Stuart McCall is attempting to keep a period of turmoil at bay.
Up to 11 first-team players could leave Motherwell when their contracts expire at the end of the season, and coping with that situation is becoming increasingly pressing. The Fir Park manager knows that some of the individuals will leave regardless of the team's circumstances but others could still be tempted to stay. An extended run in the William Hill Scottish Cup might provide enough success and finance to keep some players at the club.
When Motherwell reached the Scottish Cup final in May 2011, the money generated allowed the club to maintain their budget for the next campaign, at a time when rival teams were cutting costs. The Fir Park side then finished third the following season, and qualifying for Europe will help next season's budget. However, a cup run would provide the kind of additional funds that might allow some greater flexibility when it comes to negotiations with out-of-contract players.
The likes of Darren Randolph, Tom Hateley, Shaun Hutchinson, Nicky Law, Michael Higdon and Jamie Murphy will become free agents in the summer. McCall expects some, such as Randolph, to attract attention from leading npower Championship clubs in England, but the manager is hopeful that others might be inclined to remain at Fir Park, particularly if the club repeats its feat of finishing high up the table, or enjoys a successful Scottish Cup run, with a replay against Aberdeen tonight standing between Motherwell and a place in the fifth round.
"My budget for next season has been set but a sale could help with that – and a cup run would help immensely," McCall said. "This year we made a loss because we budgeted for the sale of a player and that did not happen. The season before, we made a profit because of the cup runs which took us to the semi-final and final. We retained the same budget on the back of those cup runs. When other clubs were cutting their cloth and budgets to suit, ours remained the same.
"That shows how important the finances that a cup run can bring can be. We had to slash the wage bill this season by £200,000 and I am not moaning about it because a lot of clubs are in exactly the same position. We have a 16-man first team squad really and some younger ones coming through. A Scottish Cup run would be great. I don't want to sell anybody in January."
No player has yet to indicate to McCall that they are certain to leave Motherwell, although he expects he will have to seek reinforcements. He is hopeful, though, that some will realise that leaving Motherwell for a team in League One might not be worth a small rise in income. McCall identifies the likes of Mark Reynolds and John Sutton as players who left Motherwell, for Sheffield Wednesday and Hearts respectively, only to find that their careers did not progress.
He cannot set a deadline for players to make decisions about their future, but the end of next month's transfer window is the likely time by which McCall and his coaching staff will begin plotting their own signing plans. They will be shopping for free agents, but those players are available in increasing numbers and moving quickly would allow Motherwell to gain an advantage over rival clubs. McCall is also hopeful that his own contract situation will be clarified by then, with both the manager and the club keen for the working relationship to continue.
"It's not ideal to have so many players going out of contract at the same time but I don't think there's a great deal the club could have done about it," McCall said. "Some of them will move on, but my challenge is to bring others in. There are examples of people leaving here and not always progressing how they would like. Going to the Championship is a no-brainer for me, with the crowds they get, Division One is financially probably better, but if you're going to clubs that get 2500 to 3000 is it any better than playing in the SPL? I don't think so. It can be a backwards or sidewards step going to Division One."