Towards the end of 2014 there was much uncertainty surrounding the short and long term future of Motherwell. Manager Stuart McCall had resigned and the football side of the club went into hiatus as we waited on who would take over ownership of the club from John Boyle.
The ownership issue was narrowed down to two parties, a South American consortium or the Well Society backed by, at that time, a mystery investor. While the due diligence was being carried out Kenny Black was asked to look after football side as it was felt it would be unfair to put a permanent manager in charge at that stage.
In December it was announced the Well Society had won the day with the backing of Barbados based Scottish business man Les Hutchinson (the second Motherwell born business man to get involved in football with wealth of the radar).
When this became apparent a new manager was installed, and as has happened in the past from Motherwell, it was a left field appointment with former Sligo Rovers manager Ian Baraclough being appointed.
He was soon on the back pages with a comment about how he was ambitious enough he wanted to win the League. Things looked promising when he inspired his new charges to win his first two games in charge with wins at Fir Park over St. Mirren and Partick Thistle. The wins weren’t pretty but they provided some optimism.
Sadly this was short lived as the side went on a run of eight games with out win, starting with a New Year’s Day 5-0 hammering from Lanarkshire rivals Hamilton Accies, and ending with a shambolic defeat to Dundee at Fir Park.
During that run of games Les Hutchinson took control in January and immediately took stock of things off and on the park. On the pitch he asked the question can this current team keep us up, and given within weeks seven new players were brought in the answer must’ve been no.
After the Dundee game things were bleak as the team hit rock bottom of the table and five of the new players played in the game. It was hard to see where a win was going to come from with Inverness up the following week.
Les Hutchinson released more money in the days after that game and brought Scott McDonald back to Motherwell, it seemed like a statement of intent to the fans saying we are doing everything we can to ensure we stay in this League.
With the return from injury of Stephen Pearson and the lift McDonald’s second debut gave to the fans and players, Inverness were beaten, their first defeat of 2015 and Motherwell’s first of the year! The transformation from the shambolic performance against Dundee the week before was stark, and gave the Well fans some hope that relegation was no longer a formality.
Off the pitch we have yet to see too much of the new ownership broom sweeping clean. There have been changes in the board room with Well Society Chairman Brian McCafferty installed as club Chairman, and Hutchinson representatives Leeanne Thomas (his daughter), Peter Kellie and Ian Reid replacing Stuart Robertson, Andrew Wilson and John Swinburne from John Boyle’s days.
Hutchinson has already talked about making the club sustainable in the short term and looking to change the signing philosophy to something similar to the Dundee United model of bringing in young players and selling them on. The first manifestation of this is Marvin Johnson who was brought in from Kidderminster Harriers, and looks as though he could have a chance of a decent re-sale value.
The new owner also has a view to moving on in five years time and by then he hopes the Motherwell fans have adopted the Well Society model and the ownership can finally be handed over to community.
The elephant in the room at the moment, of course, is what impact relegation to the Championship would have. From what I hear Hutchinson is prepared to fund a year in the lower leagues, but hopefully he won’t have to worry about that and the investment he has put into the playing side already pays off.
There is also the chance we could meet old friends in a play off if that is where we end up, with former CEO Leeann Dempster running Hibs, and Stuart McCall and Kenny Black in charge at Rangers. Hopefully if it happens they leave with their tails between their legs.
Written by Graham Barnstaple