The Betfred cup wasn’t by any means the largest of the cup competitions in Scotland, however, facing up against Premier League opposition was a great opportunity to lay down a marker. Hibernian are a middling top flight side but by far Motherwells toughest opponents to date.
Fredericks needed a performance to show the Motherwell fans what he was trying to build and he certainly got it. Motherwell were twice in front only to be pegged back on both occasions. The Steelmen weren’t to be denied though and Josh Windass won it at the death to send the fans at Fir Park delirious.
The result/performance did something that night, not just to the fans but the players too. The atmosphere around the whole training ground lifted like the players finally trusted Larry knew what he was doing.
Seven Days later they got knocked out of the Iron Bru Cup 1-0 at home to Dunfermline.
On the face of it, It wasn’t a bad result. Fredericks had played the kids and a few fringe players. Promotion was the aim and the Iron Bru Cup wasn’t in any way a priority.
The following month was in a sense building up to the Betfred Cup Final against Aberdeen. Larry Fredericks knew he needed to work extra hard to keep the lads focussed on the league fixtures in that period.
Eight points from four games wasn’t a bad return and defensively Larry was delighted in how well the centrebacks had paired up.
Aberdeen had knocked out Celtic at the semi-final stage so this would be as tough a game as many of these players had ever played.
It would be a tough arduous game. Fredericks had changed his shape and rather than sit in behind the front two he moved Josh Windass up to form three out and out strikers.
It worked, the three up top had caught the Dandies off guard early on which in turn helped Duk open the scoring after just 13 minutes. From then on the game changed, Aberdeen pressed and pressed but couldn’t find the breakthrough. Larry threw on two defensive midfielders in a bid to strengthen his defensive line and time after time they cleared they lines commendably. It wasn’t until the 87th minute when substitute Nicky Clake broke free to make it 2-0 that Fredericks could start to enjoy the game and the day.
It was the first real silverware Fredericks had won since becoming a manager, granted it wasn’t the Champions League trophy he held aloft but it still felt like a fantastic achievement.
There were five games left in December and in that time Motherwell had to close the gap and hopefully overtake new league leaders Dundee United, a team they would face in the last game of 2018.
A Carl McHugh (Defensive Midfielder) hat-trick meant they had taken eight from the twelve points on offer. A win at Dundee United would see the Steelmen finish the year in top spot…
Fredericks was livid. There were no excuses for a performance of that inept magnitude and he let every member of the side know that all positions could be strengthened this month, none of them were safe from the chop.
The next day Larry had Butcher into his office. He wanted two players and wanted them quick. Windass was still out injured and to be honest, Fredericks wasn’t having his attitude. Having come from Rangers in the summer the Englishman thought he was too good for this level and at times hadn’t pulled his weight. Larry wanted a player to sit behind the two Portuguese lads, someone with a bit more quality and an eye for a pass. The other position he was desperate to strengthen was between the sticks, Larry wanted a first-team goalkeeper and he wanted him this month.
New Years Day 2019 and a trip to Morton. The journey was a strange one, the team looked sheepish and quiet. Fredericks fierce words had hit home but Larry worried if they had hit too hard. They won the game 2-1 thanks to two Macedo goals but it was a poor performance and the boys would need lifting and lifting soon.
Cameron McGeehan was a player Fredericks long admired. Larry had ambitiously tried to sign the Northern Irishman on loan for Tychy 12 months ago. On that occasion, he had been unsuccessful. It would take £500,000 to shift him from Barnsley and they wouldn’t entertain a loan move. The board at Motherwell took some convincing but given what Fredericks had already achieved, and the money he had made from player sales they sanctioned the move.
Dunfermline came to town and wished they hadn’t. McGheehan, Duk and Macedo hit it off instantly. Five goals before halftime, two of them for the debutant. As the final whistle blew Larry looked towards the director’s box with a smile on his face, he couldn’t have been happier.
By the end of the transfer window, Larry had also paid out £350,000 for goalkeeper Mulopo Kudimbana. The 31-year-old Congolese International had been plying his trade in Belgium and took Motherwell’s spending over the three-quarters of a million pound mark.
McGeehan had lifted the side and sixteen goals were scored in just four fixtures that month. The attacking midfielder looked a class apart and with two strikers like Duk and Macedo in front of him, they were more than a handful for most oppositions defence.
As the games came thick and fast Larry rotated his squad a little, even giving the odd game to Ross Fisher. The striker who had made it clear to Larry from Day one that he wanted out was now trying to be Fredericks best friend.
The next six games Motherwell maintained their form winning five of them and most impressively despatching second-placed Dundee 4-0. With the season just eight weeks from finishing Motherwell had a healthy six-point cushion.
Next up a Scottish Cup quarter-final at Ibrox.
Fredericks wanted to show everyone not only what his side could do but to stick a flag in the air and say to the world, Come look at me.
It wasn’t a classic but it was a very good performance from The Steelmen. In the post-match interviews, Larry didn’t hold back in saying he thought his side were the better and if all goes to plan in the replay Motherwell should be heading through to the semi-finals.
In the replay 10 days later the game was a very similar affair. Unfortunately, on this occasion, a Eduardo Herrera goal sent Larry and his side out of the competition.
The season from then on in became a bit of an easy ride. There were a couple of shock defeats, firstly at Dumbarton and then a bizarre game at Alloa but in the end, Larry navigated his team to the league title at a canter.
It was now a different club to the one he had walked into 10 months previous. Fredericks and Butcher just like they had done at GKS Tychy had developed a mentality of success and winning. The squad was a happy one and in Fredericks’ mind with a couple of additions was one very capable of achieving even more next season.