals from Taylor, Graham and Pettigrew.

    When Cowdenbeath, and then, Hibernian (after a second replay at Ibrox) were taken care of, a Semi-Final against the blue half of the Old Firm didn’t hold any fears for the Fir Parkers and their fans. Twenty minutes from time, Pettigrew and McLaren had us two goals to the good, looking home and hosed, with Wark surely dreaming of lifting the old trophy and bringing it back to North Lanarkshire.

    Enter Referee, JPR Gordon. He inexplicably awarded Rangers a penalty for an alleged infringement two yards outside the box. The converted kick gave our opponents the impetus they needed to win the tie despite a blatant foul by Rangers defender, John Greig on Pettigrew as he looked certain to earn a replay in the final minute. Early 1978 saw Joe and his Motherwell side hit a slump that would eventually lead to them plying their trade in the First Division 18 months later.

    At the end of that World Cup summer, West Brom arrived at Fir Park as Joe Wark was awarded a well-deserved Testimonial by the club. Sadly, Motherwell were ripped apart, and the 8-1 defeat was a precursor to the horror season that was to follow.

    Relegation meant radical changes to the playing staff was required from new manager, Ally MacLeod, with Joe being one of the very few who survived the cull. It would be at the third attempt in 1982 that the Steelmen would return to Scotland’s top flight, with Joe playing an integral part in the success.

    Following Davie Hay’s departure in that summer, and despite media reports linking Joe to the manager’s chair at Fir Park, Jock Wallace was the man given the task of keeping Motherwell in the Premier League in that crucial first season.

    It’s fair to say that Wallace was not a popular choice amongst the Motherwell fans, and he certainly wasn’t on Joe’s Christmas card list the following festive period. The ex-Rangers boss only selected our hero for one league game in the first eight months of the season, a 7-0 reverse at home to Celtic with a certain Charlie Nicholas on fire for the Hoops.

    Wark’s final season, 1983/4, would see the Club relegated once again with Joe, now 36 years old, appearing eleven times in Claret and Amber. The old boots were finally hung up after a second Testimonial match against a Rangers/Celtic select in January 1985.

    Joe had made 469 league appearances, a post war record for the Club, which given the nature of the transfer system these days, is unlikely to be beat.

    Many Motherwell fans have waxed lyrical over the years desperately trying to describe what Joe meant to this club. On the field, his “Mr Consistency” tag was well earned, as on a weekly basis, he took his “teeth oot”, rolled up his sleeves and went to work, playing the game in the right way.

    Never would you see Joe commit a cynical foul, indeed he was very rarely booked in over 500 games for the Steelmen. Off the field, Joe was always immaculate, and dare I say it, rather good looking with his teeth in. Every inch a Gentleman and a fine ambassador for Motherwell Football Club, not shy to explain what this club has stood for, and should continue to stand for today.

    It was a travesty that this true legend was never given a full Scotland Cap, although he did gain a solitary League Cap against England.

    In truth though, although Joe may have hankered for that dark blue jersey, to us ‘Well fans, that only made him more special, as it meant we didn’t have to share Joe Wark with anybody else.

    He was probably the only hero in our family which crossed the generation between my old man and myself; my late dad thought the world of Joe, as I did growing up.

    For a Left Back to hold such affection not only within the Ferguson household in darkest Renfrewshire, but throughout great swathes of Lanarkshire tells you more about the man than anything I could write about him.

    Joe Wark may never have met or knew my father, but I’m so proud to say, my father most certainly knew, and loved, Joe Wark.

    Eddie Ferguson.

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    New Match Attax collection launched

    Good news ‘Well fans – Topps, the UK’s leading collectibles company, have launched their brand new SPFL Match Attax trading card game collection for 2015-16!

    Available now, Topps Match Attax, the world’s most successful football trading card game, offers fans of all ages a fun-filled addition to the new SPFL season. Featuring all the top teams in Scotland and brand new cards, fans can get ahead of the game and collect, swap and play all their favourite Scottish football players.

    There are 352 cards to collect, including brand new ‘rising star’, ‘hat-trick hero’ and ‘tactic’ cards to enhance gameplay.

    The SPFL Match Attax Starter Pack retails at £4.99 and includes a binder, Playing Pitch and nine Match Attax player cards. Packets of nine cards are available for £1 each.

    For details about the new collections, visit www.toppsfootball.co.uk. Follow Topps on Twitter @toppsmatchattax and get the latest news and updates at www.facebook.com/MyTopps

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    Club Statement: New manager update

    Motherwell FC today (Wednesday) released the following update in relation to the search for a new first-team manager.

    A club spokesman said: “The Board met on Monday evening for an initial review of the list of applicants for the role of first-team manager.

    “We have received in excess of 75 applications and are delighted with the high quality of candidates.

    “We are keen to undertake a detailed interview process to ensure we appoint a manager who shares the vision for the club and has the skills necessary to achieve the various goals required.

    “Due to the number of applicants, it will take some time to complete the selection process and no interviews will take place this week.

    “The Board have therefore asked Stephen Craigan to continue in his position for the Dundee game this Saturday, which he has agreed to do.

    “The club hope to make an appointment prior to the next game after the international break.”

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    TV: Highlights from Livingston

    Extended Highlights from Almondvale as a Louis Laing stunner earned ‘Well a 1-1 draw with Hearts in the SPFL Development League.

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    TV: Lasley reflects on Hearts draw

    Under 20s assistant Keith Lasley was impressed by his side after they again fought back to earn a deserved point against Hearts.

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    Motherwell U20s 1 – 1 Hearts U20s

    For the fourth Development League match in a row, the Under 20s came back from behind to rescue a point when they drew 1-1 with Hearts this evening.

