‘Mohsni has previous . . . it wasn’t much of a surprise’
Ainsworth reveals defender has reputation in England for being ‘bit of a character’
LET it never be said that Bilel Mohsni doesn’t know how to make an impression, sometimes quite literally. Having made a visible impact on Lee Erwin, the former Motherwell forward who the then Rangers defender rounded upon following a barge in the back at the end of last month’s dramatic SPFL Premiership play-off finale, it seems Mohsni has also left a lasting mark on others who have had the fortune, or perhaps that should be misfortune, to have been on the same pitch as him.
In the case of Lionel Ainsworth, the Motherwell winger was less than surprised when all hell broke loose in the immediate aftermath of his team’s 6-1 aggregate win. Having come across Mohsni during a whistle-stop tour of the leagues in England, he is well aware of the traits that make the Tunisian internationalist known, as he politely put it, as “a bit of a character” – a description generally reserved for the dressing-room clown who discreetly slips a macaroni pie into your winkle pickers when your back is turned.
Ainsworth watched from close quarters as his team-mate’s petty act of petulance earned him a boot up the back side and a cut on the chin for his trouble. It was a sad end to what was a glorious moment for the Lanarkshire side, who defied the odds and expectation to cling to their top-flight status. And despite both of the main protagonists having left their respective clubs – Erwin is now at Leeds United and Mohsni is, well, somewhere else – the experience of the ugly scenes still lingers on in the mind of all who witnessed it.
“He has got previous,” said Ainsworth who was given a two-match ban for his involvement in the fall-out from the fracas. “I have played against him many times down south and I also have family who worked with him at Southend. He has so much previous it’s ridiculous. It didn’t surprise me something like that happened.
“A family member was the strength and conditioning coach with him down there. It’s not just through him that I knew about Mohsni; it’s through other players down south as well. I know a lot of things he has supposedly done and he’s a bit of a character.
“It wasn’t a surprise. It was players out of contract and sore losers. The best team won, that’s how it was.
“His ban could have been even longer. You can choose how you react – that’s what my missus always tells me anyway.”
The bust-up at the end of the match last month may still be fresh in Ainsworth’s memory, but so too is the feeling of adrenaline pumping through his system after Motherwell stunned Rangers over two legs.
It was a captivating couple of games that the former Rotherham man more than played his part in. He netted the third goal in Motherwell’s 3-1 first-leg victory at Ibrox before grabbing the second in the 3-0 Fir Park return three days later.
It was an experience that only served to underline to the 27-year-old that the Lanarkshire club is the place for him. Ainsworth has endured a bit of a nomadic lifestyle during a meandering career that has taken him to 12 English
I played against him many times, have family who worked with him at Southend and have heard from other players about things he has supposedly done
clubs in the pursuit of footballing contentment. Having just signed a new two-year deal at Fir Park, the man who first joined Motherwell in 2014 seems to have finally found a place where he belongs.
“I’m very happy with the deal. I didn’t want to leave Motherwell, I had other options,” said Ainsworth, who became a father in April with the birth of his daughter Sienna Lily. “My family are happy up here and have enjoyed Scotland the last two years. Last season was a disappointment, although the way it ended was brilliant. This year we are looking forward and hopefully we will have a good season.
“When I signed for Stuart McCall, the deal was sealed when I looked around the club and saw the people I would be working with. It was brilliant. I could have signed a two-year deal last year but only took the one so I knew I had to work hard for the two years I’ve now been given. I’m appreciative and so thankful and know I have to keep working because I want another two years and another two years. I’m at an age now where I’m coming into my stride.”
Ainsworth is not the only familiar face to sign up at Motherwell for next season. Six years on from when he first left for Bristol City, striker David Clarkson has put pen to paper on a one-year contract with the option of a second that sees him return to the club that launched his career.
The 29-year-old made more than 250 appearances in claret and amber during his first spell and will look to add to his club tally of goals which currently stands at 56.
He said: “It’s good to get everything signed up and it’s a place I know and that is close to my heart.
“I had a meeting with the manager and the staff and they told me their philosophies and the way they want to take the club forward and that is something I want to be part of.”
NOMAD NO MORE: Man of many clubs Lionel Ainsworth is settled at Fir Park and has signed a two-year deal.