Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson is well aware his team raised the bar last season – but he says his side must earn the right to achieve such success again.
The Well head into Monday’s opener against Ross County off the back of an excellent 2019/20 season. The Northern Irishman led his team to third in the table before the season was cut short, earning the club a return to European football for the first time since 2014.
His side in the early days of his reign were dubbed as ‘hammer-throwers,’ but they have often risen above that, as last season especially saw an evolution to a team with an eye for good football. It worked to great effect and inspired a memorable campaign, but Robinson knows Motherwell will need similar quality to get back to last season’s heights.
“Last season is gone,” he said. “We played some great football and we finished third, deservedly. But it’s a new season, everything starts again. We need the work ethic to be the same if not more. People will come here and think we are a scalp. Have we got the players to be there again? I think we have.
“Bringing Chris Long and Mark O’Hara back who were part of that, Nathan McGinley gives me more pace at the back, Ricki Lamie is an experienced defender. Jordan White gives me another option (up front). He’s probably better with his feet than he is in the air. People sometimes get the wrong impression when you’ve got a bigger boy in the team. We certainly have options now with Callum Lang coming in as well.”
There’s been smart recruitment done at Fir Park, with seven new faces arriving through the door. Experienced players like Peter Hartley and Richard Tait have left alongside goalkeeper Mark Gillespie, who was a key player between the sticks last term for Robinson.
The Fir Park boss says that his recruitment is probably done for the summer, should things stay the same. He’s well aware though that clubs south of the border could come calling for some of his key stars.
“The attraction of European football was a big sell,” he said about of the Steelmen’s business. “Anybody I have signed, I have watched for quite a long time. There’s been nobody I have taken a gamble on, there has been nobody I have needed to watch again.
“Every year we take a couple of gambles, bring in maybe foreign players or boys with electric pace that we hope might progress. I don’t think I have done that this year, I have been able to get boys that I believe will be able to enhance the squad and enhance the team.
“I believe we are done. The worry for me is the transfer window is open now until October. So with England shutting down for a little while, there is always the fear that English teams come in after watching games early on.
“So we are prepared for that but I have strengthened us in lots of areas. Whatever midfield I put out I believe will be a really strong midfield, which gives me a headache in itself but a good headache. Anyone that plays for Motherwell is for sale, that’s the reality of the job.
“We have a business model that works in developing young players and selling players. You won’t hear me complaining about it, frustrating as it is of course when you lose people at the last minute and maybe don’t get the chance to replace them.
Alongside the full returns from injury for David Turnbull and Trevor Carson, Motherwell’s squad looks to be in good condition ahead of the new campaign. Contracts are expiring for some in 2021 though, with key midfielder Allan Campbell’s Well deal set to expire next May.
Robinson’s looking forward to welcoming his formerly injured duo back as he gave an update on contract situations: “Allan is one we’ll speak to. Anybody that is out of contract we will speak to, that would be naïve of us not to. Whether they’ll sign or not, we can’t force them. We are currently speaking to certain players who are out of contract to try and keep that continuity going where we aren’t recruiting 13-14 players every year.
“We have a younger squad. We’ve lost a little bit of experience in terms of Peter Hartley and Richard Tait who were fantastic servants. We’ve got Trevor Carson back again which is like another new signing. We have a young squad so there will be times where they are naïve and where I need to reign people in, but I’m confident in the players I’ve brought in.
“Trevor has looked fantastic and he’s looked like an international goalkeeper who could play in the International Championships. In training David has looked fantastic but our big problem has been the lack of games. We’ve only had four competitive games, usually you maybe have nine.
“David’s fitness is perfect, it’s just gametime. It’s now a case of giving him minutes whether that’s at Ross County or bringing him in and out. Ability wise, that hasn’t gone.”