Michael Higdon demonstrated as much at Fir Park last week, calculating his run to perfection, getting into a good area . . . then wheeching the chair away from Stuart Carswell just as the midfielder was about to sit down to get his picture taken at the Motherwell team photo-shoot.
Carswell tumbled to the turf, his team-mates roared in laughter, and Higdon ran off to celebrate the success of his well-timed prank. It was a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of life at the club and showed, in Higdon, a player at ease in his surroundings and bursting with confidence. And how he has grown in stature in recent years.
A striker who never registered double figures even once in his first seven seasons as a professional, Higdon has suddenly become a reliable source of goals. In his second season as a St Mirren player, he scored 15 from 33 appearances, a year after managing just five from 41.
Higdon moved to Motherwell last summer and continued in the same prolific vein. His first season with Stuart McCall's side saw him notch up a best-ever return of 16 goals and he has started this campaign in similar fashion. He is registering a goal a game in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League – seven games, seven goals – and, according to the SPL website, has also had the most shots of any player in the division (21) and the most on target (11).
That Motherwell are top of the league and undefeated in seven matches is clearly not all down to Higdon, but his contribution has undoubtedly been vital. How, then, does a promising if underperforming striker go on to fulfil his potential? What has changed in Higdon since the summer of 2010?
In Jimmy Calderwood's eyes, an improvement in the player's level of fitness as well as burgeoning self-belief have both been key. Higdon was a Falkirk player when he first came to Calderwood's attention. The Englishman had not been prolific in his first season in Scottish football but made enough of an impression in a team struggling at the foot of the table for Calderwood to consider taking him to Pittodrie. Concerns over the player's workrate, however, saw that move put on hold and within a year Calderwood had left Aberdeen and Higdon was heading for St Mirren.
Now Calderwood watches the 29-year-old in a different capacity. He was back at Pittodrie on Sunday, offering his observations on Aberdeen's match with Motherwell as an analyst for BBC Radio Scotland. Higdon scored again in the 3-3 draw, once more impressing Calderwood.
"I always liked Michael and went to watch him a few times when he was at Falkirk as we were thinking of taking him to Aberdeen," said Calderwood. "The only think that really stopped us was the fitness side of things. But he's come on a ton since those days. I don't know if it's a confidence thing or what, but he certainly looks a lot fitter.
"I thought he was absolutely brilliant against Aberdeen. His hold-up play was terrific and he seems to be playing with so much belief. He was up against Russell Anderson, someone I rate very highly, and gave him a hard time. When Michael's in that kind of form he's really difficult to stop. He seems to be oozing confidence, trying different things and it was fantastic to watch. I'd say this is probably the best spell of his career."
Higdon, a Liverpudlian blessed with typical Scouse humour, came through the youth ranks at Crewe Alexandra and spent four seasons there, initially as a midfielder, before trying his luck in Scotland. He has not always been universally popular with opposition fans – who tend to give stick to physical centre-forwards who can put themselves about a bit – or with his own. Falkirk, St Mirren and even Motherwell supporters have all at times been critical of Higdon's style of play – what Walter Smith once memorably described as "a great economy of movement" – with the striker not one to hare about the pitch tiredlessly as is often demanded from forwards in the modern game. The list of his detractors, however, is shrinking by the day.
"He maybe lost his way a bit when he left England to come to Scotland at first," added Calderwood. "I don't think he was as fit as he should have been, but now he looks lean and he's a very important cog in Stuart McCall's machine.
"You could say he's a journeyman player, but he's one that has done well for himself. He's lucky also to be playing in an attack-minded team that gives him lots of service. Motherwell have pace through Jamie Murphy and Henrik Ojamaa, and talented guys like Tom Hateley, Keith Lasley and Nicky Law who put in a lot of good deliveries and clever passes. Michael must be a great target for these guys to hit as he holds the ball up well and makes the most of the opportunities that they are providing for him."
Next for Higdon and Motherwell is a trip to Ibrox to face an inexperienced Rangers defence still trying to gel together. It could prove rich pickings for the Englishman.
"He could run riot there," said Calderwood colourfully. "He's playing with a smile on his face again and full of confidence. When a player's in that mood anything can happen."
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