Michael Higdon snubs England for Dutch side NEC

Michael Higdon: Quit Motherwell. Picture: SNS
Michael Higdon: Quit Motherwell. Picture: SNS
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Former Motherwell striker Michael Higdon has made a surprise move to the Dutch Eredivisie, where he has joined NEC Nij-megen on a two-year deal.

The 29-year-old striker, who was named PFA Scotland player of the year last season, had been expected to move south to England, where he had previously played with Crewe Alexandra.

It is in Scotland where he made his name, however, and he was a regular goalscorer for Falkirk, St Mirren and latterly, with Motherwell, for whom he scored 26 league goals last season.

“For the striker position we wanted to sign a target man,” NEC’s technical director Carlos Aalbers told the club’s website yesterday. “Michael has done just that in Scotland. He has shown he can score goals at the highest level.”

NEC finished fourth-bottom in last year’s Dutch top flight, avoiding a relegation play-off spot by four points. Jimmy Calderwood, the former Dunfermline and Aberdeen manager, was manager at the club in the late 1990s.

Higdon, who is from Liverpool, received widespread media coverage in May when he was arrested just hours after receiving the PFA Scotland player of the year award from former Scotland manager Alex McLeish. He spent the night in a police cell after an incident in a nightclub.

He was later released without charge, the striker later insisting that it did not tarnish the memory of “the best night I’ve had as a footballer”.

It was always likely that he would leave Motherwell when his contract expired in June. He showed no willingness to sign an extension, despite being offered a new contract by the Fir Park club. Both Higdon and Tom Hateley made it clear to manager Stuart McCall that their fut-ures lay elsewhere.

“They were both great servants for the club,” said McCall last month. “I have no worries about them going south.”

Higdon was linked with a move to Championship side Barnsley. However, he has wrong-footed many with a move to Holland.

There was better news for Motherwell fans when it was confirmed that James McFadden was included in the travelling party which left Glasgow Airport yesterday for a week-long pre-season trip to Spain.

The Scotland internationalist is still weighing up his options after his short-term contract with Motherwell expired at the end of the season, but his presence on the trip would indicate that he is keen to stay with the Fir Park side, after being linked with Celtic earlier this summer.

The 30-year-old scored five goals in 13 appearances for Motherwell last season after re-joining his former club in February, following a torrid three-year spell spent fighting a knee injury.

Motherwell return from Spain to play Doncaster Rovers in England this weekend, before hosting Newcastle United next Tuesday and Nottingham Forest ten days later.

Meanwhile, another former Motherwell player was signed up yesterday, although Steven Saunders is remaining in Scotland, with Ross County.

The 22-year-old defender has joined the Highlands club on a one-year contract.

“Steven is a highly rated defender and was attracting a lot of attention from other clubs,” said manager Derek Adams. “We are delighted he has chosen to join Ross County.”

The full-back, who has been capped once by Scotland, left Motherwell at the end of the season after missing the first half of the campaign due to serious injury. He joined Motherwell from Queen’s Park in 2008 and was capped by Scotland in the 3-0 friendly win over the Faroes in 2010.

Saunders has been training with Sheffield United in recent weeks but he has opted to move north in order to kick-start his career again.