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Southern vultures circling Fir Park . . .

THE chief executive has, with an admittedly heavy heart, been enticed away to the fresh challenge of a seemingly stagnant club whose future in the SPFL Premiership remains uncertain and whose footballing department has turned underperforming into an art form.

TIME TO GO? Stuart McCall turned down an offer to manage Sheffield United last year, 	             but he may be tempted by a move in the summer after the lack of financial progress made by Motherwell this season. Picture: SNS
TIME TO GO? Stuart McCall turned down an offer to manage Sheffield United last year, but he may be tempted by a move in the summer after the lack of financial progress made by Motherwell this season. Picture: SNS

If Leeann Dempster can be poached by Hibernian, what chance do Motherwell have of holding on to their manager, Stuart McCall, should anyone with a budget and a few thousand extra punters flutter their eyelashes his way?

A better chance than you might think, truth be told. McCall turned down the opportunity to return to Sheffield United, where he served as a player and assistant manager, before agreeing a two-year contract last summer and those within the Lanarkshire club often talk of the close, transparent relationship he enjoys with his board.

You do wonder whether his thoughts will be affected, though, by the departure of such a high-profile member of the organisational structure. Motherwell have been forced to borrow money from directors and even their own supporters to plug funding gaps over the past year and the failure to bring new people through the turnstiles, despite no shortage of initiatives, has convinced Dempster to try something different.

McCall has already expressed concerns that his reward for a fine season, in which he had to rebuild the team following the departures of half-a-dozen established players, will be another reduction in the little amount of money he has to play with and his former Scotland team-mate Gary McAllister is convinced he will be offered an escape route very, very shortly.

McAllister, of course, has Motherwell's best interests at heart having started his professional career there, but he brings the warning that the 49-year-old is already being watched by chairmen in England and is sure to feature on a number of shortlists thanks to keeping his team in the hunt for Europa League qualification on resources widely known to be thinner than a starving stick insect.

"His work has been well recognised south of the border," stated the former Leeds United and Coventry City manager. "He is well thought of and well-regarded. People are recognising what he has done and what he continues to do.

"The thing that will impress chairmen is that there is no spitting the dummy when the best player has got to go or three or four key players have got to go. I would think there will be interest from England this summer and then you've got October-time, when the panic button gets pressed by chairmen south of the border. His will be a name close to a lot of chairmen's thinking."

McAllister has personal knowledge of the pressurised environment of managing a football club and being asked to achieve results against all odds. He readily admits that he cannot believe the job McCall has been doing at Motherwell with a collection of players pulled together for a fraction of the wages being paid by many of their competitors.

"I know the parameters he is working within with regard to budgets and wages," said McAllister. "I have no idea how he does it.

"You never hear any moaning. They have taken a few beatings, generally from Dundee United, but they bounce back after that and win a couple. They've never gone away. I have a feeling that Motherwell and Aberdeen in the last game of the season will still be an issue.

"It is remarkable. I know where Stuart is working and where he is having to recruit from. It takes a lot of hard work and I would imagine he is up and down motorways looking for any little opportunity to grab a player from someone's reserve team or from a Conference side.

"He can't really afford failures either. If Motherwell offer someone a salary, it has got to work."

McCall's cv is made all the more impressive by the fact he is The Third Man in Scotland's resurgent national set-up alongside Gordon Strachan and his assistant Mark McGhee. McAllister, who earned 57 caps as well as captaining his country as a player, believes his appointment was an inspired one.

"It makes sense," he said. "Gordon has been away from the Scottish game for some time and having a manager pitting his wits against the Scottish-based players is ideal.

"Mark can still operate south of the border and see the English-based boys, but there is nothing better than having someone situated here to give you his opinions on younger players coming through."

How long McCall will remain in Scotland, however, is a question upon which many of those with claret-and-amber affiliations would prefer not to dwell.

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