James McFadden came off the bench to make his first appearance for Motherwell in 20 months and it did not take the 32-year-old long to show the supporters who worship him what they had been missing.
His touch, close control, movement and imagination were a delight and helped transform what was becoming a straightforward rout into a spectacle.
McFadden’s interplay with striker Scott McDonald, in particular, was a delight. McFadden’s contract at Fir Park runs out at the end of this month and there is talk of him making an Atlantic crossing to sign for Philadelphia Union, but the former Celtic star would prefer him to extend his stay at his spiritual home.
“The guy’s a hero here and an absolute pleasure to play alongside,” he said. “In the couple of months that he’s been here he’s got a lot fitter and I think that’s probably made the decision for the manager to pick him because he’s watching Faddy day in and day out.
“He sees how much sharper he’s become over that time. He’s just a class player and, if it wasn’t for injuries, he’d still be playing at a much higher level.
“Obviously, he has other avenues he wants to explore but, if they don’t come off, then I’m hoping that the performances he puts in will convince the club to keep him here.
“I think that you could see instantaneously that we’re on the same wavelength. As soon as he came on you could tell the level that he’s played at. We all enjoy playing with him.”
Early goals by Louis Moult and McDonald removed the fear factor from the home side and allowed them to spray the ball around with confidence. Marvin Johnson added a third and the impressive Stephen Pearson took his tally for the season to five with a double.
But it was McFadden’s contribution which provided the main talking point in Motherwell’s watering holes.
Manager Mark McGhee spoke about using him in the club’s Premiership games this month – beginning with the visit to Tynecastle on Saturday – and would surely relish the prospect of working with him for the remainder of the current campaign.
Starstruck Cove Rangers striker Daryl Nicol was as delighted by McFadden’s appearance as any home supporter inside Fir Park. “James was my Scotland idol when I was a boy,” he said. “Just to be on the same pitch as him was unbelievable, a dream come true.”
Certainly, McDonald believes that their prospects of marking the silver anniversary of their last Scottish Cup win by lifting the famous old trophy again would be enhanced by McFadden remaining with his first senior club.
“I’m hoping for a decent draw but it doesn’t really matter who we get because you have to play the best at some time if you want to win it,” said McDonald. “So, whether it’s now or later on, bring it on.”