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The last week in June brings the summer holidays for Lanarkshire schools, the start of Wimbledon and a return to Fir Park for Motherwell's footballers. Pre-season training is about to begin.
As the players exchange tales of their close season trips in the sun they might notice that a few of their old buddies are missing. The extra elbow room comes from the loss of most of the team that delivered a second place in the last campaign but we have to accept that Randolph, Law, Humphrey, Saunders, Daley, Ojamaa, Murphy and Higginbotham are gone and that Higdon and McFadden are likely to be tempted elsewhere. Hateley seems to be holding on for the elusive offer that his father suggests awaits him in England, we'll see.
The transfer window extends to the end of August but we're surely due to see the fruits of the manager's summer research before the end of the week. Paul Lawson and Iain Vigurs have joined up but the first team squad can still barely muster a couple of five-a-side teams.
Hollis, Hammell, Hutchinson, Ramsden, Kerr, Francis-Angol and Cummins form the defence; Lasley, Carswell, Vigurs and Lawson make up the midfield leaving McHugh as a our striker. The ranks of last season's U20s may offer some cover but the need for a few good men is clear.
While Celtic, Hibs and St Johnstone discover their European opponents today, we'll have to wait until 19 July to hear our fate. Will the lure of a possible test against say, Stuttgart, Seville or Udinese help us capture the men McCall has on his radar? Given that the transfer window extends to the end of August will the possibility of a month long deal in the shop window tempt Faddy or Higdon if they remain unattatched?
The development of the game in recent years, with the Bosman rules and the arrival of a mega-rich football industry south of the border, means that Motherwell (and similar clubs) have to live with a high turnover of players and the consequent creation and loss of a recognisable team. It will be fascinating to see if the manager can work his magic again!
After weeks when the much of the football interest has been related to league reconstruction and financial crises it will be a welcome change to focus on the playing side of the game. The U20s have a friendly scheduled for Thursday 11 July against Craigroyston (St Mark's Park at 7pm - SFA) before the first team take on Newcastle at Fir Park on Tuesday 16 July (£15/£5) and Cowdenbeath on Saturday 20 July at Central Park (Blue Brazil web site).
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