MOTHERWELL striker Michael Higdon provided the perfect response to criticism of his inclusion in the PFA Scotland Player of the Year nominees’ list by playing his part in the 3-1 victory over Celtic which will bring European football to Fir Park again next season.
After scoring his 26th goal of the season from the penalty spot to put his team 2-1 in front, Higdon made his point with an unusual celebration in which he flicked an imaginary substance from his shoulders.
“What did I do?” he grinned afterwards when asked if it was a reference to the Player of the Year controversy. “Aah, it was like ‘water off a duck’s back’ maybe.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon had been vocal in his condemnation of the absence of all of his players on the four-man PFA short-list, which also includes Hibs striker Leigh Griffiths, Aberdeen forward Niall McGinn and Inverness midfielder Andrew Shinnie. “Maybe it spurred us on a little bit, to be honest,” added Higdon.
“It is someone’s opinion, that’s fine. I understand what Neil is saying about no-one from his team being nominated, but I think he could have gone about it a different way.
“I’m not bothered about him saying I wouldn’t get into his team, it’s more about recognising who has had a good season. I think the majority of Neil’s team have had a good season and that’s good for him. He’s not had one outstanding player, he’s had several good ones.
“At the end of the day we’re voting for the best player of the season. I voted for Leigh Griffiths because I think he’s done well. I like Gary Hooper, I think he’s the best striker in the SPL, but I didn’t vote for him this season as I didn’t think he’d played the best out of those two.
“If you pick the best 11 in the SPL, then you will have eight or nine Celtic players as they are the best players. I was happy to be nominated and I’ve been playing consistently well. I think some of the things said have been a bit uncalled for.
“I have a lot of time for Neil Lennon. I think he’s an outstanding manager. He’s come through the Crewe Academy like I did. You take things with a pinch of salt, but I respect him as a guy. I haven’t spoken to him about it yet but I’ll maybe give him a knock now and see what he’s saying!”
Higdon, who also scored the goal which earned Motherwell third place in the SPL last season and Champions League qualification in place of Rangers, believes the Lanarkshire team deserve great credit for what is now all but certain to be their first runners-up spot since 1995.
“We’ve been looking at the table and it’s some achievement,” he added. “It was an outstanding performance to come from behind to beat Celtic and the second half is as good as we have played. I think in the second half we made Celtic look like a bit of an average team.”
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall feared the worst when Hooper put Celtic in front but was confounded by his own team’s response to that setback.
“I always say you’ve got to score first against the Old Firm to have any chance of winning but that blows my theory,” said McCall. “We showed great character to go a goal behind and come back and play like we did. Both teams could have scored a few more and everyone, certainly from a Motherwell side, can go home feeling entertained. We’ve been playing like that since we beat Celtic here in February and we’ve been on a good run with the lads full of confidence, both individually and collectively.
“The inspiration today was to go out and show everyone what a good side we are. Darren Randolph made a good save from Hooper but, a bit like the PFA nominations, you could run through our side and pick five or six players who were outstanding. The motivation is to be the best you can be and they were certainly that today. You try to improve each season and it can be difficult but last season we broke Motherwell’s SPL record points total of 62 and we’re now on 60 with three games to go.
“You can talk about Celtic’s players who weren’t playing today, but for every one of them an international came in. Thomas Rogne for Efe Ambrose, Georgios Samaras for Kris Commons and Beram Kayal for Joe Ledley. They might not have had the big, big guns but they certainly had a lot of talent out there.
“We’ve scored the most goals at the club since the 1960s but that’s the way we play. I don’t like to talk about budgets and structures. It’s an achievement to qualify for Europe because consistently they’ve been very good. It’s brilliant to work with the lads day in, day out and they got what they deserved.”