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    Craig Clay joins the Steelmen

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    Preview: Celtic vs Motherwell

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    Glory in Norway for under-13 girls

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    McManus: Full of confidence

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    McGhee: We expect a difficult game

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    Celtic: Tickets and match information

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    Clancy in charge at Parkhead

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    Ainsworth: I feel amazing

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    TV: Highlights from Rugby Park

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    Kilmarnock win in Pictures

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    Craig Clay joins the Steelmen

    Motherwell FC has today completed the signing of attacking midfielder Craig Clay.

    The 24-year old, who has featured as a trialist in wins over East Stirlingshire, Stranraer and Kilmarnock, has penned a two-year deal and is the sixth new signing of the summer after the arrivals of Jacob Blyth, Richard Tait, Ben Heneghan, Carl McHugh and Dean Brill.

    Craig started his career at Chesterfield, coming through the youth ranks with the Spireites, including a successful league-winning season and being named their Young Player of the Year in 2008-09. He went on to play 35 times at the Proact Stadium before being snapped up by York City.

    His time at Bootham Crescent wasn’t long though and he was quickly on his way again, this time finding his feet at Grimbsy Town, where he was a teammate of current ‘Well full-back Richard Tait.

    Clay was a regular for the Mariners, playing 91 times in their midfield over two seasons, eventually helping the team to promotion back to the Football League, beating Forest Green 3-1 at Wembley back in May.

    [pullquote]I’m over the moon, I’ve been here for a few weeks. Obviously when you’re on trial and your future’s on the line it’s a bit nerve-racking. Luckily the manager took a shine to me and I’ve been offered a contract and I’m delighted.”[/pullquote]

    It was also this year he made his England C debut in the International Challenge Trophy, beating Ukraine 2-0.

    The attacking midfielder will continue to wear number 21 this term and will battle it out with Chris Cadden, Keith Lasley and Carl McHugh for a spot in the Steelmen midfield.

    He said: “I’m over the moon, I’ve been here for a few weeks. Obviously when you’re on trial and your future’s on the line it’s a bit nerve-racking. Luckily the manager took a shine to me and I’ve been offered a contract and I’m delighted.”

    He added: “It’s a big chance for me, it’s a massive club and I cant wait to get started.”

    ‘Well boss Mark McGhee added: “We’re delighted to get Craig signed up and I think he’s been excellent over the last few weeks. He works hard, he’s an attacking threat from midfield and his hugely popular amongst the squad.

    “The way he’s backed himself is first class and he’s the type of player teammates love as he’ll run through brick walls for the cause. We now have some strong competition in the middle of the park, which is healthy.”

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    Preview: Celtic vs Motherwell

    Motherwell face Celtic in the last 16 of the Betfred cup tomorrow night, after progressing from Group F with nine points.

    Scottish Champions Celtic play their first fixture in the cup due to their European commitments, and face Mark McGhee’s men at Parkhead.

    The Steelmen will be boosted by the return of captain Keith Lasley, who missed last weekends league match against Kilmarnock due to suspension.

    Carl McHugh, who suffered a nasty gash to the head, will be forced to strap his injury if he hopes to start – with the player himself insisting that he wants to play.

    Meanwhile, strikers Louis Moult and Jacob Blyth remain unavailable due to injury.

    The Fir Parkers go into tomorrow’s match on the back of an important 2-1 win on the opening game of the league season against Kilmarnock.

    Goals from Lionel Ainsworth and Marvin Johnson either side of the break was enough for Mark McGhee’s side on a tough afternoon at Rugby Park.

    And Motherwell fans will be hopeful that the goalscoring form of the ‘Well attackers continues in the cup, with Marvin Johnson bagging three goals, McDonald scoring two and Cadden adding another two in Group F.

    The last time the two sides met, Celtic ran away to a 7-0 win on the final day of the season, but tomorrow night could go either way, as the Steelmen registered a 2-1 win in the other league game at Celtic Park.

