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    Sutton is certain of latest goal…

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    Saunders in dreamland

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    Sutton aims for Tynecastle triumph

  • Archive

    Hutchinson on the mend

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    Saunders commits till 2013

  • Archive

    Hateley relishes European battle

  • Archive

    Skipper is the latest ‘Well star to commit

  • Archive

    Midfielder is the second to sign

  • Archive

    SPL Post Split Fixtures

  • Archive

    Jennings can’t wait for Celtic tester

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    Sutton is certain of latest goal…

    John Sutton selflessly told motherwellfc.co.uk before the weekend that he would give up personal glory for a team victory against Hearts.

    Well he needn’t have offered, as he scored his third goal in two games at Tynecastle – and the team got a vital victory.

    Sutton’s goal extended ‘Well’s lead just before the interval to 2-0, after young Steven Saunders had scrambled The Steelmen in front just minutes before. It takes the big Englishman’s tally in the SPL to nine goals this season.

    Considering Sutton was apparently nonplussed before the match with whether or not he scored against Hearts, it was ironic to see his first priority after the game was to make sure everyone knew he was the one that grabbed the second goal.

    Some media sources initially gave the goal as an own goal after Sutton headed home in a packed penalty area, an assertion the striker was having none of: “When you do know that you have headed it, you want to make sure it’s yours.” He admitted. “I’m glad we’ve got the new video guy, Greg Thomson, to clear the situation up for us. It was such a good delivery, I just managed to get half a yard away and get my head on it.

    “I thought I was being nice and thanking Tom for his delivery, but maybe I should make sure everyone knows that it was my goal!” He laughed.

    The Steelmen can now look to put their winless streak behind them, and look to build the type of unbeaten run which has put them in this lofty position in the first place as the season draws to a close.

    Sutton insists he never lost faith with the clubs form throughout the clubs recent barren spell: “We’ve been playing well but we were just relieved to get the win and our fans have been really good. They have followed us everywhere and it’s nice to say thank you to them.

    “Hopefully we can keep fourth place. We know it’s going to be difficult, we have got Hibs at Fir Park and that will be a make-or-break game for us.”

    The win over Hearts means Motherwell have effectively built an insurmountable lead over the Gorgie side, and can now begin to look at finishing above the other Edinburgh side too. The result takes ‘Well above Hibs into the coveted fourth spot (at least until Sunday afternoon) – which will be the final European spot if Dundee United fail to win the Scottish Cup.

    It is hard to avoid the ‘E-word’ when you talk to the players at the club, as it is absolutely clear they are all desperate for another crack at Continental football. Former St Mirren hit man Sutton is equally determined to get a European place – for the players and for the fans.

    “This game certainly hasn’t got us a European place just yet because Hibs are just one point behind, but we will keep going and hopefully finish in a Europa position.” A steely Sutton said. “It would be nice for the fans because when you speak to them, they always talk about European football and trips to Bucharest or Nancy. So that would be fantastic.”

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    Saunders in dreamland

    A contract extension and his first goal for Motherwell probably represents one of the more enjoyable weeks in the young career of Steven Saunders.

    But the player himself is the first to admit that the goal which broke his ‘Well duck is unlikely to win any awards for finesse.

    Saunders broke the deadlock at Tynecastle at the weekend by scrambling the ball over the line in the midst of an almighty goalmouth free-for-all, after his initial header from a Stevie Hammell corner was blocked.

    “It wasn’t exactly a 30-yard thunderbolt, but I’ll take any kind of goal to start me off!” Saunders smiled. “To be fair I think the ball crossed the line a couple of times, I’m fairly sure my first header was actually in. I just followed in to make sure. To be honest I just flew in for the ball swinging legs at it! I was desperate for that first goal.

    “I’ve been looking to get my first goal for a while now, and it’s just a case of relief.”

    Regardless of the aesthetics of the goal, it was a massively important one for The Steelmen and set up what was ultimately a comfortable victory over a Hearts side that harboured pre-match hopes of overtaking Motherwell in the run-in.

    After the 2-0 victory, ‘Well now possess a healthy seven point cushion and favourable goal difference over the Gorgie side with just nine points left to play for. All but the most pessimistic of fans would say fifth place is now secured – and the promising stopper is looking upwards now.

