League Two to Champions League... McCall has come a long way in five years (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
League Two to Champions League... Motherwell manager Stuart McCall has come a long way in five years
It was the first Tuesday in September 2007 and Stuart McCall was learning fast about management.
Just a month into his first hot-seat role at City, he was about to get fined £5,000 for fielding a weakened team in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
There were too many changes in the team that got cuffed 5-1 at cup holders Doncaster and the Football League were not impressed. Despite firing off a five-page dossier outlining the reason for every new name, McCall had to cough up – and paid the bill himself.
Five years almost to the day and McCall is currently sitting proudly on top of the pile in Scotland.
It may be just five games in – and overwhelmingly red-hot favourites Celtic have one in hand to overtake – but for this international weekend at least, the Bantams legend can enjoy the privilege of Motherwell being officially the best team north of the border.
A lot has changed for McCall the manager and yet he still vividly recalls that night at the Keepmoat Stadium – and how close he came to receiving a far stiffer punishment.
The bottle kicked was three-quarters full and must have missed (Doncaster manager) Sean O’Driscoll by an inch! It went ‘voosh’ like a missile through the air. I was so embarrassedStuart McCall
Speaking from his Fir Park office while waiting for the under-20s to kick off, McCall chuckles at the memory.
“I thought of that game just the other day,” he said. “I was watching Sky Sports News and they must have been talking about that Swindon goalkeeper (who rowed with Paulo Di Canio after being substituted in the first half).
“The sound was off but they were obviously showing him kicking that water bottle as he walked off. Then they showed a picture of Arsene Wenger doing the same thing at some point.
“It reminded me of that game at Doncaster when I lost it like that.
“I’d told Aingey (centre half Simon Ainge) not to take any chances when he got the ball at the back and just clear it. So we’re 1-0 down, he tries to dribble it away, gets caught and they score again.
“There were a lot of bottles lined up in front the dug-out and I just lashed out at them. I thought they were all empty.
“But the one I kicked was three-quarters full and must have missed (Doncaster manager) Sean O’Driscoll by an inch!
“We were standing 12 yards away and it went ‘voosh’ like a missile through the air. I was so embarrassed.
“I spent the rest of the night apologising. Every time he looked our way, I’d be saying ‘sorry Sean, it was an accident’.
“Imagine the ban I would have got if that bottle had smacked him on the head!”
McCall got hit hard in the pocket, after telling Julian Rhodes that he would fork out for any fine, but still maintains that only Omar Daley had been left out deliberately.
“And I’d do it all again if we got a result like we did at Lincoln three days later. The crowd that night, the way we played, the result – that was one of the most special games for me.”
McCall’s passion for his old club remains undimmed. He saw the clip of Gareth Evans scoring twice at Rotherham and thought “flippin’ heck, the last time he did that was down at Torquay and kept me in a job.”
McCall swapped the JPT for the Champions’ League this season and two games against Greek champions Panathinaikos. Motherwell went straight out as expected and similarly were beaten by Spanish side Levante in the Europa League.
Those jaunts contributed to a hectic nine-game schedule in the opening month but he was proud of how his squad – particularly the younger element – responded.
The financial uncertainty surrounding the TV money without Rangers in the Premier League made for a difficult summer. Motherwell estimate they will have lost £400,000 in gate receipts from the guaranteed 6,000 Gers away fans that turn up twice a season.
McCall’s squad was therefore trimmed to the bone – Simon Ramsden was one of only two additions while ten went out – and early injuries have forced him to blood the rookies.
He said: “We finished with an average age of 20.4 on the pitch at Levante, who’d just drawn 1-1 with Atletico Madrid in La Liga and we saw what they did to Chelsea.
“But it was such a lift for the club because they played with no fear and did themselves proud.
“Then we got back 5am on Friday and had to play the same team Sunday against a big physical Inverness. All the normal defence were missing so the back four were aged 18, 19, 19 and 21 and we won 4-1.
“We’ve won two league games and drawn three which represents a solid start. But it’s a great start considering all the European ones as well.
“Being top is nice for everybody else but it doesn’t mean a thing. If we’d lost last week, I think we’d have dropped to ninth.
“We started really well last year and were second 11 games in splitting the Old Firm. But there’s nothing in this league other than Celtic.
“Aberdeen, with their resources, should be looking at second with Hearts behind them.
“Dundee United and Hibs should be the other ones up there. If we’re being realistic, the top six would be our aim again.”