    As football fans know, cup fixtures can often result in upsets, and despite the ‘Well going in to tomorrow nights game as underdogs, the manager and players of Motherwell are going in to the match with confidence and belief.

    Centre-back Stephen McManus will not only be key to thwarting the danger that Celtic possess going forward, but he also goes up against his former employers.

    With the experience the ex-Scottish international has in his locker, his leadership and presence at the back will prove to be vital for new summer signings Ben Heneghan and Richard Tait.

    The 33-year-old is assured that the ‘Well can put in a good performance at Parkhead tomorrow night and admitted that playing away from home is always a disadvantage.

    But he insists the Steelmen will travel to Glasgow “full of confidence”.

    [pullquote]It’s going to be difficult but we’re in good form… we’ll go there full of confidence.[/pullquote]

    Speaking to the press this morning, McManus said: “It’s going to be difficult but we’re in good form. When you get drawn in the League Cup you always prefer to be at home, so it’s going to difficult but we’ll go there full of confidence.

    “All we can do is give it our best shot and see how we go.”

    In the League Cup you always prefer to be at home, so it’s going to difficult but we’ll go there full of confidence.

    The 33-year-old spoke about the heavy defeat at the end of last season.

    He said: “The last game of the season didn’t have much for us to play for but you still have personal pride.

    “As much as you try and sugar-coat it and say that it doesn’t matter, of course it does because as a player you don’t want to be on the receiving end of too many of them.”

    [pullquote]For us, we hope we can put in a good showing for ourselves… we know that there’s a chance we can do it tomorrow night. [/pullquote]

    He added: “Thankfully there’s been more positive results than negative ones since Mark came in.”

    Thankfully there’s been more positive results than negative ones since Mark came in.

    On tomorrow’s opposition, the defender claimed the Celtic players will be up for the occasion.

    McManus said: “For Celtic the main thing is they have a new manager and this is an opportunity for them to get their mind-set on winning the treble, as a player there that’s what you’re all about.

    “For us, we hope we can put in a good showing for ourselves. I’ve been involved in games there where you’re expected to win there and it hasn’t happened so we know that there’s a chance we can do it tomorrow night.”

    Tomorrow’s opponents don’t need much of an introduction, having racked up five consecutive league titles and 47 in their 128-year history.

    Under new manager Brendan Rodgers, the future of the club will most likely continue on that successful trend.

    The ex-Liverpool manager was appointed in the summer and has enjoyed a successful start to life north of the border; progressing in the Champions League qualifiers and adding a number of high-profile additions.

    Moussa Dembele signed from Fulham, Kolo Toure joined on a free after leaving Liverpool and, most recently, Scott Sinclair signed from Aston Villa.

    And it is perhaps the arrival of Sinclair that has made the biggest statement for the club.

    The Englishman is a big coup for the Scottish Champions, having enjoyed spells with Manchester City, Chelsea and Swansea – where he worked under Rodgers.

    And the 27-year-old made a big impression on his debut, scoring the winner against Hearts in the opening game of the season.

    Add those three players to an already strong squad including last season’s top league scorer Leigh Griffiths, and the Hoops pose an obvious threat to the Fir Parkers.

    But manager Mark McGhee is both excited as well as nervous for the cup clash.

    [pullquote]They rely on those players to play well in that system and they do have good players who are playing well so we can see that it’s going to be a difficult game.[/pullquote]

    He said: “I’m excited and nervous too – last time we went to Parkhead we got absolutely hammered, but we also know that we went there last season and won.

    “I would imagine that our performance tomorrow night will be much more reminiscent of the first game rather than the last game because the last game was a bit different.”

    He added: “We have to go there and expect a very difficult game – for me Celtic look slightly different than they did last year where I thought they played a very expansive, sophisticated way; whereas this year looks a lot more like the way we play, except they do it with really good players.

