STUART McCALL has his little superstitious affectations.
Since Motherwell embarked on their recent winning run - five matches now - their manager has made sure to enter the press room from a particular doorway, waited to name his team until Saturday and kept the chairs arranged in a certain order.
It probably would not please him to learn, then, that the last time the club won five games in a row their streak was brutally cut short at home to a team managed by John Hughes. Then, it was Falkirk who arrived at Fir Park and shocked their hosts; tomorrow, Hughes will be hoping to do the same thing with Inverness Caledonian Thistle - although fans travelling down should check for the results of a precautionary 8am pitch inspection.
McCall is not worrying too much about the opposition, though, instead choosing to focus on his own side's form - nine goals scored in two games - and contemplating the selection problems caused by James McFadden dramatic burst back to life, and the impressive consistency shown by Henri Anier and Chris Sutton.
"I've got a few pleasing dilemmas," admitted McCall. "We've got a lot of players now at the top of their game. Confidence is a massive thing, and the consistency of performance has been good of late, but we know we are going into a game tomorrow against a side who haven't lost a goal away from home for four games, which actually spans three months. So they've been difficult to break down."
Motherwell finished on 44 points in McCall's first season in charge. They have 40 already this season, after 20 matches. If this were last season, the Fir Park club would be joint-top of the league with Celtic. The manager allowed himself to daydream a little yesterday, wondering that if the champions had only shown the same level of inconsistency that they had then, dropping points after European matches, he might even have had a title race on his hands. Celtic, though, are yet to be beaten, and are surely rattling their way towards the trophy again.
"It's been a really good bounce back," said McCall of the form which has catapulted his club to new heights. "But nobody will get carried away. The big thing in football is confidence and obviously the players are playing with that, but you look at Dundee United. They have been flying, playing fantastic, scoring goals for fun. And still playing well now, but they've gone from winning six on the bounce to losing three.
"So there's a warning for everyone. It can happen. A lot of teams are good equal sides and on any day can beat each other. Inverness tomorrow will finish off that big chunk of five games in a short space of time and if we can come through that tomorrow with a victory it will be a great achievement by the players but there's still a long, long way to go."
The Motherwell manager also lifted the spirits of the club's fans by revealing that a deal to extend Lionel Ainsworth's loan until the end of season - with a view to offering him a full-time contract in June - has now been completed, though he admitted it might prove trickier to push through a similar extension for Anier.
"The Henri one is a bit different because I think Viking are happy for him to come to us, take his contract permanently," McCall added. "But we're only paying part of his wage at the moment, so if we take it over we would have to take his full wage and we can't afford to do that at this moment in time. We're looking at different options and the board are working hard to raise some funds."
Inverness have a loanee of their own who may stay, although Torbjorn Agdestein is still unsure whether he wants to stay and fight for a place in the Highlands, or retreat back to England. The former Norway under-21 striker's loan deal from Brighton & Hove Albion draws to close after today's proceedings. A fresh offer is on the table from manager John Hughes, but the 22-year-old admits he faces a huge decision on his future.
"We are in talks and it is a hard choice for me as I have been on the bench the whole time here. I need to play, especially given the age I am now," he said. "Games like the one against Ross County really help, as all I want to do is play and help the club.
"I really like it here, so extending my contract would be a good thing - if I get to play. It is frustrating getting only 10 minutes here or there."