STUART McCall is delighted to see others share his appreciation of his team’s performances as a week of accolades continued at Motherwell yesterday.
Henrik Ojamaa was named Clydesdale Bank Premier League player of the month for April, days after McCall was shortlisted for the PFA Scotland manager of the year award. Goalkeeper Darren Randolph, for the second year running, was named in the PFA Scotland team of the year alongside Shaun Hutchinson, Nicky Law and Michael Higdon, who is hoping to scoop the player of the year award tomorrow night.
Motherwell secured their Europa League place with a 3-1 victory over Celtic on Sunday and they will guarantee second place today at Inverness if they extend their eight-match unbeaten run.
Motherwell have scored 15 goals in five games and McCall admits he has been watching in admiration rather than suffering the anxiety managers normally experience on the touchline. “We have managed to win six and draw two of the last eight,” he said. “We have scored some terrific goals. With some of the play, I wish there were a couple more months of the season. We have got targets, individuals have targets as well. We want to get another three points to beat our tally from last season (62). The lads are enjoying it.
“Managers aren’t supposed to enjoy it, but the 2-2 draw with St Mirren was a great game, the Dundee United game when you have a three-goal cushion and then two-goal, you can enjoy it a bit more. People talk about the SPL dying and maybe that’s because of the crowds – the crowds are certainly going down. But from what I’ve seen, certainly from the lads at Motherwell, the entertainment value and quality has been far better than last season. Some of the goals and play has been terrific to watch – and sometimes you get a little bit relaxed and start enjoying it.
“As a manager, player and football team, the first priority is to win games. But if you can do it putting smiles on people’s faces and make it a product that they want to come back to and bring their friends, I think from a players’ point of view they couldn’t have done any more this season.”
McCall hailed the four Motherwell members of the team of the year and thanked his players and backroom staff for his own nomination, while hailing the dedication of Ojamaa, whose goals against Dundee United and Celtic helped him to the latest award. The 21-year-old striker doubled his season’s tally with the two goals but he leads the way in the SPL assists chart with 13 and he hits the run-in on top form.
Ojamaa said: “We’re on this excellent run and we can’t wait for the next game to take the confidence into the game. It’s great to be a part of it. I’ve not scored many goals this season, maybe I have contributed by setting people up. It’s something I take great pride in if I can be that creative spark in a team to break defences open. But it was good to get goals at key times. We have been pretty consistent all the way through this season but we have really kicked into the next gear in the business end.”
The team is likely to experience several departures in the summer and Ojamaa will make the most of their remaining time together.
The Estonian, who has a year left on his contract, said: “We have a great team spirit and it’s a great group of guys to play alongside. We are definitely looking to enjoy these last three games and what better way to enjoy them than to make sure we win them?”
Inverness midfielder Ross Draper insists there is no panic after St Johnstone and Ross County increased the pressure in the race for a European place. Caley Thistle head the way to join Motherwell and William Hill Scottish Cup finalists Hibernian in the Europa League but their lead in the race for third was cut to one point when they fell to a 1-0 defeat at St Johnstone last weekend.
Draper is confident they can handle the pressure of the three-horse race for Europe. The Englishman said: “We knew at the split we had five tough games. We knew it wasn’t going to be decided over the first two games when we know going to Celtic is tough and St Johnstone are doing well at the moment. We saw the next three games as the games we were expecting to pick points up. We are not panicking that the others have closed the gap.
“Everyone has to play each other and I think you will see in the next few weeks hopefully we can pick up some points and increase that gap. We back ourselves to get over that finishing line.”