Motherwell FC: The Managerial Merry-go-round


Motherwell Football Club have, in the recent past, given the football fraternity plenty to talk about when it comes to appointing managers. Once again they have pulled something out of the hat with Stuart McCall but we shall have to see whether this is a gilt-edged rabbit or a hare that simply won’t run.

Whilst they may be able to count a few successes on their list of previous employees there are a few who have failed whilst at Motherwell or thereafter – dare I even say before too – set any heather
alight. Jim Gannon anyone?

In an industry that is ever more caught up with the entertainment of thousands each weekend and bringing more people through the door to ensure survival Motherwell have always been bright at catching the eye.

Would you believe before Saint and Greavsie on the TV it was Ian St John at the helm of Motherwell football club in the early 70s. St John went off to manage Portsmouth but not before he gave a debut to on William Pettigrew. The late 70s saw another chapter in the less than illustrious half of the managerial career that was Mr Ally McLeod. Ally arrived after Argentina and was unable to get Motherwell back in to the Premier after two attempts and lost his job. When Ally was sacked David Hay, last heard in an advisory role at Livingston, took over before bailing out to the US after gaining promotion for the team.

The eighties were all romanticism for some and bleak army style training for Motherwell when in 1982 Jock Wallace came a training for the bigger job in Govan. When the big job in Govan was offered off went Jock and, after a brief flirt with an ex player in Bobby Watson in came the wee
Mclean. Willie McLean had already bossed the steelmen in the 70s when younger brother Tommy came into the Well dressing room. Tommy was to be far more successful than his brother leading the team into promotion, Europe and lifting domestic silverware by beating the third of the McLean brothers – Jim – in the 1991 Scottish Cup Final.

The 90s saw Alex McLeish’s first foray into management at Motherwell was followed by My Pa 47’s former manager Harri Kampman. Let us all be honest – nane o us kent who the hell he wis! It was a shock to the system and Kampman resigned for personal reasons before many believe he would have been pushed. In the middle of his reign a man we all know see as synonymous with the club joined – John Boyle.

With such a surprising pedigree already in place the flair and commercially astute Boyle was ably suited to the task of developing this franchise on from surprising beginnings. With Boyle in charge we saw a free spending Billy Davies who nearly cost Boyle the club sign on and then sign on…

Eric Black came in to try to salvage the situation but administration beckoned and Black resigned. His assistant, Terry Butcher, took over and in his first managerial position made a relative success of things with a CIS Cup Final appearance and two top 6 places before going off to Sydney for reasons that mystify many. In fact they mystified some of the Aussies too…

Maurice Malpas took over for a short spell before Mark McGhee stamped his presence on the club. After two years out of the job he took Motherwell to third – best position in its history and into Europe. He was hugely popular for his style of football and the way he handled the death of the hugely popular Phil O’Donnell.

He was followed by the surprise of Jim Gannon. Nuff said. The mess that the club found itself in would require the attentions of an experienced and cultured operator. Mr Craig Brown took the reigns in yet another shock which once we all got past the three games he had signed on for. His stay was for a year with Archie Knox and there are few superlatives left to describe the effect they had.

It is probably bizarre that Brown and Knox follow McGhee to the manager’s graveyard in the North. Considering their age it is bizarre that hardly any are suggesting they shall fail in Aberdeen.

So Boyle and the boys had to find a replacement. As soon as his name was mentioned it was obvious that YouTube footage of Stuart McCall falling drunk off the van during Bradford City Football Club celebrations. It draws nothing to the table in terms of what kind of manager McCall is. In fact McCall has only managed Bradford City in League Two. His pedigree as a manager has yet to be proven. Mind you McLeish, Davies and Butcher seem to be doing all right having given sterling service to the Well. The question for all Fir Park fans must be whether he can keep the progress started by them pensioners or will he be another Gannon, the less successful of the McLean brothers or a Kampman to whom the fans cannot take.

Already there are doubts. McCall has said that Motherwell must obtain a top six place. He has made similar claims before. He said he would resign if Bradford City didn’t make the play offs in 2009. They didn’t and he didn’t. Alex Ferguson even telling him “to behave”. Top six should be more than achievable regularly for Motherwell and McCall must prove to be the man who can achieve that.

Scottish football management looks quite healthy in the SPL – Jim Jeffries (Bizarrely also an ex Bradford City manager) has brought glory to Gorgie, Mixu Paatelainen has revitalised Killie, Butcher has readjusted to the SPL well, whilst the achievements of McInnes, Houston and Reid are still to be lauded. Juries remain out on Calderwood and Lennon (The saintly variety) whilst Craig and Archie have started better than any Aberdeen manager or a time at Pittodrie. Plenty of scope for the Old
Firm to plunder in future years – could you imagine a disastrous McCoist era with an ex pal at Fir Park doing well…

Written by Donald C. Stewart


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