Football Expert & Columnist
Stuart McCall has impressed with Motherwell re-building job, says Andy Walker
But Celtic arrive at Fir Park eyeing record points tally
Last Updated: 16/04/14 2:52pm
Given the amount of experienced players who left Fir Park before a ball was kicked this season, manager Stuart McCall has done another remarkable job in steering his new-look side into the top half of the table.
In all honesty, if you had told Motherwell fans at the start of the season that they would be fighting for a top six spot, I think many of them would have been happy at that.
In comparison to everyone else in the top half, Motherwell's resources and playing budget would suggest they would be competing in the lower half of the table.
The fact that they are still fighting with Aberdeen for a runners-up slot is testimony to the excellent job that both the players and manager have done.
When you consider that regular first eleven players Nicky Law, Chris Humphrey, Michael Higdon, Henrik Ojamma, Tom Hateley and goalkeeper Darren Randolph left in the summer, it has been yet another impressive and successful rebuilding job by McCall and his coaching staff.
Who knows, had things been different it might have been Stuart McCall leading Sheffield Utd out in next month's FA Cup Final?
McCall was approached to take over at Bramall Lane but refused the opportunity to return to management in England in favour of a commitment to Motherwell and it's a decision that has worked out well for both parties.
Having started my own career at Motherwell before earning a move to Celtic, I know from first hand experience that Fir Park provides an excellent platform for many to learn and develop into better players.
The biggest quality Stuart McCall seems to have is his success in building one good team after another. On an annual basis, players leave Motherwell for better contracts or bigger clubs and yet McCall consistently refreshes his team to make them good enough to challenge for second and third place and European football.
That's not easy on a fraction of the budget available in comparison to Aberdeen, Dundee Utd, Hibs or Hearts.
Like most clubs of their size, everything revolves around the playing budget at Motherwell and the lure of finishing second to Celtic is the added revenue that will bring.
The SPFL pay £1.68million to the team finishing behind the champions and £1.44million is on offer for third place, a big difference to a club of that stature, who then compete in the qualifying rounds for Europe.
Another aspect of finishing second as opposed to third, which will be of more interest to the players, is an extra two weeks' rest in the summer. The qualifying ties for the Europa League can be early or mid July, depending on where you finish.
With five games to go against everyone else in the top half, it doesn't come much harder than a game against the champions.
Celtic have been relentless in their pursuit of the title and the biggest compliment to manager Neil Lennon is the consistency he has managed to get out of his players.
With just one solitary league defeat to their name, Celtic's players will be keen to ensure a record points total for the season.