Motherwell FC 2020-21 season review part two: Graham Alexander well up to task of keeping 'Well in Premiership
2020 could hardly have ended in a more dramatic fashion for Motherwell FC.
After nine games without a win, gaffer Stephen Robinson resigned on Hogmanay after a 2-0 home defeat by Kilmarnock left the Steelmen third bottom of the Scottish Premiership and in a major fight to avoid relegation.
Robbo’s tenure had been successful overall though, qualifying for both national cup finals in the 2017-28 campaign and finishing third in the coronavirus-shortened league campaign of 2019-20.
The popular Northern Irishman said after his resignation: "I now feel it is the time for someone new to take the club forward as I feel I have taken it as far as I can.
"I will take a short break before looking at new challenges ahead, but my family and I will forever be Motherwell fans."
Things didn’t start fantastically in the New Year though, with interim manager Keith Lasley taking charge of a heavy 3-0 derby defeat at Hamilton Accies, with goalkeeper Aaron Chapman producing a poor display where he was at fault for the first two goals and made other mistakes which could have cost a couple more.
Chapman was never seen in a Motherwell jersey again after a loss which put ’Well below Accies in the table, down to 11th spot and only above bottom club Ross County on goal difference.
At that point, surely all ’Well fans would have merely accepted a 10th place finish and survival in the top flight, status which the club had held since way back in 1985.
But their fortunes were then transformed with the arrival of Graham Alexander, who was announced as the new gaffer – assisted by Chris Lucketti – on January 7.
With goalkeeper Liam Kelly having arrived on loan from QPR two days earlier as a welcome replacement for Chapman, Alexander started solidly with a 1-1 draw at St Mirren – which ’Well would have won but for a bizarre late Saints penalty award – and another 1-1 home stalemate against Rangers who would end the season as runaway champions.
Alexander’s business in the January transfer window had its ups and downs but the arrival of Jordan Roberts on loan from Hearts was key as the forward scored some vital goals during his short spell at Fir Park.
The less said about fellow loanees Harry Smith and Eddie Malone the better, although at times young centre half Tyler Magloire played his part in stabilising the backline.
Midfielders Steven Lawless and Sam Foley came in on permanent deals from Burton Albion and St Mirren respectively, with Lawless contracted until 2022 and Foley released at the end of the season.
Under Alexander, the players generally appeared to be giving more than under the previous regime, with the new boss overseeing a fine run which saw him ranked third behind only Rangers and Celtic in terms of league points won since he took charge.
Although the Scottish Cup quarter-final penalty shootout defeat at Hibs was agony after fighting back to draw 2-2 with two late goals, Alexander’s appointment was successful and ’Well comfortably stayed up by finishing eighth on 45 points.
With several key men – including Allan Campbell, Declan Gallagher, Chris Long and Liam Kelly unless ’Well can negotiate another loan deal from QPR) – departing this summer, Alexander has a massive job on his hands to keep the Steelmen safe again next term.
Newly promoted Hearts and Dundee both look like being tougher nuts to crack than departed pair Hamilton and Kilmarnock, but with Alexander’s contacts down south hopes are high among the ’Well faithful that he can make the right signings.