Even If He Wins Play-Off Final, This Will Be A Low Moment For McCall
It’s a script that even some Hollywood script writers would have deemed too unlikely to try out, yet here we are with Stuart McCall leading Rangers into the play-off final against his former club Motherwell. On the face of it, that is enough compelling narrative but there is even more to this story.
This time last season, McCall was leapfrogging Aberdeen into 2nd place in the table and securing Europa League football for his Motherwell side. Things were good, as they had been since he took charge at the end of 2010, succeeding Craig Brown. In his first season, he pulled Motherwell up to 6th before securing 3rd place in his first full season and then the runners-up spot the following two years.
Then it all went wrong. On 2nd November 2014, with his side having lost nine of twelve league matches and in 11th position, McCall resigned as Motherwell manager. It was a very dignified departure and in a letter to fans McCall described the season’s opening as, “a huge disappointment.”
Giving a very honest assessment of affairs at Fir Park, McCall said: “I struggled to sleep after Friday’s game with St Johnstone then woke up again during the night Saturday into Sunday, thinking about the Dundee United game, and I just couldn’t come up with any answers.”
It was for that reason that McCall stepped aside and while the club – and most fans – wished him well, there was no escaping the fact that he had left the club in the relegation play-off spot and in a downward spiral, one which new manager Ian Baraclough would not find easy to shake off.
Fast forward to 12th March 2015 and while Motherwell were still in relegation hot water, McCall took over the position of Rangers manager and would subsequently lead the Gers to 3rd place and the play-offs. Having worked so hard to avoid these play-offs with top flight side Motherwell, it was strange that the target was now to reach them and to successfully navigate through to the final round where the chance to contest a spot in the 2015/16 Scottish Premiership against the second-bottom top division side would arise.
It was in many ways inevitable that it would be Rangers rising to represent the Championship and Motherwell flailing at the wrong end of the Premiership, thus having to fight for their top division lives after 30 years without relegation. Although McCall has admitted he was “absolutely gutted” when he learned that Motherwell would be the team awaiting his Rangers side, the ever-professional manager will have just one thing on his mind when the first leg kicks off on Thursday: victory for his current employers.
And while McCall may well achieve that victory and promotion with Rangers, to do so would label his first third of the season with Motherwell even more of a failure. On the other hand, defeat with Rangers would obviously also represent failure given the wages the Glasgow club has spent this season on an expected promotion.
It may be cruel, but Stuart McCall finds himself between a rock and a hard place. That hard place will be Fir Park on 31st May, where one way or another McCall will be partly – and “partly” is the key word, remember - responsible for one of these sides’ absence from next year’s top division. Few would envy his position this week.
Scottish Football Talking Points Of The Week:
· In the other half of Glasgow, Celtic wrapped up their league title in style, with a 5-0 win over Inverness serving as revenge for their Scottish Cup semi-final defeat, on their way to collecting their fourth consecutive league title.
· Elsewhere on the season’s final day, Saint Johnstone may or may not have secured European football for next season. A 1-0 away win at Aberdeen followed last week’s surprise draw with Celtic and ensured that the Perth side remain ahead of Dundee United despite United’s 3-0 Dundee deby victory. Saint Johnstone’s 4th position will only grant them a Europa League place should Inverness win next week’s cup final, or else second tier Falkirk will claim it as cup winners.
· Gordon Strachan has named his squad for Scotland’s crunch Euro 2016 qualifier against Ireland and their not-so-crunch friendly against Qatar. Charlie Adam returns to the fold after recent stellar performances with Stoke, while Leigh Griffiths and Dundee keeper Scott Bain are other fresh faces joining the regulars of Scott Brown, Shaun Maloney, Steven Naismith and co.