Photograph courtesy of Graham Alexander and Motherwell Football Club
We are speaking a matter of days after your Motherwell side became only the third side this season to take points from Rangers in the Scottish Premiership. How do you assess the match now after a few days to reflect upon it?
I was very happy with our first half performance in particular. We pressed hard, played well when we had the ball and were aggressive in our play to ensure we didn’t make it easy for Rangers.
We’ve been working hard tactically with the squad since we arrived to try and get our ideas across to the players without overloading them. We were able to have five really good training sessions with the whole squad focused on what we want from them off the ball as well as what we want from them when they have the ball also.
Watching our first half against Rangers was pleasing in that respect as that’s exactly what we wanted from the players. We didn’t allow Rangers to have a shot in target, had three on target ourselves and went one-nil up with a fantastic team goal.
The second half was more difficult for us and we probably went away from what we wanted to do by concentrating on the result rather than on our performance compared to what we were doing in the first half.
That’s something that people may say is understandable considering how we were playing against. However, from the work that the players put in on the training ground what really delighted me the most was how they took on the advice that my staff and I gave them and showed that they can do it down to a tee against the best side in Scottish football this season.
Before we talk about your vision for Motherwell and how you are settling in Scotland so far, I’d like to discuss your experience at Salford. What have you learned from your two seasons working with the club?
The main thing that I learned was that things happen in football that you can’t control. I’ve got no regrets at all about taking the job or how I managed the club during my time there. We were successful and I wouldn’t go back and change things. I haven’t got a negative thing to say about Salford as I had a great time there.
Ultimately within football people within a club can have different ideas and that can lead to a parting of ways. That’s what happened with Salford and I look back with my head held high because we had success at the football club and enjoyed my time there.
Upon leaving Salford, I could have returned to management within a week but I wanted a fresh challenge and that has lead me to Motherwell.
I am delighted to be here and I take pride in the fact that my staff and I have always left our previous clubs (Fleetwood, Scunthorpe and Salford) in better shape than we inherited them in. That’s how we will continue to work because we have always added value to the football clubs that we’ve worked at and that’s exactly what we want to bring to Motherwell.
You represented Scotland on 40 occasions. You have knowledge of Scottish football and you mentioned wanting a fresh challenge. How does it feel to have that challenge in the Scottish Premiership at Fir Park?
Representing Scotland was a great privilege and I’ve experienced playing with so many quality players that played their domestic football in Scotland. I’ve always had a good knowledge of Scottish football in that regard even though I didn’t have the opportunity to experience the domestic game up here as a player.
When I left Salford, I felt that I needed a new challenge and I had an open mind about it. I had three offers to return to the game before Christmas to work again in England which I turned down. I was honoured to be asked by the clubs in question and I was flattered that they wanted me to become their manager but I just felt that a fresh start would be perfect for me.
That fresh start is at Motherwell and I’m delighted that it is because the club is very well respected and I’m excited to manage at different grounds and test myself against different managers and teams.
With my background as a Scotland player, the chance to move up here and manage in the Scottish game seemed like a natural progression for me. The challenge excites me and so many people have been in touch to wish me well which means a lot and I really wanted to come here.
You’ve brought Chris Lucketti to the club with you whom you have a very strong working relationship with. In addition to Chris, you have Keith Lasley on your coaching staff.
How crucial is it to have someone of Keith’s experience with you because he has a great affiliation to Motherwell as a player and a coach?
When myself and Chris left Salford we took time to take stock of what we had achieved and to reflect on our coaching experiences together. We did a lot of analysis and considered the types of players we were able to get the best out of and things of that regard. Although, another aspect of our journey we reflected on was our belief that at Salford we could have benefited from a fresh voice on the staff from another coach.
We didn’t have it at Fleetwood as it was just the goalkeeping coach, Chris and I looking after the first team. That’s how it was at Salford as well.
Whereas at Scunthorpe, we inherited coaching staff who we worked with during our time at the club and really enjoyed being able to observe their work and delegate to them without losing control of and input of what I wanted to do.
So to have Keith Lasley on my staff is a great benefit to me as a manager. I know of his history as a footballer at the club and in coaching too. He is highly regarded by everyone at the club. I also played with Maurice Ross with Scotland so I know Maurice and it’s great to see him again. Craig Hinchcliffe is also crucial as our goalkeeping coach too.
Having a coaching staff like that will help me a lot because I’ve been full on in these first few weeks to the players and coaching staff alike to ensure that everyone is aware of what I was from them.
From there we’ve delegated key responsibilities throughout our coaching staff and their support and experience is of great value to me and the club. Maurice has great ideas on the game and Keith knows the Scottish game inside out so they were a great support to me for my first game against St Mirren as I had only been at the club for a day.
Keith’s knowledge of the game is crucial for me because I like working with good people who are knowledge and every coach at the club has shown me that’s exactly what they are like.
It’s been an encouraging start to life at the club with the performances against St Mirren and Rangers. What are you hoping to achieve between now and the summer?
Coming in with the transfer window open is always a challenge and it’s something I’ve never done before. In my three previous jobs, I took over pre or post transfer window so you have a settled ahead and you just get on with things whereas this has been slightly different.
There has been a lot of speculation regarding some of our players and I can understand why as I can see the talent of this squad straight away. Of course, we have to focus on how we can improve our league position straight away which is the main aim.
Players are always available in January but I also want to give the players who are in the building an opportunity to prove themselves. Just because the side weren’t exactly were they wanted to be in the league doesn’t mean that they’re not a good group and that’s what we’ve found.
There were a couple of areas we want to strengthen and Steven Lawless coming in gives us one of those options but it’s been different coming in at this time. Chris and I have worked long days and nights to ensure we are right up to speed with everything at the club.
Our targets this season are to pick up enough wins to move forward towards were we want to be with the squad that we have along with one or two additions. As a staff we are working tirelessly together as are the team behind the scenes at the club.
The squad are a great group and everyone in and around the club has been amazing with us. We’ve been welcome from day one and everyone is on the same page which has it made our first few weeks really pleasing from a professional perspective and a personal one too.
Last but not least, what message would you like to give the Motherwell fans who can’t be in the stadium supporting you and the side at this moment?
I’ve always established a strong relationship with the supporters of all the clubs that I’ve managed. I want to do the same here and really get to know the Motherwell fans but unfortunately due to the current pandemic I’ve not been able to meet many of the supporters yet.
A few fans actually turned up to the ground at 11pm as I was in signing my contract which sums up how passionate they are about the club. It was great to see them and have a socially distanced conversation with them to thank them for the support.
Hopefully, I can meet the fans very soon when it is safe to do so. Our first half against Rangers on Sunday showcases exactly what I want our team to be.
We want to be a positive side and a team that works as hard as we can to push the boundaries of football and improve upon the clubs past successes. I want the fans to be proud of our team and see a team that shares the same values as them. We produced that with our bravery, courage and skill at the weekend and that’s what we want to showcase to them on a consistent basis. The first half of the Rangers match is a template of what we want to be as a team. Chris and I have been able to do that with our previous clubs and that’s exactly what we plan to bring to Motherwell.