    An optimistic Saunders said: “Instead of looking backwards we can look ahead and try to go out and get that fourth place. We will just concentrate on winning football matches, but it’s in our hands now.

    “This result makes our position over Hearts much more secure, which is important because they are a good team and could have put us under real pressure.”

    Much has been made of the Lanarkshire side’s recent run without a win, perhaps because it came on the back of such a marvellous unbeaten run. But, much like his gaffer, Saunders wasn’t worried for a moment and knew the results would return if ‘Well kept their performance levels up.

    In fact the promising defender thinks there is still even more to come from Brown’s men as they chase a fourth spot finish: “We had lost four games in a row, but to get back to winning ways was always going to be about mentality and determination.

    “We played very well here, but we know that we can play much better. Next week we will hope to get another win and play even better.”

    Of course fourth place is the clubs target because it provides guaranteed European football for next season, and that is something that drives Steve Saunders on. Like much of the squad at Motherwell he has experienced European football in small doses – and those little tastes have only served to whet his appetite for more.

    Looking back on his outings earlier in the season he said: “I played in four European games early on this season, and it was a great experience. I was only 18 and I was lining up against full internationals in a superb Steaua Bucharest team, and that’s the type of learning curve I want to be on.

    “European football would be brilliant. Every player wants to play on that kind of stage and I’m no different.”

    Regardless of whether it is in Europe or the SPL it seems certain Saunders will play an increasingly important role in the Motherwell first team next year, a fact effectively confirmed this week as the club offered him a new deal which will see him stay at Fir Park until 2013.

    It might seem like a hard decision for a young footballer to make, but the player insists his answer was never in doubt: “When the club offered me a new deal I didn’t need to think about it twice. It’s another year on top of what I already had and it gives me that bit more security as I’m playing my football.

    “The club seems to be happy with the way I’m playing, and I just hope that continues.”

  • Archive

    Sutton aims for Tynecastle triumph

    John Sutton’s towering headed brace against Dundee United last week saw him become Motherwell’s top scorer this season, but the big front man admits he would forsake another goal at Tynecastle this weekend if it meant ‘Well would get a vital three points in the race for Europe.

    Sutton is expected to lead the line again against Jim Jefferies men in the Capital after an impressive – albeit ultimately futile – performance against The Arabs, and getting back to winning ways is the only priority for Sutton:

    “The main thing is to win games.” He insisted. “It felt good to score in the last game, but I have to admit that it doesn’t count for a lot when the team doesn’t win. Playing in a winning team is much more rewarding than scoring goals for yourself.

    “I’m just as happy setting up chances for Jamie (Murphy) or Lukas (Jutkiewicz). As long as the team are creating chances, we are playing good football and scoring goals that is all that matters.”

    Motherwell are currently enduring a run of four matches without a victory since the clubs magnificent 13-match unbeaten run came to a halt. This is despite the fact the team have turned in a series of very respectable performances.

    Although some cynics might claim ‘the bubble has burst’ for ‘Well the English striker has seen enough from his team in recent matches to remain confident about The Steelmen’s chances in the run-in.

    “When you look at our performances in the last few games it is quite obvious we aren’t a million miles away. We just hope we can cut out the silly errors at the back and be a bit more clinical up top in order to get the result on Saturday.” Sutton confidently stated.

    “We can take the positives from the way we are playing, at the same time just improve our concentration. I believe we will pick ourselves up because we have some big games coming up and lots to play for before the end of the season.”

    Craig Brown has admitted that as well as vying for a Europa Cup place he sees Motherwell’s presence in the top six as a perfect rehearsal for a season in the upper echelons of the SPL next year. The trip to Gorgie will undoubtedly serve as a testing examination of the squad’s current state in relation to, traditionally, one of the most powerful clubs in Scotland out with the Old Firm.

    The former Spurs trainee Sutton acknowledges that Motherwell aren’t spoken in the same breath as some of the ‘bigger’ clubs in the country, but thinks there is evidence that the club could be heading that way:

    “Motherwell is a really excellent football club, but I don’t think we are regarded as being of the same stature as clubs like Hearts, Hibs, Dundee United or Aberdeen.

    “So if we can finish fourth and play in Europe for the third consecutive season it would be a fantastic achievement and would make a real statement about the potential Motherwell Football Club has.”

