THERE is little better in life than picking up a book so damn good that putting it back down feels like a betrayal to your brain.

'Motherwell: A Girlhood' by the former Guardian journalist Deborah Orr, who died of cancer last year at 57, is one such book. I’m no literary critic – I am barely literate – but you will struggle to find a more honest, heartbreaking, shocking and at times angry story of how a working class girl from a town with not a lot of work about it made it to the top.

Orr was always someone I admired from afar, and not just because she is one of the few famous people who came from Motherwell, where my mother’s family are from, still live, and where I was born in the maternity hospital 200 yards from Fir Park.

Don’t go looking for a blue plaque. They keep taking it down. I really need to invest in some super glue.

Orr did not have an easy upbringing. Everything was against her, including parents and her sex, and yet this lass from a council scheme made it to St Andrews University, and then to Fleet Street where she became a superstar as editor of the Guardian magazine.

This Motherwell girl is far from alone. There are a ridiculous amount of folk from that part of the world to have made it in journalism. It’s a town which has taken more hits than most and yet continues to punch above its weight.

Orr was from an area called Muirhouse. I know it well. There might not seem to be a lot going for it but Kieran Tierney, Scotland’s most expensive footballer, is from there, and the local school, Our Lady’s High School, has churned out some incredible people. These include Sir Tom Devine, Billy McNeill and Cardinal Thomas Winning.

Glasgow Times:

That’s the thing about Motherwell. No matter what that town is dealt, the people won’t allow the bad stuff - the closure of all their industry – get them down. You have to admire that.

If this were England, the football club would be a symbol of the town. Motherwell folk would support their local team, a way of showing the rest of the world a genuine pride in where they come from.

Alas, Motherwell FC play in Scotland, just outside of Glasgow, which means that most people from in and around the town follow one of the team big teams in Glasgow. I’m one, as are most of my family. Only from our lot one calls himself a Motherwell fan.

After the 1991 Scottish Cup win, the average home crowd at Fir Park went up by 500. That was it. The support just isn’t there.

I watched a lot of Motherwell in the 1993/94 season. They were brilliant. Tommy Coyne and Dougie Arnott up front, Paul Lambert the midfield maestro with Brian ‘Biff’ Martin superb at the back.

Tommy McLean had lost Phil O’Donnell to Celtic. Davie Cooper moved to Clydebank, and yet Tommy McLean’s team finished third and played some superb football along the way. There were a few big gates during that time but the average attendance at Fir Park was just over 7,000.

Those who do swear allegiance to the claret and amber are a loyal bunch. It’s just that there isn’t enough of them to allow what is these days a well-run club to really kick on. Imagine what Stephen Robinson could do with more money. He’s got them to third place right now and two cup finals on one of the league’s tightest budgets.

Glasgow Times:

All of this is why Motherwell should be voted Scotland’s best football club, if such an award existed. The board’s handling of the James Scott move to Hull City exemplified why they deserve this accolade.

Scott is only 19. He has potential but so does everyone. Hull offered £750,000 – a tidy sum – to a club that could do with the money for a raw teenager.

Motherwell said no. That was their stance right up until the last day of the transfer window. They didn’t blink. Hull did, doubled the offer to £1.5m and the deal was done. That takes some guts from the Motherwell side.

It would have been understandable for them to take any decent money for Scott. Same with David Turnbull last year before his move to Celtic was, for the moment, scuppered by the player’s injury. And going back a few years, they held their nerve to get over half a million for Louis Moult.

It’s very Motherwell. Sure, it might look as if they could do with some money, that life hasn’t been fair, but nobody is going to take the you-know-what. Good on them.

Put simply, Motherwell people are not to be messed with. If you’ve ever met my mother, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about.

Glasgow Times:

“Motherwell lost its identity in the industrial restructuring in the 1980s, along with wave after wave of redundant workers. Personal identities were shattered. But group identity was shattered too. The people of Motherwell were used to being part of something much, much bigger than themselves. When it went, so quickly, Motherwell became a town without a purpose.”

This, from Orr’s book, sums up what happened to the place during the Thatcher era. The football club too must have felt as if it had no purpose at times – but times change, and I would love to see the people going back and a trophy paraded through that town.

It’s the least the town of Motherwell deserves. Well, that and a decent road system.


If by tonight the gap between Celtic and Rangers has widened, the league title race is over.

I suspect it almost is. Steven Gerrard is right to say that his team now don’t have any more space for a slip. Draw or lose at home to Hibs tonight, and Celtic win at Motherwell, then even that game in hand plus with two derbies still to be played puts Rangers close to mission impossible.

Celtic have the best player in the country in Odsonne Edouard, a superb goalkeeper, and everyone is more or less fit. I’s hard to see them messing it up.

I wonder what all those Green Brigade weans, and the faceless bloggers, will admit they got it wrong with their public dummy spitting back in August at the board’s apparent lack of ambition.

My breath is not being held.