We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ian St John.
Aged 82, the legendary Ancell Babe was a local boy who made waves at Fir Park and went on to great things after starting his career with the club.
Born in Motherwell, St John was at Hampden as a 13-year-old to witness the Steelmen lift the Scottish Cup for the very first time in 1952.
Five years later he would sign for his boyhood heroes. Over the course of the next four years, he would torment defences across the country, netting 80 goals in 113 league games.
His hat-trick in a League Cup tie against Hibernian in 1959, which was despatched in little more than two-and-a-half minutes, gained St John massive exposure.
But his consistent rate of finishing had already alerted the attention of the international selectors and a host of interested managers, and it was in that same year he was awarded the first of his caps for Scotland.
Making his international bow at the age of just 20, Ian would go on to net nine times in 21 appearances for his country.
In 1961, St John signed for Liverpool for £37,500, then the Anfield side’s record transfer fee paid. That sale would help finance the reconstruction of the main stand at Fir Park.
He would go on to enjoy a glorious decade with Bill Shankly’s side as they were transformed from the Second Division also-rans that Shankly inherited.
A Scottish Football Hall of Fame member, Ian was tempted back to Lanarkshire in 1973 as manager, putting together one of Motherwell’s most famous front-line partnerships in his former team-mate Bobby Graham and Willie Pettigrew.
Sadly St John’s time in the dugout at Fir Park would last little more than a year when he was lured to Portsmouth by promises of finance and support that well outstripped what Motherwell could offer.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.
“Like so many of us I was introduced to Motherwell and Fir Park by my dad,” Motherwell chairman Jim McMahon said of St John’s passing.
“The Saturday regime of catching the Law and Carluke supporters bus at the cross, then the journey down and the walk into the ground, is one I can still recall vividly. It is a memory I treasure.
“That was the era of the Ancell babes – a fabulous collection of players. But my hero, and in my view the greatest player I have seen in our colours, was Ian St John.
“I was lucky enough to see almost all his games and his technical skill, pace, vision and ambition cemented him as the player I wanted to be
“I was even luckier to get to know Ian in later life and to play golf with him as a special present for my 50th birthday. It’s often said that’s it dangerous to meet one’s heroes, but in my case, he was everything I expected – funny, charming, courteous and true to his roots and upbringing. He was a gentleman.
“I will miss him – he was a big part of my childhood.
“I am really sorry that we can’t have a crowd at our next home game to honour him but we will do that as soon as we get back to normality.
“Lots of words are in danger of being devalued – Ian St John is a legend.”
In a statement, his family said: “It is with a heavy heart that we have to inform you that after a long illness we have lost a husband, father and grandfather.
“He passed away peacefully with his family at his bedside. We would like to thank all the staff at Arrowe Park Hospital for their hard work and dedication during these very difficult times.
“The family would be grateful for privacy at this extremely sad time.”