Exposition, antagonism, redemption. Or in other, more familiar words: player gets released by top-flight club and joins Thistle, player fights his way back into the SPFL Premiership; player faces up against the former employers that done him wrong.
After Conrad Balatoni's oh-so-nearly triumphant joust against his former Hearts colleagues last week, Steven Lawless walks back through the front door of Fir Park today with the aim of going one better. "When the fixtures came out, I was looking for this one," the winger admitted. "Not because I've really to prove a point, though. I've got nothing against Motherwell; they brought me through the ranks. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here. I'm just really looking forward to the going back and proving I can play."
The demise of Rangers last year caused a lot of collateral damage, the income lost from gate receipts and television money splashing through sinkholes on the pitches of provincial clubs. "I thought I was getting a deal," said Lawless of his final weeks at Fir Park. "But then they didn't have the money and they couldn't offer me it. It was a bit of a shock, but I didn't know if I'd have accepted it anyway, just to do the same thing as the year before . . . waiting for injuries."
Now he feels he is at a club that has confidence in him; for proof he only has to look to the five-figure sum Thistle rejected from Dutch club Willem II because he was integral to their plans. "It was really flattering," he said of the bid. "But until something's accepted I've really not got anything to think about. I'm just happy to be playing."
Alan Archibald, his manager, is trying to sign him to a longer contract but, in contrast to the occasional modern mercenary who only seems to turn it on when the time comes for a renewal, Lawless has a refreshing approach. "At Motherwell, I only wanted to sign one-year deals, because it would make me play better," he said. "It wasn't like I was taking my foot off the gas; I just enjoy playing under circumstances like that."
He has admirable confidence, then, to back his own ability. "You might think it's a gamble but I think I perform well," he said. However, he admitted it may be time for new perspective after becoming a father about a month ago. "I've got my little girl now, so I might need to change my philosophy and think about security more. I might need to get a one-year contract with a four-year extension," he said with a laugh.
Stuart McCall, the manager who gave Lawless his blessing to play elsewhere, has no regrets about the decision. "It would have been selfish to keep him," he said. "It would have been unfair of me to give him a false promise that he would have played and wrong to keep him as a good little squad player; it would have stunted his development.
"At the end of the season before last, we specifically arranged a bounce game against Thistle on our first-team pitch - and we never play bounce games on the pitch - just for Jackie [McNamara, the then Thistle manager] to have a look at Lawless and [Ross] Forbes because they are too good to sit on our bench. I'm just pleased they're doing so well."
Motherwell's slow start to the season is tempered by the fact that they have clattered into two of the trickier hurdles in the division. "The last two games were probably as difficult as we could get," McCall said. "Aberdeen at home after a European game, then going to up an Inverness team full of confidence. Having said that, it's no excuse and I think there are a couple of areas we need to address: set-piece defending and our possession of the ball. I feel sorry for [John] Sutton up there, he's not had the chances to work off."
It was a lack of pace that was Motherwell's downfall last weekend, as well as the aforementioned set-piece mishaps, and McCall said he would be looking to bring someone in before the transfer window closes. "A quick winger," he confirmed. "We've got the budget for one player, but it's proving difficult. I don't like bringing people in who aren't better than what we've got and who I haven't seen."