With a playing style as distinctive as his flowing locks, fan-favourite Benito Kemble spent two seasons as a Steelman around the turn of the millennium.
After succeeding Harri Kampman, Billy Davies achieved his initial goal of securing the club’s place in the top flight for season 1999’00. To help him do so, chairman John Boyle had sanctioned a full rebuild of the squad as he sought to make Motherwell the “third force” in Scottish football.
Committed to playing exciting, attacking football, Davies primary focus in the close season had been to provide the ammunition required to supply the likes of Spencer, Goodman and McCulloch; and indeed the goals flowed.
As the season developed however, it became clear that he now required to turn his attention to his backline which was conceding a broadly similar number to those being scored at the other end of the park.
In the aftermath of an incredible 6-5 loss to Aberdeen, Davies moved to bring Kemble to Motherwell from EVV Eindhoven in Holland.
Benni made his ‘Well debut three days after the Aberdeen loss on 23rd October 1999 and helped the Steelmen to their first clean sheet of the season in a 2-0 win over Dundee Utd at Tannadice.
It would be the first of three successive clean sheets, one of which included a remarkable 1-0 success over Celtic at Parkhead where Kemble demonstrated his defensive qualities to the full as Motherwell played the last hour of the game with only ten men. The crunching tackles and last gasp blocks he produced that evening inspired his team-mates and immediately endeared him to the Motherwell support.
It would become a feature of his time at Fir Park that the Surinamer would often rise to the occasion and he appeared to enjoy nothing more than challenging himself against high profile strikers in matches against either half of the Old Firm.
Motherwell took the battle for a European place to the final game of the season, but despite beating Champions Rangers 2-0 it wasn’t enough to overcome third placed Hearts. Who knows, had Benni arrived even just a week or two earlier, it might well have been enough to see ‘Well qualify for the UEFA Cup.
Benni’s second season was altogether more difficult for both player and club. Injury meant Kemble was unable to play any more than five successive games at any one time and being regularly shorn of his talents did little to help a Motherwell side struggling to match the previous season’s achievements.
As John Boyle re-assessed his business model for the club, team-mates such as Spencer, McCulloch, Brannan, McMillan and Goodman began to move on.
Upon the conclusion of his contract in 2001, it was with some regret on both his and club’s part that a parting of the ways was required as the restructuring of the club’s finances continued.
Benni spent a final season in Scotland with St Johnstone but seemed ill at ease in Perth and failed to replicate the form he produced at Motherwell.