After the rather uninspiring 1991/92 season, Tommy McLean made a few changes for the new campaign with Elroy Kromheer joining for £150,000 from FC Volendam, Paul Shepstone from Blackburn Rovers on a free, Paul Baker from Hartlepool and get this Alan Sneddon!!!, yes Alan Sneddon on a free from Hibernian.
The season began in much the same fashion as the previous one had ended with ‘Well stumbling along doing pretty much nothing at all. The League Cup campaign was over abruptly with Falkirk beating us 1-0 at Fir Park in the 3rd round where even the reliable Luc Nijholt missed a penalty. In the previous round Iain Ferguson had scored three in a 4-2 victory over Clyde at Fir Park for whom future ‘Well ‘keeper Scott Howie was in goal.
League wise, a 1-1 draw at Parkhead and a 1-0 win over Airdrieonians excepted, things were grim. So much so by mid-November McLean’s jacket seemed to be on as shoogily a nail as it had been right through his seven year tenure. A 3-1 defeat at home to Dundee was the last straw for many and hundreds protested outside the ground calling for McLean’s head, all captured gleefully by a Sunday Mail photographer.
The turning point came courtesy of an amazing decision by referee Eric Martindale. With ‘Well 1-0 down at home to Falkirk Iain Ferguson chased a lost cause up the right wing at the East Stand side. With little chance of making the ball he barged the Falkirk defender who lost his footing and knocked the ball out of play. It was as clear cut a foul as you’re ever likely to see.
Fergie though didn’t waste any time waiting for Falkirk to take the ball and before anyone could say otherwise had taken a quick throw in to Stevie Kirk who ran through a static Falkirk defence and fired past Tony Parkes who clearly thought play would be brought back.
The Bairns keeper went absolutely mental when Martindale signalled goal and the linesman began to race back up the park. With Jim Jeffries doing much the same on the other touchline the linesman was given so much stick he called the referee back who promptly booked the ‘keeper, but Parkes still wouldn’t let it go and this time was red-carded, all to delight of the Motherwell support.
From this point on new life was breathed back into Motherwell. The team rallied and went on to beat Falkirk 3-1 and the following Saturday ground out a crucial but hugely enjoyable 2-0 success at Broomfield. Despite still being stuck in bottom spot the revival was on and Motherwell began to claw back much needed points.
In late January in the pouring rain at Tynecastle another Sieb Dijkstra shut-out helped us to a 0-0 draw when down to 10 men meaning ‘Well were off the bottom for the first time in months. They would never return there again that season.
The Scottish Cup hardly proved a distraction with Rangers being our opponents once again, this time in the 3rd round. It was a doddle really for Rangers and the 2-0 defeat at Fir Park was about as much as we deserved. The most memorable part of the day was the fact it was the first time the new South Stand was open for business – despite the result it was nice just to see it open and full, the stadium was now starting to take shape as redevelopment had now been going on for some considerable time.
Back in the league things were hotting up with Falkirk, Airdrie and ‘Well all tightly locked in the battle against the drop. Thankfully though when the bit came to the bit, Motherwell always did enough in the games against their relegation rivals such as a 0-0 draw at home to the Diamonds and a 3-1 away success at Brockville.
With just two games left though it was still all in the melting pot with ‘Well the table looking like this:-
To make things even more tense the fixture list had Motherwell to play Falkirk at home and Airdrie away in their final two matches. A more tense nerve wracking finale would be hard to find.
In the blazing sunshine at Fir Park, ‘Well took the lead early on through Chris McCart only for the Bairns to level late on. The visitors had the initiative but with just a couple of minutes remaining wee Dougie Arnott took a Davie Cooper pass and fired it home to secure our Premier League status and relegate Falkirk and Airdrie in the process.
And with our safety secured it meant we could approach that final fixture against Airdrie in a totally relaxed frame of mind. Even if they did beat us they were going down and cries of “E-I-O down you go Airdrie” filled the Broomfield air that afternoon. As it happened goals from Ally Graham and a controversial Phil O’Donnell winner (just to rub salt into their wounds) meant Airdrie’s final ever Premier League fixture at Broomfield would be recorded as a defeat to Motherwell, their despised local rivals. Sweet.
This season though the lessons had been fully learned by the Motherwell manager and his board. There would be no repeat of this relegation battle next season and some fifteen players, including Neil Simpson, Tony Shepherd, Alan Sneddon and a host of others would leave the club or be transfer listed.
The basis though was beginning to take shape with the likes of Sieb Dykstra, Rab McKinnon, Phil O’Donnell, Brian Martin and Jamie Dolan all developing tremendously during the second half of the season. Next season would certainly be very different indeed!