MOTHERWELL caretaker manager Stephen Craigan is solely focused on getting his team through the visit of Partick Thistle following the “shock” of Ian Baraclough’s exit.
The former Fir Park skipper was catapulted into the hotseat on Wednesday after Baraclough was sacked on the back of Motherwell’s League Cup defeat by Morton and a run of Premiership results which sees them in tenth spot. And Craigan insists he has had almost no time to consider his own prospects of getting the job on a permanent basis when owner Les Hutchison weighs up the options.
The 38-year-old said: “I don’t think there was any doubt Tuesday was a big disappointment. The team expected to get through and having analysed the game, we should have got through. So Wednesday afternoon was a shock.
“Our friend first and foremost, and our colleague, has lost his job. Within an hour the owner asked me to step up to take the team. For a club that has been very good to me, and I have been good to the club over 18 years, there was no hesitation to take the job to try to help the players out but inside there was a coldness because a good friend had lost his job. But Ian did say to us that the game moves on very quickly and we have to move forward.
“We felt we weren’t far away, and I still think we’re not far away. Small margins and being clinical, making good positive decisions, that’s the difference sometimes in football. The owner has a strong business mind and he obviously felt he needed to make a change.”
Craigan is a natural candidate but he had not even spoken to the squad until yesterday morning.
“There’s so much been going on over the last 48 hours, I haven’t had the chance to think of where we are going and what we can do,” said the club’s under-20s coach. “It’s all been on preparation for the game. The sole focus has to be short term.”
One of his first jobs was to lift the players who were closest to Baraclough.
“Some people take things personally, probably more the older ones who were a bit closer to him,” he said. “Younger players can be more focused on themselves, which is understandable as they are trying to get their own game right. I spoke to two or three players who have been affected. But that will dispel over the next 24 hours. It has to. When a ball comes out and the boots go on, it’s amazing what disappears.”
Stephen McManus is one of the players who took the sacking hard. “We are bitterly disappointed,” the former Celtic and Middlesbrough defender said.
“As a player you take responsibility for a manager losing his job. It’s a horrible thing to be involved in.
“The one thing we have at this club is really good people who care about the club, from the players to other staff behind the scenes. There’s a real togetherness. The best way to get people onside is to win football matches and that’s where we can play our part.”
McManus was not upset by claims from Hutchison that some players should “hang their heads in shame” for costing Baraclough his job.
“We have an owner who is passionate about the club, which is absolutely terrific,” McManus said. “He’s got a knowledge of football himself and he’s quite within his rights.”
Motherwell look likely to name an unchanged squad. Wes Fletcher (ankle) is close to a comeback but may have to wait another week, while Steven Hammell (groin) looks unlikely to be risked and the match comes too soon for Stephen Pearson (knee).
Mathias Pogba could return from a hamstring injury for Partick but Gary Fraser (knock) and long-term casualty Christie Elliott (back) remain out.
Australia under-23 midfielder Ryan Edwards, who joined the club on Thursday, comes into the Thistle squad. He said: “I’m an attacking midfielder, I’m looking to play number 10 or out wide. I’m hoping to add some creativity and goals, which the team needs right now.”