FIR PARK assistant manager Keith Lasley has admitted to some surprise that Stephen Robinson will be back in the Motherwell dug-out for the beginning of the new campaign.

The 40-year-old had braced himself for news that Robinson could be heading to Windsor Park after he was one of five candidates interviewed for the Northern Ireland job that was vacated by Michael O’Neill.

Ian Baraclough has been named as O’Neill’s successor with Lasley expressing his delight that there will be a continuation of Robinson’s chapter at Fir Park.

“It was no surprise to me that he was on the shortlist, “ said Lasley.

“The only surprise for me was that he wasn’t chosen for the role. I say surprised but I am also delighted. I have had the chance to work beside Stephen for the last three years and I fully appreciate the job that he has done here.

“He has brought a real drive to the club both on and off the field and he has really moved us forward. He has been first-class to work with. I feel he has helped me enormously in terms of coaching and learning that side of things.”

Lasley might have found a difference in his own circumstances had Robinson landed the Northern Ireland job.

The former Fir Park captain would have been the obvious choice to take over had there been an unexpected vacancy at the Lanarkshire but the 40-year-old has insisted that he is delighted it will be business as usual.

And if there is any sense of dejection on Robinson’s part, Lasley is yet to see it.

“Whatever might have happened had he got the job is purely hypothetical,” said Lasley.

“We are all just delighted that he is here. We speak to one another every day. Stephen has come back with the same passion and energy that he always has.

“We feel lucky to have him.  Everyone at Motherwell is of the opinion that it is their loss and our gain. He is not down in the mouth about it at all. He is back and out training full of ideas and enthusiasm.

"It is a measure of what he has done with Motherwell that he is being linked with jobs of that calibre. We now fully expect that he will kick on here because he has built such a great foundation for us as a team and as a club. He wants to keep us moving forward and that is fully our intention now.

“It was a big season for us last term. We have European football to look forward to now and we want to build on what we achieved. It wasn’t just that we brought a lot of players into the club last summer but also that there was a change in style in how we approached games. It means that there are no broad strokes needed this summer.

"There will be tweaks here and there but it is all about striving for continued improvement and really setting our own standards.”

Robinson has appointed defender Declan Gallagher as club captain for the new season.

And Lasley shares Robinson’s belief that the responsibility of the role can further elevate the career of the 29-year-old who found himself called into Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad last year.

“Had someone said that within six months of Declan coming and playing at Motherwell that he would be in the Scotland squad I am sure that people would have laughed at you,” said Lasley.

“But that just shows you what time of boy he is. He is determined and hard-working and the manager has really got the best out of him.

“We believe there is still more to come from him – and more to come from so many of the players in our dressing room. Hopefully that armband and the leadership role can really enable him now to go and take another massive step forward.

“Declan has always been a big character in the dressing room. You need two or three leaders out on the park and the likes of Trevor Carson and Alan Campbell can help him out in that regard. You need to have strong voices out on the park. But we definitely think that Declan can kick on again and take his game to another level.”