    “They rely on those players to play well in that system and they do have good players who are playing well so we can see that it’s going to be a difficult game.”

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    Glory in Norway for under-13 girls

    Motherwell’s U13s girls have returned from a historic European trip – where they were runners up in the Norway Cup.

    The tournament, which has been running since 1972, is an annual competition which is competed by over 3,000 teams from across the globe.

    The seven-a-side ‘Well girls team, which even included 10 year-olds, managed to pry the second placed trophy away from a Norweigan side for the first time in its 44-year history.

    And the achievement, which has been congratulated by nations from across the globe, has left coach Linda Gibson feeling “emotional” and “over the moon”.

    She said: “Once we made it out of our group I had to inspire the girls so I said to them, ‘look at how you girls are faring against these teams – they are 13, 14 and 15 years-old and you are 10, 11 and 12’.

    “We set a target of the quarter-finals, which would mean we’d reached three quarter-finals this season, and when we got to the last sixteen we were all so nervous because we were so close to achieving our aim.

    [pullquote]When we won that game to get us to the quarter-finals it was incredibly emotional – parents were crying, the girls were crying and I was too.[/pullquote]

    “When we won that game to get us to the quarter-finals it was incredibly emotional – parents were crying, the girls were crying and I was too.”

    She added: “The response from the media back here was amazing, we had people from the SFA phoning us, wishing us all the best and congratulating us, the Motherwell first team showed their support too and that sort of response really spurred the girls on.”

    The quarterfinal went all the way to golden goal, and looked like it was heading to penalties as well, but with two minutes remaining, Jenna Woods ran the length of the park and hit a low strike past the keeper from a tight angle to send the team through to the semi-final and her coach and all of the parents in to elation.

    Linda said: “There was a pitch invasion – we all just ran on to the park and piled up on each other.

    “Tears were flowing but I tried my best to stay strong in front of the girls so I went and hid behind a tree to phone home and tell them the news: we had reached the semi-final.

    “It was so overwhelming and so emotional.”

    [pullquote]There was a pitch invasion – we all just ran on to the park and piled up on each other. It was so overwhelming and so emotional.[/pullquote]

    Those feelings continued for Linda and her team though, as they dominated the match and progressed to the final with consummate ease.

    Linda said: “The parents were the extra player on that park – singing their hearts out at every game, waving flags and everything.

    “Their support really did play a huge part in pushing the girls that extra bit more.”

    Upon reaching the final, the sense of pride and joy was tangible among the group and among the travelling parents, but Linda added that the girls spirit and personality was infectious to everyone.

    She said: “They were singing and chanting Motherwell songs wherever they went.

    “Locals and tourists would take pictures and videos of them because they just took such an atmosphere with them wherever they went.”

    The final ended in heart-breaking fashion for the girls, who were just five minutes away from being crowned joint champions.

    [pullquote]Out of the thousands and thousands of girls who competed, it’s amazing to say that my group were among the top 20 in the competition.[/pullquote]

    But Linda was not disheartened, as the sheer joy of an incredible week overshadowed the final match.

    The coach said: “Out of the thousands and thousands of girls who competed, it’s amazing to say that my group were among the top 20 in the competition.

    “It was just the most emotional journey and I cannot put in to words how proud I am of everyone who was there.”

    But it wasn’t just those who travelled, with Linda adding that the support of the Motherwell Community Trust has been a huge difference.

    “It’s testament to the support from the Community Trust General Manager Dawn Middleton that we achieved what we did.

    “Her backing of the girls football and her support has really made a huge difference since she arrived – the work of the trust and the help from Dawn, even in such a short time, has really pushed us to the next level.

    “I just hope this emotional, roller-coaster of a journey doesn’t slow down any time soon.”

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    McManus: Full of confidence

    Centre-back Stephen McManus is assured that the ‘Well can put in a good performance at Parkhead tomorrow night.

    The ex-Celtic player admitted that playing away from home is always a disadvantage, but insists the Steelmen will travel to Glasgow “full of confidence”.

