Stuart McCall backs new Motherwell intake to gel

STUART McCall is confident Motherwell's young players can supplement his squad in the new Clydesdale Bank Premier League season following more cuts in numbers at Fir Park this summer.

Motherwell have lost the likes of Gavin Gunning, Francis Jeffers, Maurice Ross, Steve Jones and John Sutton with only Michael Higdon and Nicky Law coming in.

However, McCall remains optimistic Motherwell can again mount a top-six challenge this season, which begins at home to Inverness this afternoon in one of only two SPL matches this weekend that holds down a traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off slot.

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The likes of left-back Jordan Halsman, midfielder Jamie Pollock and front players Steven Lawless, Bob McHugh and Gary Smith have all been loaned out in recent seasons and McCall feels they are ready to step in should his first XI need help.

"I said last season we had a good quality squad although it lacked strength in depth," McCall said. "This season we have lost more players than we've gained so we are going to have to be lucky with injuries.

"But I think the squad is possibly better than last season. The younger lads are a year older, naturally, and I think they're ready to step up.

"Rather than me going out looking for loan lads from England, let's give the lads here a chance.

"They showed in parts at the end of last season in reserve games that they can do it, they have started pre-season well.

"Hopefully they can step up to the mark and I'm sure one or two of them can do that. Even if one of them steps up and becomes a regular, it will be good."

McHugh is perhaps best placed to challenge for a place having recovered from the broken wrist suffered in his first day's training with Partick Thistle in January.

The 20-year-old made his debut in 2008 and he has since made 33 first-team appearances, although all but three came off the bench.

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McCall said: "I keep saying they are young boys, I mean they are 20, 21, lads who should be forcing their way in. We've got Bob McHugh, Gary Smith and Steven Lawless in the striking department.

"We lost Maurice Ross and Gavin Gunning from the defensive area so we certainly need one in to push the rest of the lads."

McCall dismissed reports that Mark Reynolds could return on loan from Sheffield Wednesday, calling any such deal "financially just not viable".

But he retains at least some hope of signing Gunning from Blackburn following his successful loan spell. There are still bits of wheeling and dealing," he said. "We would have liked to have got Gavin in a couple of weeks ago, but financial implications mean that can't happen.

"Whether we do that in the next couple of weeks, we'll see.

"But we're on the lookout for other players. A lot of the lads are back now in England playing so we can have a look at the reserve games and the lads coming through."

Meanwhile, Greg Tansey believes he can deliver the goals that will help drive Inverness on to even more success in the SPL this season.

The attacking midfielder was Caley Thistle manager Terry Butcher's first summer signing when he was recruited from Stockport in June.

The 22-year-old has already found the back of the net in pre-season friendlies and is confident in his ability to weigh in with more goals when the action begins for real against Motherwell this afternoon.

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He said: "I'm not quite where I want to be yet and I'm looking forward to the season starting and hopefully more goals will come in the season.

"I feel like I can pick up some goals and help the team have an impact on the league and I think I'll do well."

Tansey says he is more than ready for life in the SPL and, having followed the Scottish top-flight on television, believes there is no reason why Inverness cannot at least emulate last season's seventh-place finish.

He said: "The side did really well last season and it's our job to kick on now and try to do as well, if not better. I know the SPL quite well, I've watched a lot of the coverage on Sky.

"I'll be playing those teams now and I'm looking forward to testing myself against those teams.

"The Celtic and Rangers games are massive games but every game throughout the season is a massive game. We feel confident that if we take each game as it comes, be positive and get at teams, we will do well."

Butcher has been vocal about his opposition to the early start date to the season, but Tansey says the players are happy to get the new campaign under way.

He said: "You've just got to get on with it.

"If they (the SPL) say it's an early start, you just have to work around it and deal with it. All the lads are just raring for the season to start now."