Speaking as the Motherwell squad prepare to return for preparations for the 2018/19 campaign, manager Stephen Robinson provides an update and lookahead to what lies in wait.
- First team
Robinson: We won’t be complacentThursday 14 June 2018
- First team
Forward Danny Johnson joins ‘WellWednesday 13 June 2018
Centre forward Danny Johnson is Motherwell FC’s third signing of the summer, ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.
The 25-year-old arrives from Vanarama National League side Gateshead after three goal-laden years with the Tynesiders, netting 53 times in 85 starts. His contract with the club will run until the summer of 2020.
“I’m very excited to join the club,” Johnson, who will wear number 24, said on his arrival.
“It’s the next stage I’ve been working hard for. I feel I have progressed in the last few years. Motherwell, having reached two cup finals last season, is a club only going in one direction and I want to be part of that.”
Asked what he will bring to the team, Johnson added: “When I am asked that, people get bored of me saying ‘goals’. But I know the team create a lot of chances, so I firmly believe when I get the chance, I will put the ball in the back of the net.
“As soon as the manager rang, it all happened very quickly. I didn’t need to think hard about it. It sold itself. I knew I had to come. I wanted to come.”
The Middlesbrough-born player came through the youth ranks at his local side and neighbours Hartlepool, before a spell with Spaniards Real Murcia.
A prolific year with Guisborough Town, where he scored an astonishing 56 goals in a single campaign, attracted interest from several clubs. He eventually signed for then-Championship side Cardiff City.
A couple of loan spells with both Tranmere Rovers and Stevenage followed before his most recent destination back in the north east, where he was previously a teammate of current ‘Well forward Ryan Bowman at the International Stadium.
“We are delighted to add Danny to the team,” Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson said. “He will add to our options up top and give us another goal scoring threat.
“Danny has scored a lot of goals in the last few years and comes in from a level where we have signed a lot of players in recent times who have done very well for the club.”
- First team
Dunne relishes returnTuesday 12 June 2018
Charles Dunne settled in to life at Fir Park with ease in his debut campaign with the Steelmen.
The Irishman has been a virtual ever-present for the Steelmen both as a left-sided central defender and, on occasion, at left back.
And now, with the 2018/19 campaign on the horizon, the 25-year-old is raring to get back in to action in the ‘Well back line.
“There isn’t much time to relax really,” the defender admitted. “It’s nice to get some down time and see family and friends, but I’ve made sure to keep on top of things and work hard so that I’m as prepared as possible for when we get back.”
The players return for pre-season training in just over a week, and just three weeks after travelling to Hampden for the Scottish Cup final.
With so much to build on from the 2017/18 season, Charles insists there is more to come from the current crop of players.
He said: “We’re all on the same boat. We’re desperate to kick on from where we left off just a few weeks ago and we’re also excited to properly meet and settle in with the new lads.
“The manager has encouraged us all to pick up our work rate ahead of getting back in to training so that we can hit the ground running and not fall behind in our preparations.”
The Premiership fixtures are announced on Friday and the Irishman is excited to see what awaits the club in the coming campaign.
He said: “We’ll all be waiting patiently to see what is to come on Friday. Once we see the fixtures we can start to focus on the campaign ahead.
“We’ve got the Bettered Cup before we get back in to the league, and we’re hungry to try and go one step further than last season.”
- Reserves & Under 18s
Academy stars make step to U18s teamFriday 08 June 2018
Seven Motherwell academy graduates will play in Stephen McManus’ under 18s side in the 2018/19 season.
The club’s involvement in the elite level of Project Brave will see a full time under 18s team, headed by the former Scotland captain.
Robbie Hemfrey is a goalkeeper who has represented Scotland at youth international level.
Centre back Yusuf Hussain and full back Jack Brown are defenders, while Stuart McKinstry is an industrious midfielder.
Midfielders Adam Kettings and Reece McAlear, along with striker Cole Starrs, are regulars for Scotland at youth level.
Joining the seven graduates who have been promoted is a new arrival from Hibernian. Dean Cornelius arrived in the summer after ‘Well picked him up following his exit from Easter Road.
“This is an important time in youth development in Scottish football with Project Brave being introduced,” academy director Steven Hammell said.
”Motherwell are one of the elite clubs and have made significant investment towards trying to develop the next crop of first team players.
“We are excited by what the seven boys can offer and wish them the very best as they look to progress their careers with us.”
Under 18s coach McManus added: “This is an exciting time for the club as we welcome our first professionals at this age level.
“I’m looking forward to working with all of them and helping them with their ambitions of being first team players at Motherwell and forging a successful career in the game.”
- First team
Liam Donnelly is signing number twoThursday 07 June 2018
Motherwell FC can confirm the signing of Hartlepool United defender Liam Donnelly.