    With Motherwell defying expectations in fifth spot and the goals flowing freely for John Sutton, you would forgive him for not having many regrets from the current campaign, but he openly admits that Europe is playing on his mind.

    ‘Well were defeated by Steaua Bucharest this season and were eliminated by French side AS Nancy-Lorraine the year before, and those brief forays into continental qualification have made Sutton all the more desperate to qualify again this season – and perhaps right some wrongs.

    “I don’t think we have done ourselves justice in previous campaigns.” The striker said frankly. “We all feel like we have a lot more to give in Europe, and we are all desperate to play on that stage again and that certainly helps drive us on.

    “Scottish clubs get a bad press for not doing well enough in European competition, and that just makes us all the more keen to qualify and see if we can get a scalp or two next season!”

    The fact John Sutton was able to talk about the prospect of Europa Cup football at Fir Park next season to the assembled press is testament to the miraculous job Craig Brown and Archie Knox have done since taking the reins at the turn of the year. At that moment in time turning Jim Gannon’s relegation candidates into genuine European contenders would have seemed farcical, but a win in Edinburgh would see it a step closer to becoming reality.

    Like everyone else at the club, Sutton was glowing in his praise for the management duo, and expressed his relief that they would be carrying on into next season.

    “They have made a massive difference. The atmosphere at the club is fantastic now and the enthusiasm they bring to training is fantastic; and as well as that their experience and tactical knowledge is just fantastic.

    “Everyone was really pleased when they signed new deals and we can now really look forward to next season knowing we will have great men in charge.”

  • Archive

    Hutchinson on the mend

    Motherwell’s talented defender Shaun Hutchinson made his long-awaited return in a bounce game against St Johnstone this afternoon.

    The Geordie defender, missing for most of this season, hasn’t played a game since December 20th but after months of rehabilitation, managed the first forty-five minutes in a comfortable 2-0 win.

    ‘Well, who included a number of trialists, amongst them Chelsea youngster Liam Bridcutt and Perth Glory’s Adriano Pelligrino, ran out two-nil winners courtesy of a brace from Ross Forbes.

    Craig Brown, who was in attendance along with assistant Archie Knox told motherwellfc.co.uk, “It’s yet another fantastic exercise for us and although results are not important in these games, we’re pleased with another win.

    “Shaun Hutchinson coming back is a major boost and you can see his qualities. We gave him forty-five minutes and he coped well. He’ll need more time and more games but when we get him fit, which will probably be next season, it will be like having a new player.

    “We also took the opportunity to look at one or two trialists and we will continue to monitor progress.”

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    Saunders commits till 2013

    Young star Steven Saunders has today (Wednesday) signed an extension to his current contract, tying him to Fir Park till the summer of 2013.

    Saunders, who has played 28 times for the Fir Parkers this term, has won rave reviews for his performances prompting the club to extend his stay by another year.

    And the former Queens Park man was delighted with his new deal, telling motherwellfc.co.uk, “It has been a pretty decent season for me and to cap it with an extension to my contract has been brilliant.

    “I had set a target, at the start of the season, to play in about ten to fifteen games so to have played almost three times that has been excellent.

    “There are few better places to learn your trade than Fir Park and under Craig Brown and Archie Knox; hopefully I will continue my development.”

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    Hateley relishes European battle

    The post-split fixtures have not been kind to Motherwell, but Tom Hateley insists he cannot wait to commence the battle for fourth place on Sunday afternoon.

    Arguably the most impressive SPL team in the land at the moment are coming to town in the form of Peter Houston’s Dundee United side, and Hateley has absolutely no doubt about the importance of Sunday’s match.

    “It is a massive game this weekend.” Hateley said honestly. “We knew as soon as the Celtic game finished that our match with Dundee United would be huge. We only have two home games after the split so we really need to try and beat United and Hibs and grab that fourth spot.

    “There is a great belief in the squad that we can get that fourth spot and win any match that we play. Results haven’t gone our way in the last three games but hopefully that little bit of luck can bounce back round this weekend.

    “It’s a really close fight for fourth place. Our home games are very important. Hopefully we can win on Sunday and also beat Hibs at home, and they could be vital wins. But it all comes down to results – Hibs could lose this weekend and we could win and we would jump straight into fourth and it would be ours to lose. Time will tell.”

