Review of last season – What does Stuart McCall have to do to get the credit he deserves? Almost as if nobody was watching Motherwell secured 2nd place in the Premiership last season. It is a blessing and a curse being as solid and steady as Motherwell. On one hand the fans are pleased at how McCall continually has to rebuild and yet still achieve year on year. On the other hand it is as if the Scottish media just expect Motherwell to be ‘there or thereabouts’ every season so the team maybe doesn’t get the same credit as Aberdeen, Dundee Utd and St.Johnstone. McCall’s side did have a few sticky patches last year but on the whole maintained the excellent form that we have seen over the past few campaigns. A disappointment that they maybe did not achieve more in the cup competitions, but a 2nd place finish and European qualification is still a great season.
Players in – Dan Twardzik (Goalkeeper, Dundee), Josh Law (Midfielder, Alfreton Town), Lionel Ainsworth (Loan made permanent, Midfielder, Rotherham United)
Players out – James McFadden (Free), Shaun Hutchinson (Fulham), Henri Anier (Erzgebirge Aue), Lee Hollis (Free)
What they still need – Not a whole lot actually. The Motherwell team probably still needs a solid and reliable keeper as they have struggled to find a replacement for Darren Randolph since his departure. Dan Twardzik and Gunnar Nielsen are decent enough goalkeepers but Motherwell have been blessed with top quality keepers in the recent past and it something they now miss. The big target however must be a striker. With the sudden departure of Henri Anier to Germany it leaves Motherwell light upfront and short of quick, skilful strikers to compliment the more physical presence of John Sutton.
Expectations this season – Similar to least season. A top 4 finish is very achievable and with a settled squad Motherwell should look towards the domestic cups for some success. An early season start in the Europa League will hopefully provide a few European nights at Fir Park. One challenge for Stuart McCall though must be to continue introducing more of the Motherwell youngsters into the side. The first team has been settled for some time so now might be a good chance to start giving some of the young prospects at Fir Park an opportunity to establish themselves.
Key player – A Motherwell legend. Club captain Keith Lasley is loved by ‘Well fans and rightly so. He is at the heart of everything good about the side and controls the midfield superbly. Lasley has played well over 300 games for the club and has recently extended his contract for a further two years. The role played by a someone like Keith Lasley is so important for any team and he acts as an example not just on the pitch but off it too. How many seasons he has left at 34 is a question, but there is no doubt that Lasley will lead Motherwell superbly again this season.
Young player to look out for – Someone who plays alongside the aforementioned Keith Lasley and shares many of his attributes. Stuart Carswell is a committed, tough tackling central midfielder who can break up play very effectively and works tirelessly off the ball. His rise to prominence in the Motherwell team has been very impressive and he has already secured his place as a first team regular at the age of 20. Having picked up Motherwell’s Young Player of the Year award last season it is surprising that he has not yet been included in the Scotland U21s setup.
Opinion on Motherwell – It really is remarkable what Motherwell and Stuart McCall have managed to achieve in the last few years. They don’t have a massive budget and they have suffered with key players leaving almost every year, yet they continue to perform season after season. This year they will benefit from the fact that they have managed to carry out their business very early on and they have moved to tie up their key players on longer deals well before the start of the season. Despite all of this positivity there is still a bit of fragility surrounding the Motherwell back line. They managed to concede more goals than any other top six side last year and they have lost one of their key defenders in Shaun Hutchinson. As for where they might finish this season it looks like at the moment that both Aberdeen and Dundee United have strengthened their teams whilst Motherwell have stuck with their tried and tested squad. This might push Motherwell down a couple of places in the league but that all depends on potential signings and whether or not they can do what they always do best, consistently win and just get on with things.
Prediction for this season – 4th