The 22-year-old Northern Ireland international centre back has signed an initial two-year contract, subject to the usual registration formalities, with the club paying an undisclosed fee for his services.
“As soon as I knew the interest from Motherwell, I was delighted,” Donnelly said.
“It’s a massive club. How well the club did last season was unbelievable and I want to kick on with the lads this year and hopefully improve on it.
“I’ve worked with the manager with Northern Ireland since I was quite young. So there were a lot of factors in why I’ve decided to come here.
“There’s a good bit of aggression involved in my play. But I like to play and have the ball. I defend properly when I need to defend but I can hopefully play a bit as well.”
Donnelly started his career with local side Dungannon Swifts, before earning a move to English side Fulham.
He captained the Cottagers to the 2013/14 FA Youth Cup final, where his side, which included current Celtic striker Moussa Dembélé, lost to Chelsea.
It was around the same time Liam made his full international debut, coming on as a late substitute against Chile in the Estadio Elías Figueroa Brander to win his one and only cap.
Donnelly got his first taste of first team football in England with a brief loan spell with Crawley Town in 2015, before moving to Hartlepool United in the summer of 2016.
He spent two years with Pools, the first playing alongside current ‘Well stopper Trevor Carson, notching over 60 games and scoring on three occasions.
He has continued to play regularly for the Northern Ireland Under 21s, where he now has 20 caps and four goals to his name.
“Liam was a target of ours from when we started our summer recruitment, so we’re delighted to have landed him,” said manager Robinson.
“I’ve worked before with Liam at youth international level with Northern Ireland, so I’ve first hand experience of what we’re getting. He will fit in well here and further strenghten our central defensive options.”
Donnelly will wear shirt number 22 in the forthcoming campaign.
- First team
Campbell features in Scotland Toulon defeatWednesday 06 June 2018
Allan Campbell played 82 minutes as Scotland lost 3-1 to England in the semi final of the 2018 Toulon Tournament.
Having defeated France and South Korea in the group stage, the young Scots advanced to the last four of the prestigious competition and landed a clash with the Auld Enemy.
Celtic’s Mikey Johnston gave Scotland the lead in the first half in France. But England stepped up a gear in the second, turning the game around and running out clear winners.
A fixture against Turkey in the third place playoff will round off Scotland’s campaign on Saturday.
- First team
Pre-season programme announcedWednesday 06 June 2018
Motherwell will play three public matches as part of their pre-season preparations for the 2018/19 campaign.
Stephen Robinson’s side will start with a trip to face Crusaders in Belfast on 30 June.
The team will travel to take part in the testimonial for Jordan Owens. The 28-year-old striker has been with the club for the last 10 years and is also their leading all-time goal scorer.
Kick off against the team taking part in this year’s UEFA Champions League qualifiers is at 1pm at the Seaview ground.
The team will then be back on their travels with a trip to face Darlington on Sunday, 8 July.
Ryan Bowman and Curtis Main will come up against their former side, who ply their trade in the National League. Kick off at Blackwell Meadows is at 1pm.
A final match with Dunfermline Athletic will then follow on Thursday, 12 July at East End Park with a 7.30pm kick off. Tickets will be available on the gate priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions.
A local game will also take place on 3 July but is likely to be played behind closed doors unless a neutral venue can be found. Confirmation will follow shortly.
We are then in competitive action at home to Edinburgh City on Tuesday, 17 July in the Betfred Cup group stage.
MOTHERWELL’S CONFIRMED PRE-SEASON GAMES
Saturday, 30 June: Crusaders (A), Seaview, Belfast. Kick off 1pm
Sunday, 8 July: Darlington (A), Blackwell Meadows. Kick off 2pm
Thursday, 12 July: Dunfermline Athletic (A), East End Park. Kick off 7.30pm.
- First team
Goalkeeper Mark Gillespie signsTuesday 05 June 2018
Motherwell FC have made their first signing of the summer transfer window, agreeing a two-year contract with goalkeeper Mark Gillespie.
The 26-year-old moves to Fir Park from English League One side Walsall, in a career which has also seen him on the books of Newcastle United and Carlisle United.
His move will become official when the Scottish transfer window opens on June 9.
Gillespie, who will wear the number 20 shirt this season, has amassed 205 professional appearances in his career to date and makes the switch north after one season with the Saddlers.
“I’m excited to get going here,” he said. “I spoke to Stephen Robinson, Martin Foyle and Craig Hinchliffe and just got a good feeling about it. They made me feel wanted to be part of the project they’ve got going on here.
“I’m here to work hard, improve and play in good games in a good league.
“The main feedback I’ve got coming here is there is a good spirit in the dressing room, so I want to get involved, be part of the squad and look to push on from what they achieved last season.”
Gillespie was on the books at Newcastle United as a youngster before signing his first professional contract at Carlisle United.
