Stuart Kettlewell marks a year in charge of Motherwell today – and insists the Steelmen are stronger now than when he was flung into the Fir Park hotseat. The Well boss may still be reeling from Friday’s Scottish Cup exit to Championship side Morton which ironically mirrored the circumstances of when he replaced Stevie Hammell initially on an interim basis after a cup defeat to second tier Raith.
But with five more points on the board – 25 – from the same number of Premiership games – 24 – and a streamlined squad after some big departures, Kettlewell is convinced his side are in a better place – with room for even more improvement.
He said: “I do because when I inherited the team last year we were everyone’s cannon fodder and favourites for relegation. There was a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the place. From our league placing to goals scored, goals conceded, points amassed, all the bits that have happened in between like players moving on for compensation, players sold for money, the levels some of the individuals are playing at now.. I’d say it’s all improved.
“Obviously there are ups and downs in there. Last week was symptomatic of it. The draw against a really good Kilmarnock side who have invested heavily in their squad and I thought we were a better side than them on the day.
“Then we blow Ross County out the water and there’s been significant investment in their squad as well, far more than we can boast. But then Friday .. you see the highs and lows of football in six days. We have to learn from that and get better.
“We want to finish as high as we can in the league. We’re going to meet some challenges but it’s important we are all in it together. Through the tough spells my favourite thing in the year has been the unity. Through the good times and the bad.
« I’ve seen it at football clubs where people point the finger and everyone tends to believe they were good and it was other people that let us down. The manager throws the players under the bus, the players throw the manager under the bus.
« We were all poor as a group on Friday. I think the quicker you realise that and hold your hands up to it, the quicker you can move on. We always bounce back. That’s not a guarantee, but we’ll prepare as well as we can to face Aberdeen. They’ve changed their manager, they’ll be positive in how things are and see that bit of change day to day with a different voice. We’ll be as well equipped as we can possibly be. »
Tomorrow’s clash with Aberdeen will pit the 39-year-old against a manager almost twice his age as he goes toe-to-toe with Neil Warnock for the first time.
A win at Pittodrie would move Well three points clear of the Dons. And Kettlewell said: « I’m one year as the Motherwell manager, I believe he’s been involved as a manager for 40 years.
« He’s certainly doing no bad! I don’t know if I’ll still be doing that when I’m in my 70s. The bit I understand is the undying love for the game. If you’re fortunate like Neil at his age to still be as fit and healthy and have that level of energy and enthusiasm that he has, then I admire it so much.
« Would I like to still be a manager at his age? I hope my wife doesn’t read this, but yes I absolutely would. I love the game and you’ll never take that out of someone.
« I’m so passionate about the game. I’m at games virtually every other night. I watch football from my kids, to the academy, to other league games. Sometimes people think that passion should almost guarantee you a job like this that’s quite prestigious. I don’t. But to be that long in management, he quite clearly loves it.
« When you see him in this job in front of the cameras and the public, he brings a smile to people’s faces. There’s undoubtedly respect for the longevity and success he’s had but you don’t get that success and longevity in football if you’re just wanting to crack jokes and make people smile.
« That’s an element of what he does, but he’s clearly a very serious football man and has a brilliant knowledge of the game.
« If you’re constantly getting teams promoted, that’s not luck. People might say one or two achievements have been lucky with a good group of players or a bit of finance, but I think his entire record suggests he’s a very serious football man that knows the game inside out. »