    Speaking to the press this morning, McManus said: “We’re in good form but when you get drawn in the League Cup you always prefer to be at home, so it’s going to difficult but we’ll go there full of confidence.

    “All we can do is give it our best shot and see how we go.”

    [pullquote]In the League Cup you always prefer to be at home, so it’s going to difficult but we’ll go there full of confidence.[/pullquote]

    The 33-year-old spoke about the heavy defeat at the end of last season.

    He said: “The last game of the season didn’t have much for us to play for but you still have personal pride.

    “As much as you try and sugar-coat it and say that it doesn’t matter, of course it does because as a player you don’t want to be on the receiving end of too many of them.”

    He added: “Thankfully there’s been more positive results than negative ones since Mark came in.”

    [pullquote]Thankfully there’s been more positive results than negative ones since Mark came in.[/pullquote]

    On tomorrow’s opposition, the defender claimed the Celtic players will be up for the occasion.

    McManus said: “For Celtic the main thing is they have a new manager and this is an opportunity for them to get their mind-set on winning the treble, as a player there that’s what you’re all about.

    “For us, we hope we can put in a good showing for ourselves. I’ve been involved in games there where you’re expected to win there and it hasn’t happened so we know that there’s a chance we can do it tomorrow night.”

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    McGhee: We expect a difficult game

    ‘Well boss Mark McGhee admits last season’s results against Celtic will not cross his players minds ahead of tomorrow’s Betfred Cup clash.

    Speaking to the press this morning, the manager claimed that the new season brings a fresh start, and neither the win nor the loss at Parkhead will play a part tomorrow night.

    McGhee said: “I’m excited and nervous too – last time we went to Parkhead we got absolutely hammered, but we also know that we went there last season and won.

    [pullquote]I’m excited and nervous too … We have to go there and expect a difficult game.[/pullquote]

    “I would imagine that our performance tomorrow night will be much more reminiscent of the first game rather than the last game because the last game was a bit different.”

    He added: “We have to go there and expect a very difficult game – for me Celtic look slightly different than they did last year where I thought they played a very expansive, sophisticated way; whereas this year looks a lot more like the way we play, except they do it with really good players.

    “They rely on those players to play well in that system and they do have good players who are playing well so we can see that it’s going to be a difficult game.

    [pullquote]They rely on those players to play well in that system and they do have good players who are playing well, so we can see that it’s going to be a difficult game.[/pullquote]

    “Our last result won’t be relevant – while we got beat 6-0 at Hearts and 7-0 at Celtic we still had a very good season.”

    On the future of star winger Marvin Johnson, who has been the subject of interest from English clubs, the manager insisted that the 24-year-old was good enough to play in the Championship and that the talk of a move is “all speculation”.

    He said: “I was at the Brighton vs Lazio friendly, I spoke with the Chairman and the manager and at no point did they ask me about Marvin Johnson.

    “I know them very, very well and I can assure you they’d speak to me so it’s all speculation and there’s nothing to say about it.”

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    Celtic: Tickets and match information

    Tickets for Motherwell’s Betfred Cup clash with Celtic  on Wednesday, August 10th at Celtic Park are still available to buy.

    The last-16 tie, which kicks off at 7.45pm, will also be televised live on BT Sport.

    Tickets will be on sale  from the ticket office at Fir Park until 6.30pm on Wednesday evening, with no option to purchase at Celtic park.

    Prices as follows:

    ADULTS:   £15 
    CONCESSIONS:                           £10  
    JUVENILE:    £5
    • Concessions are listed as Over 65s and 13-15 year olds
    • Juveniles are listed as Under 13s

     

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    Clancy in charge at Parkhead

    Referee for this Wednesday’s Betfred Cup match against Celtic at Parkhead is Kevin Clancy.

    It will be Kevin’s second Motherwell involvement of the new season; the other coming in the BetFred Cup match against Rangers, where he was on fourth official duties.

