2023/24 Season Review: September - Motherwell Football Club (2024)

We take a trip down memory lane as we revisit some players who have worn the claret and amber between the sticks.

Luke Daniels

A product of the Manchester United youth academy, Luke Daniels made the switch to West Brom in 2004.

He arrived at Fir Park on loan for the second half of the 2007/08 season. At the time, Graeme Smith was the number one choice keeper, so Daniels had to spend most of time in North Lanarkshire on the bench.

However, his chance came in May when Celtic visited Fir Park and Daniels was handed his debut between the sticks. Celtic came away with a narrow 2-1 win that day, but Daniels would get the nod in the final game of the season against Hibernian at Easter Road. Keeping a clean sheet, the Steelmen came away with a 2-0 win that day.

He returned to West Brom, and remained on the books there for ten years. He may have only made three appearances for the Baggies in that ten years, but Daniels would go out on loan on a number of occasions.

Loan spells with Shrewsbury Town, Tranmere Rovers, Charlton Athletic, Rochdale, Bristol Rovers and Southend United would see the shot stopper gain plenty first-team experience before he left West Brom in 2015.

He would go on to make over 100 appearances for Sc*nthorpe before joining Brentford and and Middlesborough. Daniels was most recently with Forest Green Rovers and has now become a free agent this summer.

With 148 appearances in League one, over 25 in the Championship and even one Premier League appearance thanks to an injury to number one West Brom keeper Ben Foster, Daniels has gone on to have a fruitful career in the game and become a reliable keeper for a number of teams.

John Ruddy

He came through the ranks at Cambridge United and earned the name “Iceman”, John Ruddy was impressing under difficult circ*mstances.

After making his debut in 2004, Ruddy became first choice at the U’s and despite them getting relegated, he kept a number of clean sheets and conceded only 45 goals in the league.

Having went on trial with Manchester United, Everton came calling and secured his signature. Manager David Moyes was seriously impressed with his displays in training and touted him as the next big thing.

Ruddy went out on loan to Walsall, Rushden & Diamonds, Chester City, Stockport County, Wrexham, Bristol City, Stockport County and Crewe Alexandra.

At the start of the 2009/10 season, Jim Gannon signed Ruddy on a six-month loan from Everton. He went into direct competition with Michael Fraser and Sebastian Kosiorowski for a place in goal.

Gannon, under his second spell with Ruddy, trusted him with the number one jersey and was placed in goals against Romania outfit Steaua București, saving a penalty in the first-leg.

The hype was building around Ruddy as he kept clean sheets against both Celtic and Rangers, also saving a Barry Robson penalty in the December.

With Ruddy flying and both clubs keen, it was agreed Ruddy would remain in Lanarkshire until the end of the season. 39 games and 15 clean sheets later, Ruddy’s time in ML1 drew to a close but not after Motherwell secured more European football and Ruddy claiming the player of the year award.

Following his loan spell with Motherwell, he earned a move to the English Championship with Norwich City on a permanent deal. Making 242 appearances across a seven year spell, he featured in the Premier League and even had the captain’s armband on one occasion.

During his spell at Carrow Road, Roy Hodgson would name Ruddy in his England squad ahead of Euro 2012. He missed the tournament through injury but made his England debut in August 2012 in a friendly against Italy.

His next move would be to Wolves in 2017, where he earned promotion to the Premier League as champions in his first season. His performances earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Yearand was awarded the EFL’s Golden Glove Award for the most clean sheets with 24.

He moved onto Birmingham City in 2022, where it was expected he would be the number two. That didn’t prove to be the case as Ruddy has went on to play 89 times for City and was even voted players’ player of the year for the 2022/23 season.

Ruddy’s contract at Birmingham has expired after their relegation to League One, however he has been offered a new deal as they look to bounce straight back to the Championship next season.

Darren Randolph

Darren Randolph arrived in England in 2004 to sign for Charlton Athletic. That would be the beginning for a six-year relationship with the London outfit, where he spent time on loan with Welling United, Accrington Stanley, Gillingham, Bury and Hereford United.

Each loan had varying successes but one of the highest points of Randolph’s early career was making his Premier League debut against Liverpool for Charlton in 2007.

He made 20 appearances for Charlton, keeping six clean sheets in those matches.

In the summer of 2010 with his contract expired, Charlton offered Randolph a new contract however he opted to make the switch to Fir Park.

He signed a three-year deal and with fan favourite John Ruddy vacated the number one jersey, had big gloves to fill. Craig Brown handed him his debut in the Europa League against Breiðablik, where Motherwell progressed to the next round.

In that first season, he ended up breaking John Ruddy’s record of 15 clean sheets in a season, finished third in the league and reached the Scottish Cup final.

His second season in claret and amber would also prove to be a success. Motherwell would finish second in the table, qualifying for the Champions League, with Randolph continuing to be a pivotal part in the club’s success. He was named in the PFA Scotland’s team of the year.

Entering the final year of his contract, he played in the Champions League and Europa League ties against Panathinaikos and Levante. His consistency and impressive shot stopping ability, seen him earn his first cap for Ireland against Oman on the 11 September 2012.

This didn’t distract the number one and he went on to be named in the PFA Scotland’s team of the year again, alongside Shaun Hutchinson, Michael Higdon and Nicky Law, as the team finished second place.

After a successful three-year spell, manager Stuart McCall made it clear it would difficult to retain Randolph at the of his contract, which proved to be the case. He departed for the English Championship with Birmingham City. He remained at St Andrews for two seasons, making just shy of 100 appearances in that time, missing very little matches before moving onto West Ham where he would go onto make a number of Premier League appearances, and even signed a four-year deal in that time.

