JUST ten games after Motherwell’s 6-1 thumping of Rangers in the Premiership play-off final, manager Ian Baraclough has paid for his team’s poor start to this season with his job.
His final act was an angry reaction to the Lanarkshire club’s 3-2 defeat by Morton in the League Cup on Tuesday night. Headlines spoke of him telling some of his players that they were in the “last-chance saloon”. But by yesterday afternoon it was Baraclough who had gone.
In a statement, the club said they had parted company with the 44-year-old Englishman and that under-20s manager and ex-Fir Park captain Stephen Craigan would be in charge for Saturday’s game against Partick Thistle. The first name to rumoured as Baraclough’s successor was his predecessor, Stuart McCall.
The Motherwell statement added: “The board of directors would like to sincerely thank Ian for his great efforts last season and keeping the club in the SPFL Premiership for this very important season in our history.” Motherwell will mark 130 years in existence on 17 May, 2016 and the following day will be the 25th anniversary of their 1991 Scottish Cup triumph. The board clearly no longer believed Baraclough could steer them towards these momentous dates in the best possible fettle.
Baraclough’s Motherwell record was won 12, drawn five, lost 17. The undoubted highlight of his nine-month reign was the stunning play-off victory over Rangers last May. Baraclough was bullish before the two matches, claiming that his club had already been written off and that there was a collective desire within the game for the Ibrox club to replace his in the top flight. Motherwell won 3-1 in Govan and completed the job with a 3-0 success in Lanarkshire.
But despite kicking off this campaign with a win at Inverness Caley Thistle, Motherwell lost five of their next seven in the league, most recently last Saturday’s Lanarkshire derby at Hamilton Accies.
With only one win to their name the club sit tenth in the table, just four points above bottom team Partick Thistle.
The extra-time cup exit at Cappielow was the final straw. The tie was marred by crowd disruption with police and stewards having to deal with angry fans who called for Baraclough to be sacked. Afterwards he said: “There isn’t anybody that works any harder at their job to try to get success for them. That’s what you do as a manager, work every hour that God sends to try to get a result.”
Baraclough was critical of his players, who had forced extra-time through Scott McDonald’s last-gasp equaliser but couldn’t turn the match around. “There comes a stage when you have to say ‘Enough is enough,” he said. “I hope one or two are maybe thinking: ‘I haven’t got many more chances.’”
Of the full and frank exchange of views with his men, Baraclough added: “We had to get something off our chests. We try to be calm and calculated but tonight was a night for the outpouring of emotion and how I feel, not just this evening, about how we need to be to win games of football.
“I look at the difference between [our players and Morton matchwinner Alex] Samuel, who fought for every morsel of the ball he could get for his team, and that wasn’t there for us in the first half. It improved in the second half… but we gave ourselves a mountain to climb.”
McCall led Motherwell to third place in 2011-12 and second the following season when he was named Manager of the Year, however he resigned after a poor start to 2013-14 and was in charge of Rangers for the play-off failure.
Other names being mentioned for the vacancy include two former Fir Park managers, Terry Butcher and Billy Davies, current captain Keith Lasley, and ex-Rangers boss Ally McCoist.
Former Scunthorpe and Sligo Rovers manager Baraclough was a surprise appointment last December. But right away he targeted winning the Premiership, saying: “I want to win trophies. Why not Motherwell Football Club? Why can’t we win the Premiership? You’ve got to go out with that thinking otherwise you won’t achieve anything.”