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Hammell wants cup as icing on his cake . . .

ANOTHER newspaper had brought a cake.

Herald Sport prefers flowers, but times are tough. Things are good for Stevie Hammell, though, the left-back who will somehow play his 500th match for Motherwell today.

Hammell is only 32, and took a two-year sabbatical to play at Southend United, but he has remarkably made the most league appearances of any player since this iteration of the top flight was formed. This Motherwell side, Hammell says, is "up there" with the best he has seen in his time.

Once a fresh-faced teenager darting up the wing, throwing balls in the box for Don Goodman to thump home, he moved through the years when money was spent (and lost), back from the brink and then up to giddy heights, all the way to the present, where the veteran helps out with youth coaching and works on his badges, planning for life off the pitch. "I can hardly believe it myself and I remember my debut as if it were yesterday," he says, with a smile. "I had just turned 18 then."

Of helping the young players, he adds: "It's something I really want to do. You do feel a lot more responsibility towards the younger boys. It's strange because [former Motherwell midfielder] Scott Leitch is a really good friend of mine and now I'm playing alongside his boy [16-year-old Jack]! That makes you feel old."

As with all long careers, there are regrets, of course. This Motherwell side, so long challenging at the higher end of the table, have failed to win a cup. Twice they have come close, losing to each half of the Old Firm in heartbreaking finals. Does Hammell have unfinished business?

"Absolutely, 100%," he says, before the question is even finished. "My contract is up in the summer but if I'm lucky enough to get a new deal I'd swap anything for that. To win a trophy would be the icing on the cake. You want a piece of that."

Although he has not yet agreed an extension, it is only a matter of time. Stuart McCall said that he and the club were determined to offer stalwarts such as Lasley and Hammell the best deals they can. It is an unusually unselfish approach; if the club finish second, the club can offer more money to two players who, let's face it, will stay anyway.

McCall has been nominated for manager for the year. Jackie McNamara, his opponent today, missed out. The United manager will not be fussed, though, according to left-back Andrew Robertson, since the William Hill Scottish Cup is still in his sights. "He's done a brilliant job but if people are looking at someone else, then fair enough," he said.

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