He moved for a report £5 million to Middlesbrough, where he made it into the 2018–19 Championship Team of the Season thanks to his displays.

A reported £4 million move back to London seen him return to West Ham, and although he stayed for three years, game time was limited and he played only five league matches in that time.

In 2023, he joined Bournemouth where he didn’t make an appearance and it was announced this summer that he would depart the Cherries.

With 50 Ireland caps to his name, including being part of the Irish squad that went on an incredible run at Euro 2016 playing Sweden, Belgium, Italy and France, Randolph has 199 Championship appearances, alongside 34 Premier League. He has reached the top of the English leagues and left Motherwell fans with a number of memories in his three impressive years at Fir Park.

Gunnar Nielson

Having began his career in the Faroe Islands and Denmark, Blackburn Rovers signed Gunnar Nielson in 2007. It was after one year that Motherwell drummed up their interest in the Faroese stopper and brought him to North Lanarkshire on a six month loan in 2008.

That initial loan spell amounted to nothing and he would go back to Blackburn at the end of the season. Mark Hughes, who signed him at Rovers, brought him to Manchester City in 2009.

He would be loaned out to Wrexham and Tranmere Rovers and ended up making his Premier League debut in 2010, replacing Shay Given against Arsenal. It was a bit of international history as he was the first Faroese footballer to play in the Premier League.

Eventually leaving city in 2012, Neilson would move to Denmark with Silkeborg. It was April by the time he arrived there Motherwell, under the influence of Gordon Marshall, brought Neilson back to Fir Park for a second spell.

It was a straight shootout between Nielson and Lee Hollis for the jersey and injury to Hollis meant the Faroese got his chance. His debut came against Kuban Krasnodar in the Europa League over in Russia, where Kuban won 1-0.

He then had a run of games between the sticks, and went on to make 23 appearances for the club during the 2013/14 season, as Motherwell finished runners up in the Scottish Premiership. He helped his side claim a point against Celtic at Fir Park when he saved a Kris Commons penalty.

His second season in claret and amber would see him remain on the bench mostly and he moved onto Iceland with Stjarnan 2015, the team who ironically knocked the ‘Well out of Europe earlier that same season. After 22 games there, he moved to Icelandic champions Fimleikafélag Hafnarfjarðar where he played until 2023.

The 37-year-old played 168 times there and seemingly hung up the gloves last season. Capped 70 times for his country and becoming captain in 2016, Nielson was the number one stopper for his nation and picked up two club trophies in his career.

Connor Ripley

Connor Ripley was with Blackburn Rovers as a youngster before switching to Middlesbrough in 2009. It was Gordon Strachan who brought him to Teeside but it would be Tony Mowbray who would give him his first chance in the senior team.

He stayed at the Boro for eight years but as has been the trend in this piece, he went out on loan for most of that time. With some successful loans and others not so successful, and having played under Graham Potter in Sweden, Motherwell would come calling in July 2015.

Signed on a season-long loan, he started between the sticks on the opening day trip to Inverness. That would the first of 40 appearances for the club that season, which had some memorable moments including a win over Celtic at Parkhead.

His strong performances kept Craig Samson and Dan Twardzik out the picture and overall, he returned South a better player.

He joined Oldham under Steven Robinson and Ian Baraclough following his time in ML1 and continued to impress as he won the player of the year award there.

Burton Albion, Bury and Accrington Stanley would follow next for Ripley on loan before he moved on from Middlesbrough permanently to join Preston North End under Alex Neil on a three-year-deal. Three years and only ten appearances, he moved to Morecambe in 2022 where Derek Adams named him captain.

He once again won a player of the year award however Morecambe’s relegation meant he moved on at in 2023. His current team is Port Vale and although they were relegated to League Two, he was a standout performer for Darren Moore’s side. It looks to be the case that he will stay at the Vale for 24/25.

Another player who got his first run of consistent games, Ripley’s career has been steady since his departure from Fir Park and with him only being 31, there’s plenty left in the tank for the shot stopper.

George Long

Born and raised in Sheffield, George Long became Sheffield United’s youngest goalkeeper at 17 years old when he made his debut in 2011.

After impressing in the Youth team, he signed a long term deal in 2012 that seen him commit until 2016. Although the plan was for him to be second choice, injuries meant Long became a regular for the Blades.

A change in manager’s seen plans change at Sheffield United and Long would spend time out on loan. In February, deadline day, Long was recruited by Ian Baraclough.

With 15 appearances and three clean sheets between then and the end of the season, Long steadied the ship between the sticks in what was a tricky year for the Steelmen. He was strong and commanding overall and impressed in the relegation playoff victory over Rangers at the end of the season to keep the ‘Well in the top flight.

He returned to Sheffield and under new manager Nigel Atkins, was named first choice. However, Mark Howard would earn the jersey and he would become a cup keeper. However, he impressed when he played in cup games and got his position back.

Come February 2016, Long had made 100 starts for his boyhood club and got a new contract under Chris Wilder. He went out on loan again and decided the time was right to move on after seven years as a professional at the club.

Hull City would be his next destination in the Championship where he enjoyed regular game time. In three years, he amassed 65 games for the club and is moved on Millwall in 2021.

He is currently playing with Norwich, where he made 12 appearances last season, all of which came in October and November. At present, it looks like he will remain with the Canaries as they push for promotion back to the Premier League next season.

His stint may have been shorter at the club, but his saves at Ibrox in the relegation playoff win will be remembered in what was a game of the highest importance.

2023/24 Season Review: September - Motherwell Football Club (2024)


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