Motherwell’s form in the second half of the season was the sort of form that would have put them into European contention had it been played out over the entire piece. However, it took Stephen Robinson until Christmas to find the perfect formula and the catalyst for that was David Turnbull. Once that piece of the puzzle had been put into place, Motherwell produced exciting football that swept more than one team away. Can that form be the promise of much more this year?
It would, of course, be remiss to not talk about Motherwell’s summer of business and not start with David Turnbull. His move to Celtic was on, off, on-again, off-again, on-again and then, finally, off-again due to a knee issue showing in his medical. Turnbull is remaining at the club for the time being and the estimate of his time away was anything up to six months. It’s possible, then, that Turnbull might be back prior to the January window and making an impact once more. That Turnbull stays, even if he only ends up playing in the side for a few weeks, is a big bonus for the side given he earned them the best part of 20 points with his goal and assist contributions last term.
Credit, though, must be given to Stephen Robinson for not allowing the unexpected disappearance of a few million from his potential transfer budget to impact how the club have approached this window. Motherwell have been aggressive and decisive in bringing players in and strengthening the core of players at their disposal. Few players have departed, the most notable being Danny Johnson to Dundee. Chris Cadden departed on freedom of contract also but his influence waned over last season while Alex Rodriguez Gorrin added much to their midfield resolution last term. Improvements have been made to almost every area and an impact seen early. Christian Ilic has come in with a good profile from Austria and added to the team at full back while Declan Gallagher was solid at Livingston and earned the chance at a side with loftier ambitions.
Further forward, Liam Polworth will presumably be filling in for some of David Turnbull’s attacking duties and will be looking to kick on now he has left Inverness. Casper Sloth has seen his career not entirely fulfil the large potential it had when coming through at AGF a decade ago but, if he can reach the heights, will be an impressive addition to the league. Sherwin Seedorf and Jermaine Hylton have both also come in and already opened their scoring accounts in the Betfred Cup. Finally, Devante Cole has come in on loan for the first half of the season and will offer a good attacking option.
Early Season Form
Motherwell were in receipt of a fairly tricky Betfred Cup draw - Queen of the South and Morton are decent enough Championship sides and both Dumbarton and Annan will be looking to get promoted from their respective leagues this season. As such, Motherwell’s serene qualification from the group with four wins out of four and not a single goal conceded will have been a massive boost to their confidence going into the league opener. Particularly pleasing will have been having seen four of this summer’s signings getting on the scoresheet and clearly settling in well.
Player to watch: Allan Campbell
In a way, the player to watch is the one player fans won’t be watching - David Turnbull. But in Allan Campbell, Motherwell have the ideal all-action replacement. Campbell plays deeper than Turnbull but is equally happy to drive forward and do the dirty work for the side. His progress last season was quieter than his explosion onto the scene the season before but, if he can continue his progress, Motherwell’s midfield will have a very solid base to rely upon.
One for the future: Jamie Semple
Next on the long production line at Fir Park is 18 year old Jamie Semple. He made a couple of appearances towards the end of last season and has been able to do the same in the Betfred Cup already this season. What role he will play is unclear - his youth football has mainly been as part of the forward line while his first-team time has been in midfield. His future is likely playing just in behind the striker but, with an assist in the Betfred Cup, it’s clear he’s an exciting talent who will progress far once he discovers his true niche and role in the first-team.
Motherwell have had a very positive start to the domestic season, one they can look to carry on into the league. They have made moves in the transfer market that are very much those of a team with ambitions on a European place, and it’s hard to imagine they would end up in the bottom six as they did last season. They are one of a number of sides who will have looked at the turmoil at Kilmarnock now Clarke has gone and look to take advantage and rise up the table. A top-six place should be the lowest of their ambitions - reaching fourth and the potential European place it would provide are certainly within reach.