At the age of 18, he became the club’s youngest-ever goalkeeper when he made a substitute appearance against Norwich City.
A loan spell with Blyth Spartans followed, before he started to establish himself in Leagues One and Two with Carlisle.
Gillespie shot to fame with his performance in a League Cup game with Liverpool in 2015, keeping a star-studded Reds side at bay all the way to a penalty shootout, where he saved from Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana.
After 180 games with the Cumbrians, he stepped up a division to League One for the 2017/18 season with Walsall, making 25 appearances.
“We are delighted to have landed Mark,” manager Stephen Robinson said of the signing.
“He has played a lot of games at a good level in England, so comes here with a lot of experience and will provide excellent competition in goals.”
- First team
Betfred Cup fixtures announcedMonday 04 June 2018
Motherwell will start their Betfred Cup campaign with a home match against Edinburgh City on Tuesday, 17 July.
The Steelmen, beaten finalists in the 2017/18 competition, will sit out the first day of group stage action on 14 July.
A trip to Stranraer will follow on Saturday, 21 July, before Queen of the South are visitors to Fir Park on Tuesday, 24 July.
The final match of the group stage away to Clyde on Saturday, 28 July will be broadcast live on BT Sport.
As was the case in the previous two seasons, group stage matches will be played in the traditional format of three points for the winner after 90 minutes.
In the event of a draw, both teams will be awarded a point but a bonus point will be on offer for the winner of a penalty shootout at the end of 90 minutes of play.
The group winners and four best runners up will then progress to the last 16, where they will be joined by Aberdeen, Celtic, Hibernian and Rangers.
This season’s final will be played on Sunday, 2 December.
BETFRED CUP FIXTURES
Tuesday, 17 July: Edinburgh City (H), 7.45pm
Saturday, 21 July: Stranraer (A), 3pm
Tuesday, 24 July: Queen of the South (H), 7.45pm
Saturday, 28 July: Clyde (A), 3pm, live on BT Sport
Fir Park named best pitchMonday 04 June 2018
PFA Scotland has named Fir Park as the best pitch in the Scottish Premiership for the 2017/18 season.
After a season long study of all 42 of the SPFL’s pitches – a joint venture between the players union PFA Scotland, the Scottish FA and Sports Labs, the leading international experts in sports surface development and testing – Fir Park was named the best surface in the Scottish top league.
Throughout season 2017/18, players at all Premiership clubs were asked to rate the pitch they played on every time they were away from home via a specially commissioned PitchRater APP.
The breakdown saw the Premiership clubs rated:
1st – Motherwell’s Fir Park: 4.26
2nd – Hibernian’s Easter Road: 4.10
3rd – Dundee’s Dens Park: 3.94
4th – Celtic’s Celtic Park: 3.75
5th – Partick Thistle’s Firhill: 3.52
6th – Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium: 3.50
7th – Ross County’s Global Energy Stadium: 3.26
8th – St Johnstone’s McDiarmid Park: 3.08
9th – Aberdeen’s Pittodrie: 3.00
10th – Heart of Midlothian’s Tynecastle: 2.96
11th – Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park: 1.70
12th – Hamilton Academical’s New Douglas Park: 1.18
Off the back of the PitchRater study, PFA Scotland, Sports Labs and the Scottish FA will sit down with relevant parties, including groundsmen, to go over the results in more depth and come up with a list of recommendations going forward to improve, and maintain, the condition of pitches across all SPFL clubs.
Fraser Wishart, chief executive of PFA Scotland, said: “Too often players’ views are overlooked within football. In this case alterations are made to pitches and different surfaces laid without any thought of, or consultation with, our members.
“It is often forgotten that the pitch is our members’ place of work and for that reason we are delighted to partner in this groundbreaking research with Sports Labs and the Scottish FA.
“Players are the ones with the intimate knowledge of how a pitch plays, how it feels underfoot and what type of football has to be played therefore it makes perfect sense to ask them for their views.”
Motherwell chief executive Alan Burrows added: “I am delighted the hard work, dedication and talent of our head groundsman has been recognised and acknowledged by the professional footballers in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
“There are a number of excellent pitches in the league and to have been named the best by the players is a huge feather in our cap and a validation of our recent hard work to improve the surface at Fir Park, which struggled for a number of years prior to Paul’s arrival.
“We have invested significantly once again this year as we strive to make our surface even better for future seasons.”
Paul Matthew, head groundsman at Motherwell said: “I am pleased Motherwell has been named the best pitch in the Scottish top flight.
“I get fantastic support from the senior management at the club, something I don’t think anyone in my industry will underestimate.
“The industry as a whole is on an upward curve at the moment with a number of extremely talented groundsman in place who have enhance their pitches.
“I look forward to further support from the SPFL to help further protect and improve what is a vital part of the product in this country.”