BEFORE Motherwell discover the right man to fix their problems on the park they need to find some cohesion off it, as Craig Cairns discovers.
With over 50 applicants from 20 different countries there has been a lot of speculation regarding the Motherwell managerial position, but before a new man is installed in the dugout the club still have the issue of future ownership to resolve.
There are currently two parties interested in assuming control: the Well Society, who until recently looked set to acquire the shares of former chairman John Boyle – who owns around 75 per cent of the club - and a London-based, South American consortium, which has just recently signalled its interest.
The Well Society attempted to raise the seven-figure sum with the hope of providing some financial stability for the club as well as ensuring the purchase. A target of £800,000 was set initially back in May but the poor start to the season, including early exits from the Europa League and League Cup, have hindered the club financially and have contributed to a six-figure deficit for the previous twelve months. This is on top of the reported losses of £780,000 between 2011 and 2013.
“Between the two you would feel safer with local people and fans of the club than some shadowy people from the other end of the world whose intentions we don’t know,” said Christopher Hutton, Treasurer of the Central branch of the Motherwell Supporters Club.
“In a perfect world, if it all worked out well, you would rather have it in your own hands. It’s whether that model is going to work for us, that is the concern at the moment.
“If we keep making the losses we have made over the last few years, even having that surplus of half a million pounds or one-and-a-half million pounds, while losing three or four hundred thousand every year, how sustainable is that over that period of time?”
There’s also the issue of funding from the supporters. As well as the sustainability of such a model there are also concerns about whether fans have the means to invest more money having already bought tickets and merchandise. Scottish football is expensive enough, and some fans rightly want watertight assurances they won’t throwing their money into a black hole.
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“I think the concern is just how many fans have paid their money,” added Hutton, “because if three or four thousand people had put in the amount of money they were asked then we would have raised the money months ago, John Boyle would happily have signed his shares over and we’d be sitting pretty.
“That’s the concern of people that I’ve spoken to who haven’t invested in it, they just don’t see it as a long-term option, to be honest.
“I’m also a wee bit funny about [asking supporters for money] because it is difficult in this day and age to harangue people for three hundred pounds or a thousand pounds after they are paying for season tickets and everything else.”
In the meantime the shortfall in the Well Society’s bid does look like it’s going to be covered by some unnamed investors, with potential soft loans in place to push the deal through. Of course, it still remains in the hands of Boyle and the board, though there does appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
“There is a meeting [tomorrow] night, which is partly to get a new chairman because the old chairman had to stand down, that seems to be the first point that we have to deal with,” added Hutton. “I think they’ll quickly do that and get on to the more serious matter in hand which is saying yes or no to [the Well Society] actually taking over.”
While the preference amongst the fans appears to be for local ownership, the same logic does not apply to the vacant managerial position.
The Motherwell support is now well-accustomed to expect the unexpected in terms of managerial appointments as their board regularly overlook obvious candidates and bookies’ favourties to select someone more unpredictable.
The likes of Jim Gannon, Mark McGhee, Craig Brown and, of course, Stuart McCall have been appointed in recent years. These were all, certainly at the time, left field choices, and the fans don’t expect anything different to occur this time around.
“I think the fans feel quite happy for it to be a left-field appointment if the board go and do their interviews and find someone who speaks well, has the right idea and puts it forward.
“We are quite happy to go with somebody a wee bit different, somebody with connections down south to get those loan signings that we’ve done really well from over the past few years.
“There isn’t a groundswell of opinion of ‘We want him’ it’s more we want that type of man and we don’t want the usual suspects that pop up on Sportscene on Sunday night and who put it about waiting for a job to come.
”It needs to be someone who can find players, bring them on and hopefully sell them, which is something Stuart McCall didn’t do. He brought them in and moved them on but they all left for nothing and that’s where we never got a cash-flow going through that.”
Another area that can be improved on from the tenure of McCall is in the cup competitions - something cited by the former manager in the wake of his resignation. For now, caretaker manager Kenny Black is the man tasked with negotiating a place in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup when they take on Dundee United this Saturday. After all, a sustained cup run doesn’t just impact positivity on the field.
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