Saturday, July 23, 2011

SPL: Motherwell v Inverness

Completing the triangle of opening Saturday fixtures, Stuart McCall's Motherwell host Terry Butcher's Inverness.

The game

Terry Butcher says his team aren't ready. Brutal honesty or bluffing banditry? We'll find out soon enough.

Motherwell lost a Scottish Cup final in their last competitive appearance. Even a shortened summer is a long time to wait to exorcise those ghosts. Who's more ready, who's pre season has left them better prepared to hit the ground running?

Motherwell for me. Home win.


Stuart McCall is the sort of no-nonsense chap who wears shorts whatever the weather and has stuck with the same hairstyle, through thick and thin, since he visited a barber near Valley Parade in February 1982.

No surprise then that his time at Motherwell has so far been marked by dogged determination rather than fireworks. Quietly dogged not loudly flash.

Which, as a footballing creed, could well reap dividends in what looks to be a tightly packed SPL.

John Sutton has departed for pastures maroon but McCall looks to have done well to land Michael Higdon whose 15 goals last season hinted at a striker finally discovering his eye for goal at the age of 27.

McCall will hope, and Higdon will have to prove, that such goalscoring form was a statement of intent rather than a flash in the pan.

Jamie Murphy and Chris Humphrey have proved themselves in the SPL and need to do so again this season while the addition of Nicky Law from Rotherham looks astute.

The departure of Craig Brown and the arrival of McCall proved a major disruption last season yet a top six finish and a cup final were duly delivered.

Sutton's departure apart I don't feel this squad has been much weakened over the summer. Injuries and suspensions will cause concern if McCall is left struggling for players but I'd imagine he's quite happy with what he sees going into the new season.


"We're off and running again on Saturday and we are three weeks ahead of most other leagues and teams and countries.

"I think it's a little bit farcical and it does short-change the public and our fans because our fans want to see our squad complete."

So said Terry Butcher on 21 July 2011.

But wait, what quote is this we find as we rewind through the archive?

"Start earlier so the teams in Europe get an easier chance"

So said Terry Butcher in January 2011.

Which is it, Terence, good or bad?

The contradictions of their coach aside, this is an interesting season for Inverness. They cut quite a dash as they bamboozled the SPL with some excellent form before the New Year last season.

They even went a calendar year without an away defeat, a record that won them both promotion and SPL safety.

But all this was BRBO. Before Rooney Buggered Off. Even with the impressive Adam of that ilk in the squad their form dipped, as it often does with newly promoted clubs, and what looked like a hell of a chance to make the top six ended up only a comfortable seventh place finish.

Could we now witness the Butcher's boys consumed with difficult second season syndrome?

There's a chance. Gregory Tade's impact is crucial. Apparently coveted elsewhere in the SPL and rated highly by many Tade will bring something different to Inverness.

But he's not Adam Rooney. Will goals suddenly become as rationed as they were in St Johnstone's second season back in the top flight?

Will Tade as the team focal point demand a different style of play that doesn't suit the strengths of the rest of the squad?

Unanswered questions, big questions. Given those conundrums it's no surprise that some are backing Inverness for the drop this season.

I disagree. The plaudits of last year might not be forthcoming but another reasonably comfortable season should be within reach.

Butcher himself also divides opinion. Is he a great manager, even a very good manager? Probably not but he's Exhibit A in my theory that in a lot of cases picking the right manager requires a healthy dash of luck.

Maybe he'd be an absolutely dreadful manager anywhere else in the league. But Inverness seem to suit him and I expect him to keep them up again this season.

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