Motherwell Football Club
Scottish Premier League side Motherwell was born in 1986. The team has had a mixed history of success and failure, with short spells of relegation but four major trophies to its name. From amateur club origins to FA champions, Motherwell will be known for their fighting spirit, always coming back from defeat more determined to succeed.
Formation and Early Years
Motherwell Football Club resulted from the merging of two local sides after they came together to play in a charity match against Glasgow in 1986. Glencairn F.C. and Alpha F.C., both amateur clubs made up of workers in local factories, combined their players for the match, and consequent talks resulted in Motherwell being formed. The merger was celebrated in their first match, with a 3-2 win over Hamilton Academical, on the 17th May 1886.
Initial matches were all played at Alpha F.C.’s old home on Roman Road, however 1889 saw the team move to Dalziel Park, their home for the next three years. Their first match in new surroundings saw them draw with Rangers 3-3.
The club became professional in 1893, becoming one of ten sides to be elected into the new Second Division of the Scottish League. ‘The Steelmen’ became the team’s nickname, reflecting their industrial origins.
In 1985 Motherwell took up residence at their current home, Fir Park, part of Lord Hamilton’s estate. Hamilton owned the factory from which Glencairn F.C. players originated. The first game Motherwell played at their new home drew 6,000 visitors. The match itself was not one to be remembered, as Motherwell lost 8-1 to Celtic.
Varied success followed, and a decade later in the 1902-3 season, Motherwell reached second in the table. This success saw them promoted to the First Division, due to the expansion of the number of sides in the Division increasing to fourteen that year. The following years saw a struggle to keep their place, consistently having to reapply for election into the Division, but fortunately the team fought through to remain in the First Division. In 1912-3 the teams’ striking kit of amber and claret made its entrance.
Between the Wars
Under John Hunter’s managerial skills the post war side found themselves in third place in the 1919-20 season. Despite this feat they came close to relegation in 1924-5 before fighting back the following year, the start of a string of successful seasons which saw the side consistently finishing within the top three.
Eventual success followed in 1932 with Motherwell claiming the First Division Championship, at the end of an outstanding season during which they had won thirty out of thirty eight games and finished five points ahead of their closest rival, Rangers.
Willie MacFadyen emerged a star player, scoring 52 out of the 119 goals Motherwell racked up that season. This success was not to be repeated the following season, as Motherwell finished runners-up in the league. Despite making it to the Scottish Cup Final in 1931, 1933 and 1939, Motherwell were denied the trophy at the last hurdle on all three occasions.
Motherwell won their first Scottish League Cup in 1950, triumphing over Hibernian in the final. This successful streak continued, as the side emerged victorious in the Scottish Cup Final two years later, in 1952.
1953 saw the team’s play decline, and Motherwell dropped to Division B. This disappointment proved only to be brief, a quick recovery seeing them back the following year with new manager Bobby Ancell. This period saw players including Charlie Aitken and Ian St. John make their mark for the side and raise the standard of play, yet Ancell failed to lead the team to trophy victory in his spell as manager. His resignation in 1965 came at a low point for Motherwell, with relegation to the Second Division following in the 1967-8 season.
Another quick recovery saw Motherwell back in the First Division a year later, an important achievement and step to becoming one of the ten teams in the new Premier League in 1975. The following years were inconsistent, with some steady success combined with brief periods back in the First Division, before coming back to famously take the Scottish Cup in 1991.
A time of change followed with many key players including Ally Maxwell, Bobby Russell and international star Tom Boyd leaving the side. The team’s success seemed short lived, only reaching the top three a couple of times during the nineties.
Tommy McLean, the manager who had led the side to success in 1991, departed in 1994 and a string of managers followed including Alex McLeish, Harri Kapman and Billy Davies, who was appointed in 1997. His approach was to splash out on players whom he hoped would lift the game, including John Spencer and Andy Goram. This failed to have the desired effect, bringing little more success or crowds to Fir Park, and it wasn’t long before the highly paid players, and Billy Davies, moved on.
2002 was a depressing year, with Motherwell struggling at the bottom of the table. The club also went into administration, due to lack of fan attendance and a poor standard of play. Eric Black resigned as manager and Terry Butcher became the man faced with the task of rescuing a suffering side.
Butcher’s task proved to be a challenging one and in 2002-3 the team came close to relegation, which they narrowly avoided due to First Division side Falkirk not having a stadium that met Premier League regulations.
He went on to see the team improve, however, reaching a top six place the following year. The team also came out of administration, having benefited from the funds raised through the sale of top players. Motherwell’s owner, John Boyle, also wrote off an £8 million debt which the club owed him.
A New Start
The club emerged in the 2004-5 season financially secure and with an up and coming side of talented players. Coaching staff member Chris McCart had been tasked with recruiting new, young blood which he achieved with success, bringing the average age of the players in the team down to twenty. Older players including Scott McDonald and Brian Kerr balanced this out, bringing their experience to the side.
2004-5 began with a positive outlook, the side reaching their first Cup Final since 1991. Unfortunately success was not to be theirs and they were defeated 5-1 by Rangers. As always Motherwell fought on, and their persistence and strong will paid off with a 2-1 victory over Celtic in their final match of the season. This was a huge achievement for the team, and in football history, as Celtic were the current champions and Motherwell had been trailing until the last few minutes of the game.
Following Butcher’s departure in 2006, Maurice Malpas took over as manager but lasted only one season before resigning in 2007. Mark McGhee is currently in place to lead the team back to the top, and with much praise and support from both the team and fans he may be the man to do it.
Contact and Travel Information
Motherwell Football Club
Telephone : (01698) 333333
Fax : (01698) 276333
Clubcall : 0891 121553
How to Get There
Fir Park Stadium is situated in the eastern part of Motherwell, just off the A721. If travelling by road:
From the south take the junction 6 exit on the M74.
From the north take the M73 from the A80. Then take the M74 and exit at junction 6.
From junction 6 follow signs to Motherwell to the A723. Turn right at the first set of traffic lights into Airbles road. Follow to junction and turn right, and then go left at the next roundabout into Orbiston Street. Away coaches may be parked here.
By train Motherwell Station is easily accessible from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Hamilton and Coatbridge. Alternatively take the train to Airbles from Glasgow or Hamilton. It takes about fifteen minutes to walk from Motherwell Station, or ten from Airbles, to the stadium.
Further information on Motherwell Football Club including ticket information and upcoming matches can be found at www.motherwellfc.co.uk.