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McGhee ready to face Hearts after jilting at airport

Glenn Gibbons
Motherwell manager insists backing out of Romanov meeting was right move
LIKE a jilted bride receiving a visit from the man who left her at the altar, Hearts supporters are unlikely to offer Mark McGhee a warm embrace when he leads his Motherwell team out at Tynecastle this afternoon.

Either Sod's Law or some mischievo

us fixtures compiler at the Scottish Premier League has decreed that McGhee's first meeting with the club to whom he had pledged his troth before undergoing an impossibly dramatic change of mind should take place on this opening day of the new season.

Even if Hearts have since appointed Csaba Laszlo to the managerial position spurned by McGhee in such bizarre circumstances, their fans' sense of rejection and desolation will hardly have had time to clear.

To someone of the Fir Park manager's experience of the vicissitudes of a capricious game, however, the prospect of a verbal mauling is no reason to shudder in apprehension.

Anyone who listens at length to McGhee's reflections on a dramatic episode and his deliberations on the immediate future at Motherwell would be helpless to resist the impression that this is a man who is not easily intimidated, or readily deflected from his purpose.

"I've said it before and I'm happy to say it again," McGhee began, "that the offer from Hearts was a great opportunity and I did think long and hard about it.

"But, ultimately, I think I made the right decision and I don't have any regrets.

"I also have to say, however, that I wish the moment of clarity I had just before I stepped on the plane at Gatwick for the second leg of my journey to Lithuania to complete the move to Tynecastle had occurred earlier.

"I must admit that up to that point and even during the time Hearts were – well they were kind of stalking me – I was getting feedback, the press and all that, and at no point did I discourage them.

"So, when I got to that point that was so late I was a bit embarrassed about that. I mean, I would love to have had the realisation I had at that departure gate three months earlier, so that I could have said, 'Look I'm staying at Motherwell and Hearts should go and look for somebody else'."

That "moment of clarity" came at the very door of the aircraft. About to show the flight attendant the stub of his boarding pass, he instead told her, "look, I'm not coming aboard", and walked back up the gangway. He had suddenly become aware of the promise he had made to himself after a previous managerial flitting, from Leicester City to Wolves.

"It was the realisation that I'd only been at Motherwell a year and it suddenly smacked to me of what I'd always done previously," he said. "That is, I'd always jumped straight at the chance of going to the bigger job. When I left Leicester after one year for Wolves, I walked out, broke my contract.

"I gave no thought to the fact that I had recently brought in new players, that the chairman had made a big investment in me. I just went because Wolves were seen as the bigger club, they were offering me a fancy training ground, funds for players, more money for myself. Everything was bigger, you know?

"It wasn't long before I came to realise you can't do that, just walk out without considering other people. From that point on, I tried to do that. That was what suddenly came into focus at the door of the aircraft at Gatwick, that it wasn't quite right for me to leave here yet."

Selflessness, of course, was not the only motivating factor in McGhee's decision.

He is also convinced that there remains enough unfulfilled potential in his young Motherwell squad to promise another abundant season – they finished third in the championship last year – and, probably above all, there is the lure of European football in the offing.

"Every time I've been asked the question about managerial ambition," he said, "I've said it was to be involved in European football. Now I finally have my first opportunity and there I was, on the brink of walking away from it. I suddenly thought, wait a minute, what am I doing here?

"So now we're really looking forward to the Uefa Cup, maybe getting a good draw and the chance to get into the group phase that will guarantee a few matches. I know that's not going to be easy, but we're hopeful.

"As for finishing third in the league again, I do think we have the talent here, although I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed with our recruitment so far, which is nil.

"That's a bit of a worry for me. I would like to add the three players or so who could complement the lads we already have. That could still happen, as I have several inquiries on-going. And it wouldn't take a lot for me to say I would be confident we could finish third again.

"As things stand, we will need a fair wind. I mean, the group we have will need to stay healthy. But if you look at lads like Mark Reynolds, Paul Quinn, Chris Porter, Stephen Hughes, Darren Smith, Keith Lasley, Marc Fitzpatrick and others, they're all young, with improvement in them.

"I don't believe for a minute that last season was a one-hit wonder. If we can keep that group together, there's no reason why they shouldn't get similar results. Whether that takes us to third or sixth, of course, there's no way of knowing. But here's no reason why we can't be as attractive and as competitive as before".

Taken from the Scotsman

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