    Tuesday nights defeat in Glasgow means Motherwell have now followed up their twelve game unbeaten run with a three match losing streak. This fact doesn’t faze the versatile Hateley, who expects the club to get back to winning ways if the performances stay at the current level:

    “We’ve lost three games in a row, so our good run before that is a distant memory. We’ll now take every game and hopefully try and get this run back on track over the last five games.

    “You could say at Parkhead we were a bit unlucky as we had some great chances and their keeper pulled off some great saves, so hopefully our luck in front of goal will change and those chances will start going in.”

    A 3-0 defeat to Dundee United a few weeks ago sparked the current run of defeats, and Hateley is characteristically frank about ‘Well’s desire for revenge for a very unflattering score line.

    “We all feel like we really owe them one for the match up there a couple of weeks ago.” He smiled. “We played well at Tannadice. We had some great balls into the box and good chances but we just couldn’t finish them, and 3-0 flattered them a bit.”

    Tom Hateley was crowned Motherwell fans’ young player of the year at a ceremony at Fir Park last Saturday to cap what has been a marvellous campaign, and with his current deal expiring in the summer it is believed renewing his deal is high on the Motherwell board’s priorities.

    In a week that has seen Keith Lasley and Stephen Craigan followed Steven Hammell in signing new deals at the club, the Englishman has made no secret of his desire to stay at the club where he has become a central figure even at a young age.

    “I’m really enjoying my football at the moment.” He said, “I’m only 20 and I wanted to come to Motherwell and play games and progress as a player, and that’s what this club has given me the chance to do. I can’t thank them enough, and I certainly would never say no to staying here.

    “The gaffer has said for a few months now that he wants to get everybody signed up because we have got quite a few players out of contract. A couple more have now put pen to paper and that is good for the club – especially as Lasley and Craigan are players that have been here for ages. So everyone at the club is happy about it.

    “My contract expires this summer. We are just talking at the moment, and the gaffer has told me just to concentrate on playing. I’m happy to do that because I just want to be getting minutes on the pitch then hopefully we can get something sorted.”

  • Archive

    Skipper is the latest ‘Well star to commit

    Motherwell’s inspirational captain Stephen Craigan has joined Stevie Hammell and Keith Lasley in signing a new deal to stay at Fir Park late this afternoon.

    The Northern Ireland International, capped 46 times by his country, making him Motherwell’s most capped player by some considerable distance, has signed a one-year contract extension to his current deal which will include the culmination of his testimonial season.

    Craigan joined Motherwell in September of 1994 under then boss Alex McLeish. He stayed at Fir Park until May of 2000 before departing for Partick Thistle having played 32 times in Claret and Amber.

    After a successful three-year spell in the West End of Glasgow, including two successive promotions, he returned to his spiritual home when Terry Butcher brought him back to Fir Park three years after departing.

    Since June 2003, he has played a further 262 times for the Steelmen and is now just four games short of passing the 300 game milestone. Craigan was also given the Captain’s armband in the summer of 2008 following the tragic death of Phil O’Donnell and has represented the club in an immaculate fashion since.

    Speaking exclusively to motherwellfc.co.uk, ‘Well boss Craig Brown said: “I am delighted that Stephen has signed an extension to his contract.

    “Crags, along with other experienced guys like Las (Keith Lasley) and (Stevie) Hammell, is hugely influential and the fact the he is remaining with us for at least another year is a massive bonus.

    “I don’t expect this will be the last contract he will sign with Motherwell either as he has proven that he is still very capable of playing at the very top level for a long time yet.”

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    Midfielder is the second to sign

    Fans favourite Keith Lasley has become the second Motherwell player in recent weeks to commit his future to the club by signing a new two-year contract.

    Lasley, who is in his second spell with the Fir Parkers after a brief “hiatus” with Plymouth Argyle, has played 222 for the Steelmen and has been the cornerstone of the Craig Brown revival in 2010.

    After being allowed to leave Kilmarnock in his youth, the one-time Gleniffer Boys Club player came to Motherwell in the late nineties and worked his way steadily through the ranks and into the ‘Well first team.

