Larry Fredericks first twelve months in management had seen him coach a team of overachieving hard working players to an unlikely promotion.
What he had now was a country mile away from what he left back in Tychy.
Motherwell were the favourites (1/5) to gain promotion and win the league (9/2). On paper, his new squad had everything he would need, strikers with a good pedigree and defenders who should shut out most Scottish Championship strikers.
The trouble he had was that the strikers were demanding to be sold and the defenders were right behind them in the queue for the exit. A total of eight players demanded to be moved out and the atmosphere within the squad was toxic.
Having never suffered fools lightly, himself and Terry set about a plan. They had over two months before competitive Football would start in Scotland, It would be a big stretch to achieve what they wanted but they had to give it a go.
First up a team meeting where Fredericks and Butcher laid it out in black and white. Every single player that didn’t want to be here could go. If the bids came in and were of an acceptable amount he would stand in no man’s way. It wouldn’t sit well with the supporters but he had to believe this method would be best for the Football club.
Lewis Moult, last seasons top scorer and fan favourite was shouting more than most that he needed to leave. As promised Fredericks moved him on to pastures new (Rangers) along with the other rebels which included Ryan Bowman, Craig Tanner, Jake Hastle, Andy Rose, Gael Bigirimana, Charles Dunne, Cedric Kipre and David Turnbull.
The money in sales generated (£3.9 million) corrected the clubs finances instantly so that was one part of his remit successfully delivered. Now he had to recruit and recruit successfully. It’s all well and good selling off the bad eggs but the bad eggs had been good players and players who would have found this level of football a lot easier than most in the division.
At GKS Tychy Fredericks had utilised the loan market and he intended to do so once again. Granddi N’goyi from Rangers arrived, the big Congolese sh*t kicker would sit in the middle of the park and eat players for dinner, he was exactly what Motherwell needed.
But with brawn, you need brains and young Tashan Oakley-Boothe from Spurs was making a name for himself in the game. The talented central midfielder was ready to step up to first team football and a quick chat with Mauro Pochetino had Oakley-Boothe on the next train to Scotland. A similar loan deal was struck with Everton for Harry Charlsey and Iain Vigurs arrived on a free transfer.
At the back, Fredericks made two shrewd signings, from Inter Milan, came Zinho Van Heusden on a two-year loan and for £250,000 from Kaiserslautern in Germany came young centre-half Joel Abu Hanna.
The U20 squad was also boosted by the arrival of 11 new faces, I left Academy manager Scott Leich to do the business in this department. If he got a few of them through to the main team in 12/18 months then he would still have a job and probably a bonus in his pay packet if not then someone else would get a turn.
The strikers were thin on the ground, with Moult and Bowman Leaving and Alex Fisher demanding to be sold, Fredericks was desperately short of front men.
This summer the Under 19 European Championships were happening out in Armenia and being televised. It was luck really, but one night whilst working late Fredericks noticed a player for Portugal that stood out a mile. Thiago Macedo.
Obviously, Fredericks knew nothing about the young man but a quick google and YouTube search showed the young man in a very good light.
Portugal U19s were due to play 4 days later so Terry and Larry made the trip over to Armenia to watch him in person.
Larry hadn’t told Butcher a thing, not even which player they were there to see. He wanted fresh eyes on the game and to see if Butcher made the same analysis. After the 90 minutes were up Butcher turned to Larry and said ‘The Portugal striker’.
It wasn’t until they arrived back at Motherwell and Butcher made early movements to sign the player that Fredericks realised wires had been crossed. Butcher had arranged for a young Portuguese striker, playing at the U19s World Cup and also playing at Benfica B to join on a two-year loan deal, but, it wasn’t Thiago Macedo, it was someone called Duk.
Duk was at both club and country Macedo’s strike partner and it transpired was the one who stood out the most to Butcher back in Armenia. So what to do, Go with his own instinct or the choice of a more seasoned eye in Butcher. Fredericks spoke to Benfica, explained that the move to a place like Scotland could be daunting for Macedo and if it helped would happily take Duk as well to help them both settle in. He promised the Portuguese giants the players would get plenty of game time and he would strive to make them better footballers during their stay in Scotland. Both joined on 24-month loan deals and Fredericks couldn’t be happier.
Larry was sure that these two young men would be the greatest strike partnership Scotland had seen since Sutton and Larsson had ripped the SPL up for Celtic.
Time had moved on (As it does) and during the friendlies, Fredericks still felt the discomfort in the dressing room, some players wanted out and a couple even wanted Larry out stating his lack of experience would never get them out of this league.
Ross Forbes had spent the first seven years of his career at Motherwell and in Fredericks mind could be someone to help reinvent the dressing room. The fans would welcome him home so in his mind it was a win-win situation. Eighty-seven thousand pounds later, Forbes was back in the orange of Motherwell.
The Portuguese lads were still at the European Championships so what didn’t endear him to the fans was being knocked out of Europe at the first hurdle. PSV Eindhoven was just too strong on their own patch, after a battling draw at Fir Park, they went down 3-1 in Holland, 4-2 on aggregate.
By the time the opening game of the league season came around Fredericks had his strikers in place albeit for just 3 days but they were here and Larry had no option but to throw them both in for opening day away at Dundee United.
Dundee United 3-2 Motherwell – It wasn’t a bad performance but the boo’s from the away end and the press conference later hadn’t helped Fredericks at all. He was under fire after just a couple of defeats in games that to be fair, were tough matches.
Fredericks had to believe that what he was trying to develop at the football club would work, No matter the abuse from the fans and in some circles the media he had to believe in himself. Larry needed this to work and work quickly.
Sometimes as a manager you need your big calls to work and work well, Four games later Larry was a lot happier. His Portuguese duo was the beautiful icing on his hard-working cake. Four wins and 11 goals scored 10 of them by the deadly duo.
On deadline day Larry knew he needed something else. He dipped into the market once more and brought Rangers man Josh Windass in for £190k, the attacking midfielder would hopefully link in behind his strikers and offer another threat for opposing defenders to think about. Nicky Clark also joined on a short-term free transfer deal, the striker had performed well on trial and Larry thought he was worth bringing in for a little longer.
It wasn’t all good news on deadline day though as frontman Nadir Ciftci’s move from Celtic wasn’t sanctioned in time. The player had arrived late for his medical then Fredericks took issue with the player’s agent adding clauses on at the 11th hour. It all meant that the deal didn’t get pushed through before the deadline, which in turn caused a knock on effect meaning Alex Fisher would remain at Fir Park and not move to Cardiff City. The frontman was in Wales and very very unhappy.
By the end of the window, Motherwell were looking very different to how they had done just 8 weeks ago. Butcher and Fredericks had worked long hours on many deals but both felt confident that ‘The Steelmen’ were now in a position to grow as a Football Club and move in the right direction.
They then failed to win any of the following three league games and all of the bad feelings reared their ugly head once again. Inconsistency was something that they had to deal with, a new team would take time to gel, Fredericks just had to convince the board that this would all come together and sooner rather than later.
On the whole, Motherwell were only 10 league games in and although not totally convincing there were green shoots of recovery all over the place. The Portuguese lads had no trouble fitting in and apart from the odd mistake the rest of the boys were growing as a team, the atmosphere (Fisher apart) was also turning in the right direction.
With a big cup semi-final ahead Larry was slowly beginning to settle into life in Scotland.