THE passing of time has done little to shake Pat Nevin from his beliefs as he casts his mind back to a day of sorrow in the history of Scottish football. It came 15 years ago this week as he hunkered down on the steps of Fir Park’s main stand. A dishevelled-looking figure, Nevin sat with his head in his hands, a chamber of a broken dreams strewn through the corridors held in the stadium behind him.

Fifteen years ago this week, Scottish football changed forever, the false hopes and ambitions of a national game brought clattering into stark reality by the demise of Motherwell Football Club, once a symbol of its aspiration. Following the takeover of the club by multi-millionaire supporter John Boyle, North Lanarkshire would soon become the home for names such as John Spencer, Andy Goram, Roberto Martinez and Ged Brannan, just a few paid handsomely to try and raise Motherwell out of mediocrity in the Scottish Premier League and into the upper echelons to mix it with the big boys.

It was an experiment that ultimately failed disastrously in April 2002 as Boyle, left with a gaping hole in the budget sheet thought to be around £2million due to a collapsed TV deal, felt compelled to put Motherwell up for sale and call in administrators. Nineteen players lost their jobs 15 years ago today as a result, while manager Eric Black voluntarily exited. Nevin, the club’s chief executive at the time, did likewise.

“As upsetting as it was for a lot of people, I couldn’t stand by,” Nevin told Herald Sport of his decision to walk away from the club. “I certainly didn’t want to stay on when other people were being laid off. Morally, that’s not on. I wouldn’t take wages when players who had contracts weren’t getting theirs. That was as much of the reason I decided not to stay as anything else.

“I wasn’t worried about the club, it was going to be fine. I was really comfortable that it may take a while but the club would be okay. I know the fans were upset and worried but they were going to be fine.

“My own personal feelings? I’m afraid none at all. I’d be a liar if I said anything other than my life would be a lot easier not doing that job, and I knew that. There were no personal feelings on it at all, I just thought the players who were there had been let down.

“I had signed them on their contracts and I felt we could honour those contracts. The club disagreed, and that was it. Everything else was secondary.”

Going back to the start, Nevin admits he had reservations when, as a senior Motherwell player, he was approached by Boyle to take over as chief executive with an eye on building the club into a thriving entity capable of competing at the top end of the table. Speaking candidly, even he was surprised at the money Boyle was prepared to throw at his boyhood club.

“You have to go back to when John took over at the club and he asked me to help look after it for him. Firstly, I said ‘Don’t be stupid’ then I did three different costings.

“I did the first that really wasn’t going to cost us any money. Basically left them round about relegation or just above it but we’d build the youth development. The second was to spend X amount, be pretty safe in the league and build a plan around that. The third was the all-singing, all-dancing version, getting up towards £2m a year and combining that with building your academy.

“Much to my amazement, he went for the latter. I said ‘Are you off your head!?’

“I was never confident of that because I always thought they’d give up at any point. So I put more time, effort and energy into youth development than I did anything else, which was good because it paid off.

“If you fast forward a number of years when that deal did go pear-shaped and put a hole in his budget as well as various others, it was mentioned that going into administration was a good idea. I disagreed strongly. I thought there was value in our staff, and I was right. James McFadden, Lee McCulloch and a number of others, for example.

“The losses that were incurred at the time, I don’t agree with the numbers. I was the chief exec so I knew what they were. I had a buyer and I said ‘keep the club running and there’s no need to go into administration’ and the buyer was fine with that. That was all set up and he went to meet John. After that they found out what the cost was, and then the buyer said he’d changed the rules. At that point I thought ‘I’m not getting involved in this’ because I don’t want the club going into administration but everything I do to stop it was being pushed aside.”

Even 15 years on, Nevin strongly defends his stance that plunging Motherwell into administration was the wrong thing to do. In the years that immediately followed, the Fir Park club went on to sell the likes of James McFadden [for £1.25m] and Stephen Pearson [for £700,000]. He feels this vindicates his position as he casts his mind back to the early days.

When asked for how long he feared the club was heading for dangerous waters, Nevin said: “Three years, I’d say? For three years, I thought 'I don’t like this model' so I then put in a different model where you put better funds, time and information into youth development. For God's sake, Keith Lasley is still playing there!

“What was Scotland’s best result in the past 20 years of any game? Scotland v France in Paris. How many of my youth team played?

“I didn’t develop any of those players but it was very important all those guys who were talented – ie their coaches, developers and scouts – were backed. That was a big thing at the time.

“To say when did I think there could have been administration, I couldn’t have told you right after I went in, but very soon after I started that job I thought ‘Right, back-up plan’.

“My back-up plan was put in early and I was disappointed it didn’t pay off. When you talk about administration, I was telling the entire board ‘Wait a minute, I’ve got this boy McFadden here. We can pay this off. We have Pearson. I can pay this off. Don’t worry, calm down, relax’.

“On the other hand I understand the thinking of John and his people. I think we’ve spoken once since, but there’s been no falling out. We just disagreed.”

Back to the present day, Motherwell now operate under a fan ownership model, run by the Well Society. It’s a bright new dawn which sees the Lanarkshire outfit work within a smaller budget but also within their means.

“We were fortunate,” reflected Nevin. “Scottish football had more money. On top of it all, there was more TV money coming in, John Boyle was putting some money in as a backup. The problem is fan ownership doesn’t have a back-up, so if you get relegated you’ve got a problem.

“It’s sometimes a toss of a coin, two or three bad injuries. The classic example is Paul Hartley who was manager of the month two months ago and now Dundee might get relegated. That’s how it can be.

“You need a model that can cope with that and rebound from that. If the current fan ownership model has that, then fine, don’t worry about it. I applaud them if that’s the model.”