    The Jambos took an early lead when defender Leon Jones bundled home a near post corner with the first real attack of the game.

    It remained that way until the 69th minute when Louis Laing scored a sensational equaliser to bring his side deservedly level.

    The game would eventually finish all square with the Steelmen feeling a little aggrieved at having to accept just a single point.

    Under 20s assistant Keith Lasley was able to call on the experience of the likes of Craig Samson, Louis Laing, Wes Fletcher, David Clarkson and Theo Robinson in his starting eleven.

    Hearts had plenty of recognisable names amongst their line up too with Jordan McGhee, Danny Swanson, Arnaud Djoum and Gavin Reilly all featuring.

    And it was the Jambos who drew first blood when, after a near post Swanson corner, Jones was able to somehow bundle the ball over the line, even if he didn’t appear to know too much about it.

    Motherwell immediately went about trying to level and Chris Cadden almost equalised two minutes later, only for his shot to be hooked off the line.

    The Jambos defence came under the cosh, but put their bodies on the line on several occasions, including vital blocks from Ben Hall and Clarkson, both of whom shot from the edge of the area.

    Cadden had another effort on 18 minutes when after good play between Clarkson and Robinson, the young midfielder slipped his shot wide of target.

    Motherwell continues to attack and after Robinson had taken on a long-range effort that Hamilton comfortably stopped, Wes Fletcher came so close to scoring.

    The former York man picked up on a loose ball inside the area and after wriggling clear of three players, slotted past the ‘keeper only to watch it finish the wrong side of the post.

    Hearts had a couple of half-chances when Kenny Anderson and Reilly both missed with close-range efforts, before Motherwell came within an inch of levelling.

    Cadden’s cross from the right caused problems and when the Hearts defence failed to properly clear, Theo Robinson crashed a stinging low effort off the base of the post. Allan Campbell followed up on the rebound, but his shot hit a deflection on route and rolled out for a corner.

    Shortly before the break, Clarkson had Fletcher in with a neat through ball, but as he pulled the trigger, again Hearts recovered well to block.

    Motherwell started the second half on the front foot and Robinson was almost in after just 50 seconds before Clarkson again had a shot from the edge of the area blocked by the outrushing Hearts defence.

    Jack Ross’ side had a rare venture forward and Swanson hit a free-kick straight at Samson before Cadden replied with a bursting run and shot that again flew wide.

    Motherwell’s persistence finally paid off when Louis Laing brought his side level in spectacular fashion.

    Picking the ball up ten yards inside the Hearts half, he nipped away from Swanson, dropped the shoulder past Djoum before side footing a beautiful shot high past Hamilton into the postage stamp top right hand corner from twenty yards. A sublime strike from the former Sunderland and Forest centre back!

    ‘Well were almost ahead just three minutes later when McMillan and MacLean combined on the right to set-up Cadden on the edge, but his shot deflected inches wide.

    Hearts settled after the setback of the equalising goal and full-back Liam Smith shot over after getting in behind Watt following a neat cross-field diagonal.

    Play swung from end to end with both teams desperate for a winner.

    Sub Mackin thought he had it when he beat Hamilton to the jump, only for his header to drop agonisingly wide. Down the other end, Jambos sub Ian Smith curled a free-kick that forced Samson into an excellent two-handed save.

    Neither team could get that decisive second though as the game ended in a draw, the fourth of the season for both teams.

    Motherwell: Samson, McMillan, Watt, Laing, Hall, Campbell, MacLean, Clarkson, Fletcher (Watters – 70mins), Robinson (Mackin – 80mins), Cadden

    Subs Not Used: Morrison, R. Leitch, Ferguson, Livingston, Moore

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    U20s face Hearts in Livingston

    The Under 20s return to action tonight (29th September) when they take on Hearts in Livingston.

    The young Steelmen are unbeaten in the last four games, most recently a 1-0 win over Partick Thistle in the Youth cup .

    On the contrary, the Jambos have yet to win a game this season, losing once and drawing on three occassions.

    They currently sit fourteenth in the SPFL Development League table,three points behind the Claret and Amber men, having played a game less.

    The match will take place at the Tony Macaroni Arena, home of Livingston FC, with kick-off 6pm.

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    TV: Highlights from Fir Park

    Extended Highlights from Fir Park as an own goal and a Scott McDonald strike give Motherwell a valuable three points over Partick Thistle.

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    TV: Cragain praises ‘Well spirit

    Interim manager Stephen Craigan praised his side after they secured a 2-1 victory over Partick Thistle this afternoon.

    Craigan has taken the helm at Fir Park following the sacking of Ian Baraclough on Wednesday night.

    “I’m delighted for the players – it’s not about me,” he said. “It’s going to be made out now that there’s been freshness from me; that’s not the case.

    “The players won the game, not me.”

    Ian Baraclough’s dismissal followed a midweek League Cup exit to Morton , but ‘Well bounced back to claim three points at the expense of lowly Thistle.

    [pullquote]It was a little bit of a nervous performance, but I expected that, because of the trauma during the week.[/pullquote]

    “It was a little bit of a nervous performance, but I expected that, because of the trauma during the week,” added Craigan. “That’s a huge disappointment for a lot of the players.

    “We’ve only really had one day training since Morton, there was a little bit of information given to them. I said to them pre-match it was going to be about how they would respond, could they find something within themselves that would motivate them and push them over the line when times were tough.

    “They stuck to their task, they worked hard. Whether we deserved the three points or not, I’m not really bothered.”

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    Partick Thistle win in pictures

    Action images from today’s 2-1 win over Partick Thistle at Fir Park in the Ladbrokes Premiership.

    Snaps courtesy of SNSPix.

    [svgallery name=”thistle260915″]