    2009-2010 is his tenth season in Claret and Amber and the ‘veteran’ was delighted to have his future sorted, “I am thrilled to get everything sorted out. I have never hidden my desire to play for this club; I love it here.

    “Sure, things were hard for the first six months of this season but that has been the only time during my ten years at this club where I haven’t enjoyed coming to work each and every day.

    “Hopefully I’ll be able to see out the rest of my professional career here. There are a few other boys who are out of contract and hopefully others will follow Stevie Hammell and I and we can keep the core of the squad together.”

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    SPL Post Split Fixtures

    The Board of Motherwell FC are deeply concerned about the outcome of the post split fixtures and its implication for the sporting and financial position of the Club. 

    We are seeking an immediate discussion with the SPL on what has happened and why and have a duty of care to our fans, shareholders and employees to ensure that the apparent inequity we have been asked to suffer is remedied.

    We understand that the SPL cannot please everyone with every fixture decision, but the decision making process has resulted in a deeply unfair outcome both competitively and financially and we cannot let that stand.

    All avenues of protest will be considered.

    Leeann Dempster
    Chief Executive

  • Archive

    Jennings can’t wait for Celtic tester

    Steve Jennings admits it will be a massive thrill to run out at Celtic Park on Tuesday night, and the midfield dynamo can’t wait for the big games to keep on coming when Motherwell begin their post-split fixtures still chasing a spot in the Europa League.

    Jennings was a substitute the last time The Steelmen visited Parkhead and just coming on for the final ten minutes made an impression on the player – now he can’t wait to start!

    “I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Coming out to big crowds and big occasions is what we come to work and train for and try to better ourselves for.  So to come and play at a ground like Celtic Park is just fantastic.

    “The objective at the beginning of the season was to finish in the top six. We have cemented that now and we can really look forward to the next few games and try to finish as high as we can.”

    Plenty neutrals in Scottish football were cheering on the plucky underdogs from Dingwall on Saturday afternoon, but Jennings admits that his mind was on potential European football next season and he would have like to have seen the men in green-and-white make the final:

    “I didn’t actually see the game. I was a bit disappointed with the result, with the effect it has on our hopes for a Europa League spot. If Celtic had got to the final it would have opened up an extra place for us.”

    All eyes will be on the home side on Tuesday as everyone looks to see Celtic’s response after losing to Ross County, and Jennings is expecting Lennon’s charges to come flying out the blocks:

    “They will be embarrassed by the result against Ross County. I’ve played in games where we have lost to a lower league, and you just can’t wait to get back out on the park to make things right.

    “So for them Tuesday night can’t come soon enough I’d imagine. It will be a really tough test for us.”

    The crowd inside Celtic Park could be a big factor, and Jennings thinks turning the them against Celtic could be one of Motherwell’s best hopes of getting a result:

    “If I were a Celtic fan I would be very disappointed at the way my season has gone. So we will go there and play the best we can.

    Jennings laughed: “If we can upset the home crowd then we have obviously done our job well!”

    Much has been made about the skewed nature of the post-split fixtures as far as Motherwell are concerned, but Jennings is determined to look on the bright side and sees a great opportunity to get at least a couple of massive wins at Fir Park in the race for fourth:

    “Dundee United and Hibs are our main rivals, and getting them at home gives us a really good opportunity to get a couple of big wins. If we can do that we could be in a great position. Obviously, for the club, it’s not worked out and the financial implications will be quite hefty but we’ve just got to keep focused on the task in hand and that is on the pitch.

    Motherwell find themselves in the rather unfamiliar position under Brown and Knox of having lost two consecutive matches, and Jennings in acutely aware of the need to arrest any potential slide and head into the top six in fine fettle:

    “We have no excuses for the Falkirk game,” he admitted.

    “They came here and played probably as well as they have all season away from home. We were just disappointed in our own performance. A lot of us didn’t turn up, and we just have to put that down to an off day.

    “Hopefully we can make up for that against Celtic. We will go to Celtic Park and play our game. We can’t look at the way Ross County played; we will go there and do our own thing.”

    The Liverpudlian midfielder has been in terrific form of late, and renewing his contract ranks high in the clubs current priority list. The player is certainly keen to see his future sorted:

    “I’m still in talks over my contract, but I hope it will be getting sorted in the next few weeks.”