Stoke City and others have been linked with moves – but Stephen O’Donnell says home comforts have helped keep him at Motherwell.
The Scotland international signed a short-term deal with the Fir Park club last summer after leaving Kilmarnock at the end of the previous season amid football’s shutdown, placing him in limbo as rumours to the likes of Stoke City circulated. That was extended until the end of the season and now he’s staying put in North Lanarkshire until 2023.
A local to the area, after signing a couple of short-term deals, O’Donnell has explained why he’s signing to Motherwell for the long haul: “I’m a bit more relaxed this year. I was sitting on my backside in my house panicking [last year], thinking, ‘when should I sign, should I sign here, should I not sign here? Or down south?’
“Motherwell offered me a short-term contract and it gave security short term. It gave me the chance to stay at home and play in Europe again, because when I was at Kilmarnock we didn’t do ourselves justice in that competition.
“It was just about getting the balance. Look, I would always have loved to try to to play in the Championship [in England] if I got an opportunity. That didn’t arise at the time and I had a decision to make – do I sign for Motherwell and be happy or do I risk not having anything?
“It’s a tough decision and it’s one I have not regretted one bit. I’ve loved every minute I’ve been here. It’s probably the most comfortable I’ve been in a dressing room and it’s just disappointing we haven’t performed as well as we’d like to.”
O’Donnell added that this deal has been in the pipeline since Christmas, the 28-year-old now likely to represent Motherwell with Scotland at Euro 2020: “It was always the intention to try and extend it after conversations at Christmas time. It was just a case of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.
“These things never seem to be as simple as you like to think they will be. But it was great to get it sorted and I’m looking forward to just focusing on the next month and trying to bring more consistency to the team that, as a squad we’ve lacked this season, and hopefully we can do that.
“Sometimes in football you don’t really know where you are going to be or you are not guaranteed where you are going to be and, fortunately I have a bit of security close to home. You don’t often get that.
“With football, every single decision you face is balancing up the practical side of life, having family and friends close by, but then you also want to try to get that progression in your career. It’s trying to get that balance and I certainly feel, speaking to the manager, that we can strike that balance.”
Now looking ahead to next season and this term’s Scottish Cup, O’Donnell is after success. He signed initially after Motherwell’s third-place finish in the 2019/20 season, looking to get into the top six again, which hasn’t quite worked out. The Fir Park club face Greenock Morton tonight in the Scottish Cup fourth round.
O’Donnell said: “I signed here in the summer hoping to be in the top six at least. That hasn’t happened and that will again be the aim next season. We’ve got a very big squad but maybe some injuries have hampered us this season but hopefully we can get organised for next season and go again.
“We want to make sure we finish the season strongly for the momentum, for the feel-good factor – fans will be more optimistic – and we want to give everyone that going into the summer holidays. The Scottish Cup is an added incentive, a very strange predicament that it’s happening this late in the season.
“You’d be thinking you were talking about going to Hampden if you are playing in the Scottish Cup at this stage. We are looking forward to hopefully putting a run together, but Morton will be a tough side and we need to make sure we do everything we can to get the win.”
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