    On a frustrating afternoon for the Fir Parkers, Rangers left 2-0 winners after a tight game that could have went either way.

    He was also in the same role for the Steelmen’s 3-1 victory over Partick Thistle last season, as Mark McGhee’s men ran out 3-1 winners.

    The last time he took charge of a Motherwell fixture though came back in October 2014, when Stuart McCall’s side lost 2-1 at McDiarmid Park.

    He’ll be a relatively familiar face given this will be his tenth Motherwell game as referee.

    He took charge of a swashbuckling 2-2 draw with Dundee United at Tanandice in September 2013 and that was followed a couple of months later with the 1-0 win at Pittodrie on Boxing Day, when a resolute ‘Well came away with all three points thanks to Ainsworth’s winner.

    The 33-year-old was the man in the middle again that season for the vital 2-1 win over Saints when Ainsworth and McManus got on the score sheet to put the Steelmen on the road to SPFL Premiership runners-up.

    His only other Motherwell match outwith the League was in the 2011/12 campaign in the Scottish Cup, where he was the man in the middle as the Fir Parkers demolished Queen’s Park 4-0, a certain Henrik Ojamaa smashing home a fabulous debut goal.

    His overall record in charge of Motherwell reads nine matches in total, Motherwell winning four, drawing two and losing three. ‘Well have scored twelve and conceded ten.

    There have been twenty-seven cautions dished out in those matches, sixteen of them to a man wearing Claret and Amber and zero dismissals.

    Kevin will be ably assisted by Alan Mulvanny and David McGeachie with Kevin Graham on Fourth Official duties. The referee observer is Willie Young and the SPFL Delegate is Tim Love.

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    Ainsworth: I feel amazing

    Motherwell winger Lionel Ainsworth admits he is feeling “amazing” after the club started the season with a 2-1 win over Kilmarnock.

    The Fir Parkers number seven opened the scoring with an incredible dinked finish over Killie keeper Jamie MacDonald.

    But the 28-year-old admitted that the afternoon was about the three points.

    Speaking to MFC TV, he said: “I feel amazing, first game of the season you want to start off with a bang and the way we played today, especially for a good hour or so we did really well.”

    [pullquote]I feel amazing, first game of the season you want to start off with a bang and the way we played today, especially for a good hour or so we did really well.[/pullquote]

    Ainsworth admitted that the home side took the game to the Steelmen towards the end.

    He said: “There was a bit of pressure, but teams will do that to you when you’ve got the attacking threat we’ve got, so we have to be prepared for that.

    “Three points is the main thing today and I think the boys at the back seen it out really well so it’s a good win for us.”

    Speaking about his goal, the winger said: “Like you just said: it was class.

    [pullquote]Three points is the main thing today and I think the boys at the back seen it out really well so it’s a good win for us.[/pullquote]

    “I had been told to keep running between the full-back and the centre-back and Scott’s played a great ball – I think the bit of water on the pitch helped and the keeper came and he’s made up my mind.

    “I just thought ‘I’m going to lift this’ but I was also thinking about Parkhead again.”

    Playing on a park that had recently been reduced in size, the winger admitted the rotation between him and fellow attackers McDonald and Johnson helped to get round the restrictions.

    He said: “Being as small as me the pitch is still massive, but when I’m playing out in the wide area I suppose it would make a bit of a difference but I was interchanging with Scott and Marvin today.”

    He added: “We dealt with it well today though and I definitely think Kilmarnock will beat teams here this season.”

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    TV: Highlights from Rugby Park

    Lionel Ainsworth and Marvin Johnson give Motherwell a winning start to the 2016/17 campaign.

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    Kilmarnock win in Pictures

    Action images from today’s 1-2 win over Kilmarnock in the Ladbrokes Premiership.

    Snaps courtesy of SNSPix

    [svgallery name=”kilmarnock060816″]