TELLING players that they can earn a lucrative move to India by producing a match-winning performance in a Premiership relegation duel is an unusual motivational tool but one which Motherwell manager Ian Baraclough will use when it comes to his team talk prior to kick-off against St Mirren at Fir Park.
The two bottom teams in the top tier meet tonight but a home win will almost certainly spell the end of a nine-year spell in the elite division for the Paisley club, who would then be 10 points adrift with only six fixtures remaining.
Baraclough has already signed a player, Stephen Pearson, from Kerala Blasters in the Indian Premier League but he believes that the possibility of a move to more exotic climes could fire up his charges in a match which is being broadcast live by BT Sport.
“The fact that the game is on TV shouldn’t give the players an extra lift because I believe every game should be treated in the same way,” he said.
“But I enjoy the night games and being under the floodlights and, when we are on TV, I always tell the lads to go out there and showcase themselves because you don’t know who’ll be watching. People tune in from all over the world now and there could be someone in the USA, Australia or Asia watching them.
“Football is a truly global sport now so players need to put themselves out there within the right team framework because you never know where that might get you.”
Football is a truly global sport now so players need to put themselves out thereIan Baraclough
Motherwell have kept on the coat-tails of third-bottom Ross County by taking 10 points from their last five outings and much of that improvement can be traced to the signing of another player who has experienced football in a different continent.
The Book of Introverted Australian Sportsmen is likely to be about as short as The World’s Most Popular Bankers or Simon Cowell’s Love of Music, but Scott McDonald has brought the thunder from Down Under and breathed fire into a squad which had been cowed by fear and failure.
The former Celtic and Middlesbrough striker returned to Fir Park in February and older colleagues such as Keith Lasley and Steven Hammell soon discovered that age has not mellowed the 31-year-old, who tends to be vocal when it comes to the shortcomings of others.
“I needed that in the dressing room,” Baraclough admitted. “He can get on people’s nerves at times, including me and the staff, but he’s one who wants to pass things on and make sure that standards are right.
“At times he can even have a niggle at himself so it’s just about us making sure he goes about it in the right way.
“He’s been very good because it was a quiet dressing room when I came into it and I needed the senior boys to manage the dressing-room as well as me. You can see that he and Stephen Pearson still want to achieve and get better. That rubs off on the younger ones because they see model professionals.
“They only want the best and they demand the same high standards as myself and the coaching staff. Eventually, that has to seep in and we’re now getting the fruits of the labour.”
Whatever the outcome of tonight’s matches, Baraclough refuses to accept that relegation is a three-horse race.
“Fair play to Partick Thistle because they’ve picked up a few results recently but I’d say that ourselves, them and Ross County are the ones fighting for their lives and we’ve all had results,” he said.
“St Mirren have become a bit detached but a win against us could claw them back into it because they have some characters in their dressing room who won’t allow them to give up.
“I don’t think any of the teams immediately above us can take anything for granted. I spoke to Kilmarnock’s Gary Locke after Saturday’s game [which Motherwell won 2-1] and he still has one eye on what’s below them.
“You can’t be too comfortable in this league, I’ve found. It only takes a few results strung together, positive or negative, and you can find yourselves in or out of trouble. We want to drag a few more clubs into it.”
Centre-back Louis Laing was thrown in at the deep end when he arrived from Nottingham Forest on loan in January but the 22-year-old has already endured a losing battle against the drop and claims that there is no comparison between that and what he is currently experiencing in Lanarkshire.
“I was at Wycombe when they were in League One and got relegated but the situation at Wycombe was different to here,” he said. “Everyone was down and it was always in the back of your mind that Wycombe would be relegated.
“Here it’s the complete opposite: everyone is so positive, the structure is right and the staff are all helping us to achieve what we want.
“I don’t want to say that I have no doubt in my mind that we will stay up because that might jinx us. But I do have faith in what we’re doing.
“We have Stephen McManus, Keith Lasley and Scott [McDonald], who are strong voices and experienced players, but we’re all positive together.”
Gary Teale insists his fledgling managerial career will not be snuffed out if St Mirren lose their fight for top-tier survival.
The caretaker Buddies boss was put in temporary charge when Tommy Craig was axed in December. He was then told he could keep the reins until the end of the season and the ex-Scotland winger is now desperate to land the job full time.
But Teale is well aware his long-term employment prospects are being done few favours by recent results. Friday night’s 2-0 defeat to Celtic was their fifth loss in six matches and leaves them seven points adrift at the foot of the table.
But even if they crash again against Motherwell and St Mirren go on to lose the top-flight place they have held for the last nine years, the 36-year-old insists he should be given the chance to start the rebuilding job.
Teale said: “Could an older, more experienced manager coming into the situation I inherited have turned it around? They might have done.
“But when you lost your best player in January – like we did with Kenny McLean – and you are unable to replace them, that is a big blow.
“So I wouldn’t look on it as though my record here will have a negative impact on my hopes of having a long managerial career.
“I think I can go and build on the experiences I have had this year and take the club forward, whether it be in the SPL or the Championship.”
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