Stephen Robinson backs Motherwell's '˜Millwall identity'

No-one likes them, they don't care. Except they do, really. Motherwell manager Steve Robinson may have, by his own admission, rebuilt the Lanarkshire club using, as his template, Championship contenders Millwall, but he would still appreciate a little love from the pundits.
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson. Picture: SNSMotherwell manager Stephen Robinson. Picture: SNS
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson. Picture: SNS

The south-east London outfit is feared and loathed in equal measure. Home matches at the New Den are an ordeal for visiting players and supporters alike, as Robinson discovered during his playing career.

His experiences there left a lasting impression and he has attempted to recreate the extremely combative approach Millwall are notorious for whenever and wherever Motherwell play.

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Tomorrow at Hampden they will hope to subdue Aberdeen in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup and he wants his players to get in the faces of the favourites. Indeed, he wants opponents to dread matches against Motherwell.

Even so, the Irishman believes his side don’t receive the plaudits they deserve for the more stylish aspects of their game.

“No we don’t but we’re not too bothered about that,” he said. “We study things and we’ve created a reputation for ourselves. We’re physical and we play with a high tempo and lots of energy but we do it well within the rules.

“However, if people are thinking that way about us then they’re not overly comfortable coming up against us, which means once we’ve won that battle we can concentrate on playing football.

“We’ve done that on many occasions but I’m not the type of manager who’s going to bleat about how we want to be recognised for our ability – we’ve created an identity for ourselves.

“I’m aware that it needs to be refined and we’ll need to add to that if we’re to keep progressing but we also have to be careful we don’t change what’s made us relatively successful.

“When I was a player I’d used the phrase “They’re a horrible team to play against” about certain teams you just hated facing.

“You’d go to Millwall away and the whole environment was horrible. Their fans made it a tough afternoon and the players replicated that 
attitude. That’s what we’ve tried to recreate here.

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“We’ve put a lot of pace into the team as well as young players with passion, who will make mistakes and take the wrong option at times but they’re honest mistakes; there’s a real drive and determination here.

“For anyone watching us, that makes for quite an exciting game because we don’t sit back – we go head-to-head with opponents and try to outrun them, outfight them and then outplay them. In that order.

“We have a way to do that – sometimes we do it better than others - and it’s my job to finesse that.”

This will be Motherwell’s third appearance at the national stadium and Robinson is hoping that familiarity will breed contentment after they froze in losing the BetFred Cup final 2-0 to Celtic in November.

“We’ve got quite an inexperienced group of players, but they’ve come from lower-league football and they’re hungry,” he said.

“They’re perhaps used to playing in front of only 1500 people so they will only get better after having been on that stage against Rangers and Celtic. There was a nervousness about us in the final against Celtic and you just hope they’ve learned from that experience.

“You have the high of beating Rangers in the semi and then the low of losing to Celtic; I know which feeling I want to go away with. We have to make sure we have that this weekend and it’s something I’ve been reminding the players about.

“They know what they have to do to win. We’ve had four close games against Aberdeen and we’ve pointed out the key areas where we feel we lost the two games.

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“We aim to put that right. If we do the simple things well then we’ll have the opportunity of having the same feeling we did against Rangers.”

Motherwell will be without suspended club captain Carl McHugh, while centre-back Peter Hartley and forward Craig Tanner miss out through injury. Robinson believes their absence is as damaging as Aberdeen losing banned trio Graeme Shinnie, Kenny McLean and Shay Logan.