HE sobering defeat to local rivals Hamilton on Sunday may have taken some of the fizz out of the New Year celebrations for Motherwell supporters, but Stephen Robinson is trying to ensure there is cause for champagne corks to be popping come the end of the season at Fir Park.
After a sterling 2019 for the club, in which only Celtic and Rangers accrued more points than the Steelmen, Robinson’s men sit in third place in the table with fans dreaming of European football making a return to Lanarkshire.
As is traditional at this time of year, Robinson has been reflecting on his tenure to this point, and he has warned that the real hard work starts now to not only consolidate Motherwell’s place in the higher reaches of the Premiership, but to continue moving the club forward both on and off the pitch.
“Motherwell have given me time and they have worked with me over my time here,” Robinson said. “We were second bottom when I came into the job and we managed to stay in the league. We gave them a lot of success in my first full season here by reaching two cup finals.
“The start of the second year was harder, before we changed things around and got moving again and we are doing okay this season. I am lucky we have people here with realism, they don’t live in fantasy land.
“When I first arrived, we had a lot of ageing players and a lot of them were all club legends. That made it a tough decision to move some of them on. We blooded a lot of young players in my time here, made a lot of money in terms of transfers and ultimately managed to clear the debts.
“The way I see it though is the hard work starts now. No one can rest on their laurels. The board are driven, so are the Well Society as are the staff and myself. Now is the time if we sell someone, get to the top six, or have another cup run, then we can reinvest that into the club.
“The structure, training ground and academy needs improved, and we are still doing okay within that. I always
Tthink ‘what could we do if we keep pushing?’ That’s the aim.”
For now, Robinson’s main focus is to get his players back what they do best, after feeling they fell short of the standards they have set themselves in terms of the ‘basics’ against Hamilton. Guarding against complacency, and supporters getting carried away, will be two of Robinson’s main goals for the start of 2020.
“It is difficult to manage expectations,” he said. “I hear people talking about looking out their passports and things, but we are still early in the season. I would love that to happen but my goal is to try and improve the players every day and nothing else.
“I am not even looking at Europe, I will just keep looking at the four game blocks and go from there. We will do the same again this month as we have so far this season and try to build on it.
“We can’t afford to get carried away with where we are. I spoke to a Championship manager in
England recently and they said when you start getting a bit of success you stop doing the things that made you successful. We have to make sure we keep working on small targets and keep doing the right things to ultimately bring us success.
“If you are a boy that can run, then keep running. Don’t start coming towards the ball. If you are a dribbler, don’t think you are a tackler, do what you are good at and do it even better.”
Motherwell depart for a warm weather training camp to Tenerife on Tuesday, and Robinson is hoping that some of his injured players can use the trip to step up their comeback bids.
“Charles Dunne and David Turnbull are making good progress,” he said. “They will come with us on the winter break to step things up. I am hoping Charles will be fit for the first game after the break [against Dundee in the Scottish Cup] but we won’t put a timescale on David. We will make sure he is 100-per-cent right.”
Stephen Robinson insists Motherwell will continue to remain calm