MOTHERWELL centre-half Stephen McManus is well aware that he could have been lining up for the home side in tomorrow’s opening league clash against Hibs at Easter Road.
Instead, he will be attempting to help his new team heap fresh pain on Pat Fenlon’s men in a contest between two teams suffering from European hangovers. The 7-0 thrashing by Malmo nine days ago is not something that will be easily forgotten by anyone associated with Hibs, while Motherwell’s sense of anguish is fresher after Thursday’s 2-0 defeat to Russian club FC Kuban Krasnodar.
McManus would have been a valued member of a Hibs defence now deprived of James McPake because of injury. The former Celtic skipper, who has returned to Scottish football after spending three years at Middlesbrough, described choosing between Hibs and Motherwell as “probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make”. He trained with Hibs for a few days at East Mains last month and was offered a contract, but the situation became complicated by interest from Motherwell, leaving McManus to weigh up the options.
“I was expecting to go to either Motherwell or Hibs and maybe not enjoy one as much,” he said, with reference to the time he spent training with both clubs. “That would have made my decision easier. But I went to Hibs and really enjoyed my time there. Pat Fenlon, his coaching staff and the players were all great. I couldn’t say anything negative about Hibs at all, but in the end I went for my gut feeling which said Motherwell.”
It was a decision which surprised a number of observers, but McManus added: “I think I made the right decision. I have loved my time here so far and I’m looking forward to the season. This is the first time I have been at what you might call a smaller, family-oriented club where there is not a lot of staff overall.
“There was a really good feeling about the place as soon as I walked in the door and that’s what made me want to come here.”
McManus dismissed the notion that both teams might be affected by their European experiences.
“It’s the first game of the season and it’s back to your bread and butter,” he said. “We will be looking to go and win the game – just as Hibs will be looking to bounce back. Unfortunately for them, they have had to wait a bit longer for that opportunity. As soon as you take a knock, the next game can’t come quick enough.
“Thursday night for us wasn’t a game to mull over and get too down about. That’s not how football works. It’s the first competitive game of the season and we’ll look forward to Sunday.”