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It only takes a couple of minutes into a conversation with Stuart Kettlewell to know that there is an erudite brain under that perfectly coiffured hairstyle of his.

The interim Motherwell manager – who is expected to be confirmed in the role imminently – has spoken eloquently about body language and the important role it plays in performance in recent days, he's talked about standards and how he often felt when watching games earlier this season he knew Motherwell were beaten before the start. It took him all of one match to change the mindset with a 2-1 win over St Mirren last midweek, then he followed it up with a 2-0 dismantling of a Hearts side that had lost just once – and that to Rangers – in the previous 11 matches.

He's been self-effacing, remembering to praise the Motherwell players for their role in digging out two hugely significant victories which have given the denizens of Fir Park reason to believe that they are no longer trudging silently towards relegation to the Championship.

A television close-up at the end of the victory over Hearts appeared to reveal Kettlewell exhorting his players to “see out the game” to “play to the final whistle”. There was less than a minute of play remaining but it gave an indication as to the standards he will expect as Motherwell manager.

Let's not forget that Kettlewell – who once worked in a bank – has already demonstrated an aptitude for a football manager's job. He was part of the two-man team at Ross County, alongside Steven Ferguson, that presided over the Highland League club's return to the top-flight when they won the Championship in 2018-19, a season that also brought the Challenge Cup trophy to Dingwall and personal recognition for Kettlewell and Ferguson, in the form of the manager of the year award and three manager of the month gongs. It speaks to Kettlewell the person that when he was dismissed by County chairman Roy MacGregor in 2020, there was the offer of another job at the club on the table. Further kudos to Kettlewell comes with the discovery that he had even been open to the possibility of voluntary work in the community.


It doesn't take an amateur psychologist to establish that Kettlewell is a highly driven individual and that it is an attribute he admires in others.

“I think you have to work at your craft,” he told me in an interview last year when asked about the Sunderland striker Ross Stewart, whom he'd managed at County. “How do you become better at something: by doing it less or just doing it the same? To become better at something you must do it more and repeat it over and over again and you must be looking for wee nuggets of information and areas to improve on so there are more things for you to go and work out.”

He is also possessed of that great trait that so many effective managers have: the gift of foresight. When asked about Stewart's ceiling as he was helping Sunderland to promotion from League One last season he replied: “If you're asking me, could he go and score goals in the Championship – 100% he could. If you're asking if he gets a call-up from Steve Clarke to go and play in the national squad do I think people would be surprised by how good he was – I do, absolutely. We're talking about a guy who is 6ft 4ins, nearly 6ft 5ins, that can run quicker than anybody, that is incredible in the air, that has got lovely soft feet, great touch, can finish with his head, can finish with his feet – tell me something there that doesn't work in any level of football.”

Stewart returned some of the compliments last week saying: “He knows the league, the club, is a good man-manager, and is also a top coach. The only surprise for me is that Stuart hasn't been given another first-team since he left Ross County.

It really is a surprise, because he did a great job at County.”

Kettlewell was sacked having lost 2-0 at home to Hamilton in December 2020 during a season in which County eventually pulled themselves clear under John Hughes. In short, it was not an inescapable position. He will likely relish the chance to prove a few of the doubters wrong.