JIM GOODWIN has received plenty of cards this year.
That is not so much a comment on the St Mirren midfielder's popularity around the festive period as a remark on his disciplinary record, a collection of 10 bookings and one red card so far this season having already brought a frank discussion with his manager and the risk of a place on the naughty list. And so close to Christmas, too.
Making light of the situation might not seem too clever given Goodwin's reputation as someone who would sooner launch into a crunching tackle than look at you, but he is just as keen to challenge any perception that he is an uncouth bully with a pair of boots. When Danny Lennon, the St Mirren manager, expressed frustration at his captain's indiscipline earlier this season his ire focused on how Goodwin spoke to match officials, yet the Irishman thinks that unfair. He will have more time to mull it over when he serves a suspension during the trip to Inverness on Boxing Day.
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There is a home match with Motherwell to grapple with tonight and Goodwin will be a prominent figure as his side endeavour to pick up only their second win in 11 league games. Given that record – and the Paisley side's precarious position just five points above bottom-place Dundee – you could forgive Goodwin were he to be a little tetchy, yet he was considered as he addressed his own situation and the impact it could have on St Mirren's season. He was wary, too, that his name might become synonymous with indiscipline and that referees may view him as a threat to a peaceful evening.
"I'm aware of picking up too many yellow cards. It's something I'm going to have to do something about in the new year, maybe it will be a New Year's resolution," said Goodwin, whose side will be without striker Thomas Reilly for up to 10 weeks due to an ankle fracture. "I don't verbally abuse referees and call them all the names under the sun. I am on their case if there is a foul and I want to ask them about it but as captain I feel I have a right to do that.
"My bookings are all for too many fouls, too many tackles. There are none for telling the referee where to go. I want to be known as a hard-working midfielder or whatever but I don't want to be known as a dirty player. I don't want referees looking at team sheets and thinking 'oh, I better keep my eye on him' because that's a disadvantage right away. The only one that can do anything about that is me."
St Mirren are also the only ones that can amend their lowly league position, the outcome of tonight's game gaining further weight as a result. They may be able to recall Paul McGowan to the starting XI to help shoulder the burden; the forward having recovered from a shoulder injury to take a place on the bench during the defeat by Celtic last weekend. He has edged closer to competitive action this week. "He wasn't on the bench for the under-20s [in midweek] so that suggests he might play," said Stuart McCall, the Motherwell manager.
His concern was tempered by the strength his own side have shown away from home this season, though, with Motherwell having lost just one league game on the road. It is a sense of contentment which is matched only by Celtic. The Fir Park side seem naturally disposed to counter-attack – a midfield unit comprising Jamie Murphy, Nicky Law, Keith Lasley and Chris Humphrey is most comfortable when facing forwards – and they have often been intemperate when visiting teams in the league.
The festive period will prove a more testing environment as they are exposed to four matches in a fortnight, including a visit by Celtic to kick off the new year, but there is an ingrained confidence in the squad which will prove hard to disturb. "I think the team that we've got right now, the starting XI that goes out on the pitch, is as good as I can remember playing with," said Steven Hammell, the Motherwell full-back.