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2019/20 Premiership preview - Motherwell

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Motherwell FC crest.svg

LAST SEASON: Eighth, 51pts

NOTABLE INS: Jake Carroll (Cambridge United), Declan Gallagher (Livingston), Jermaine Hylton (Solihull Moors), Christian Ilic (TSV Hartberg), Christopher Long (Blackpool), Christy Manzinga (RSC Chatelet-Fanciennes), Liam Polworth (Inverness Caledonian Thistle), Sherwin Seedorf (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Casper Sloth (Silkeborg), Devante Cole (Wigan Athletic, loan)

NOTABLE OUTS: Chris Cadden (Columbus Crew), Shea Gordon (Partick Thistle, loan made permanent), Jake Hastie (Rangers), Danny Johnson (Dundee), Curtis Main (Aberdeen), Carl McHugh (ATK), Neil McLaughlin (Edusport Academy), Alex Rodriguez Gorrin (Oxford United), Rohan Ferguson (Linfield, loan), Tom Aldred (Bury, end of loan), Gboly Ariyibi (Nottingham Forest, end of loan), Ross McCormack (Aston Villa, end of loan), Connor Sammon (Heart of Midlothian, end of loan), Liam Brown, Elliott Frear, Christian Mbulu, George Newell, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair

LAST SEASON'S BEST XI (Departed players crossed out): Gillespie, Grimshaw, Aldred, Dunne, Tait, Campbell, Rodriguez Gorrin, Turnbull, Ariyibi, Hastie, Main

When Motherwell's management team signed new contracts this summer, there was much joy amongst the support.

They might not have felt the same as recently as the end of 2018; the direct and physical - often overly so - play that had taken them to two cup finals the previous season had more than run its course both in terms of its watchability and its results. On Boxing Day, the Steelmen were ninth, only just above the bottom three.

Over the winter break, they transformed from an ugly caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. Not only did 'Well start winning, but they did so with panache. No longer did burly targetmen like Curtis Main and Ryan Bowman define the team; now the focus was on fearless youngsters like David Turnbull and Jake Hastie getting the ball down and doing thrilling things with it.

Sadly Hastie has gone after his contract expired, and Turnbull would have been away too but for a knee injury picked up in his Celtic medical. Motherwell have lost out on £3million as a result, but only temporarily. They will at least get a few more months of their wonderful young midfielder who should return for the second half of the season.

In the meantime, his absence may not be as damaging as you think. True, they've lost regular starters in Hastie, Chris Cadden (who was injured for most of last season), Alex Rodriguez Gorrin and loanees Tom Aldred and Gboly Ariyibi. But Robinson has never been shy of wheeling and dealing and has brought in ten new players.

So in defence Declan Gallagher, so solid for Livingston last season, should fill the Aldred gap. Either Peter Hartley or Charles Dunne, who can also play left-back, will partner him. This is probably the weak spot in the side though and if Robinson was to sign one more player it probably would be a central defender.

There's no such problem at full-back though. Richard Tait is of course more than capable on either side, Liam Grimshaw was converted into a fine right-back last season, and newbie Jake Carroll can compete with Liam Donnelly, back from long-term injury, for the left-back role. In goal, Mark Gillespie took advantage of Trevor Carson's prolonged absence with an arm DVT to make himself first choice keeper. The stats suggest he's a big upgrade over the Northern Irish international.

There's no shortage of midfield options either even if Turnbull isn't considered. Allan Campbell is a tackling machine, and he'll probably be joined in the middle by Casper Sloth, who might have lost his way in recent years but is still only 27 and has eight caps for Denmark. I say 'probably' because Donnelly played like a boss in that role in the League Cup games and might keep him out of the team.

A more attacking option is former Inverness assist machine Liam Polworth who should thrive now he's surrounded with better players; the forwards can expect many a defence-splitting through ball from him. Craig Tanner, who hasn't played since March 2018 because of his own injuries, will back up Polworth in that role.

Out wide the loss of Ariyibi and Hastie has been compensated for by picking up Jermaine Hylton and Sherwin Seedorf from down south and Croatian winger Christian Ilic, who can also play as a left-back. Another new face, Devante Cole, can also play wide but is more suited to being a striker.

However he may not find many opportunities there unless Motherwell play two up top. It's more likely they'll go for one though. Reputation says Christopher Long should be the favourite given his experience down south but local product James Scott, who doesn't turn 19 for another few weeks, seems to be getting better by the week. If more of an orthodox target man is needed, they can turn to Belgian Christy Manzinga, signed after an audacious overhead kick goal in a friendly.

And while it might only be the League Cup Group Stages, early signs are encouraging that Robinson is gelling this bunch together. They won all four games, scoring thirteen goals without reply. It might only have been Queen of the South, Morton, Dumbarton and Annan but that was more impressive than most of their peers.

So what's the target? It's got to be top six. And they're more than capable of managing it. Hopefully they should give us some fun whilst they're at it.


Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.

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