ANYTHING that Stuart Kettlewell has got from football, he has earned. That means the praise and satisfaction that comes with 12-hour days turning into three points on a Saturday, and – he is honest enough to accept - the flak that comes his way when they don’t.

The one thing that doesn’t alter, whether that was during Motherwell’s magnificent run of form when he dragged his club up by the bootstraps from the brink of relegation in February, or during their current dire run of nine games without a victory, is that he will give his heart and soul to his quest to bring success to Fir Park.

Having seen the ugly, harsh side of the game following his dismissal from Ross County and borne the worry about simply providing for his family, he is able to maintain a sense of perspective when it comes to his current predicament. And a determination not to face such times again.

That was instilled in him, in fact, way before he was involved in professional football, with his parents hardwiring into him the importance of an honest day’s graft.

As long as he can look himself in the mirror when he goes home of an evening – often long after the rest of his family have gone to bed – and he can look his dad in the eye knowing he has given his all to his job, then the results can fall as they may.

“I come from a proper working-class background, and my dad always schooled me on giving your all,” Kettlewell said.

“You make sure that you put the hours in, and you do everything in your power to make things work, because you owe everyone that.

“My dad is a joiner and he’s still out there working at 66, knocking his pan in every day.

“He’s a man who used to spend his money going to watch football matches, and when you’ve worked hard for that money then the least you expect is that the players give absolute maximum effort, they run until they can’t run another step to try and score a goal, keep a clean sheet or win a game.

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“If anyone thinks that is not the case here, I can assure them that is not how I was brought up. The toughest place I would have to go after a game if I wasn’t doing that, or the players weren’t doing that, would be my own parent’s home, because they would be the first people to tell me.”

Kettlewell spent the best part of two years out of the game following his sacking from Ross County, refusing the temptation to jump at the first opportunity presented to him, as difficult as that was for a man who has never had the luxury of not worrying about paying his bills despite a long professional career.

When Motherwell spoke to him about becoming their lead development coach a little over a year ago, the fit felt right. And he had, by that point, gained a healthy enough dose of perspective on the difficulties of life on the outside of football looking in.

“When you’ve been out the game for a period of time, it’s difficult,” he said.

“You are turning your hand to things until you feel the right opportunity comes up, you are trying to put food on the table for your family.

“As someone who has never earned fortunes out of the game, I’ve faced some big challenges. And I think I’ve always thrust myself into it, I’ve embraced it and never shirked it.

“When you don’t sleep the night after a game, or when you don’t speak to your family, but you’re picking up the phone to players and making sure they are in a good place, people don’t see that.

“I can only use myself as an example, but I’m spending 12 hours here a day, coming in at seven in the morning and leaving at seven at night to try and get things right. But that’s not just when we’re losing, myself and the staff were doing that here when we were winning.

“A lot of people will kid you on and say; ‘Ach, we’re never away from the place’, but I look at my biggest strength probably being my work ethic, it’s the one thing that I stick by, and I trust.

“I’m not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me, I’m just trying to give the best reflection I can of what the reality of the job is.”

That reality can often take its toll on home life, where loved ones can become ships passing in the night. Particularly during a difficult period like this, when Kettlewell’s every waking thought is occupied by arresting his side’s current run of poor form.

“My wife and my four kids will testify that I don’t have much attention span for anything else at the minute,” he said.

“They want to tell me their news and tell me about their day, but a lot of the time I’m leaving the house before they are up and I’m getting back when they are going to their bed, so you genuinely don’t see each other.

“But I have a great family behind me. Katie, my wife, and my kids, they are unbelievable, and they understand the life and what I am trying to achieve. They make the biggest sacrifices, when their dad isn’t talking to them or listening to their news and can’t go to their games of football.

“I’d love to say one day that I am going to finish work early at Fir Park and take my kids to training or their game, but I sacrifice all of those things, and there will be an undoubted regret I’m sure about that down the line. I’ve heard many managers talk about it.

“I don’t talk about the sacrifices to try and impress anybody, but the hours I spend here dictate that I don’t get to the parent’s evenings, I don’t get to the kids’ football games. I don’t drop them off at school, I don’t pick them up, I never do any of those things.

“It’s not because I don’t want to, I just realise that to do this job properly and to get it right, I need to spend as much time here as I possibly can at Fir Park.”

What is all that time and familial sacrifice for then, exactly? What does success look like for a club like Motherwell, who are proud of their long history and standing in the Scottish game, but increasingly modest of means?

“I ask the question; ‘What do we want to be as a football club?’,” Kettlewell said.

“I’m not saying that I’m here to reinvent the wheel, because if I don’t win games of football, then I am not going to get that time.

“But I want to be successful at this club in many different aspects, it’s not just all about winning games, even though that’s the most important thing.

“How does that look? Is it financially? Is it signing up one of the top young talents in the country like Lennon Miller, who wants to stay here to continue his development? Does it come by trophies? Balancing the books?

“What is the expectation? What do people expect? What do you think we can achieve? Clearly, we budget for 10th place, that’s pretty categoric. We don’t budget for cup runs.”

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The only path to climbing out of the cycle of simply scrapping to survive, according to Kettlewell, is to focus on youth development.

“There are three things you can do at a football club to improve the financial position,” he said.

“You either improve your league position, you can go on a cup run – which is incredibly difficult, given there are big city clubs with a lot more money than us who demand that – and the third way is in player development and sales.

“For me, that is the one that I can actually control. If you have good coaching staff, a good manager, then that is the one you can control if you believe in the work that you do.

“Can you work with the talented boys in your academy, give them a platform and then earn the club a substantial amount of money? David Turnbull is the obvious example here, and I know for a fact that the money he brought in meant an awful lot to this football club.

“That takes trust, it takes time, but that is the one that is more of a surefire thing for clubs than the other two.

“We will always also have to bring in more experienced players too, but the more money you generate, the better business model that becomes, and the better opportunity you have to bring good players into the building.

“Maybe you don’t get pipped at the post as much as we did in the summer, for instance, and a lot of that was from Scottish clubs.

“But I’m not going to sit here and cry about that. My job is to get the absolute best out of the people I have here, and I would say that some performances and results in recent weeks would suggest that we are not getting as much as we did from February until the end of the season, and even including some of the recent defeats.

“That gives me loads of hope and belief that we do have good players, guys who can perform well. Maybe they have dropped off those levels for a bit, but I’m confident we can get them back to it.”

If he doesn’t, and soon, Kettlewell knows that he might not have the opportunity to see his longer-term vision for Motherwell play out.

“I came in in February as manager, at the start of this week I was the fifth longest serving manager in the league, and as I speak to you now, I’m the fourth longest serving manager,” he said, with Malky Mackay the latest manager to be shown the door.

“I think that’s an absolute scandal. We all laugh about it, and we all know that is the reality of life as a manager now, but it is a deplorable stat.

“It’s not for me to say who should keep or sack managers, but if we are serious about really developing these players in that age bracket from 15 to 20 years old, if managers don’t get time to try and build something, then how is that poor record in this country ever going to change?

“The pressures on managers mean a lot of them automatically pick their most experienced players, and I personally don’t agree with that. It’s not in my make up. If I feel that a young player is ready and is capable, and I’m not going to hurt him or hamper him by putting him on the pitch, then I’ll do it.

“I think so many managers are backed into a corner where they know if they don’t win the next game, they might be gone. And you end up in a position where I’m the fourth-longest serving manager in the league after less than a year in charge.

“I don’t think we have to look too far then to find out why we are not bringing players through.

“I’m pretty proud of the number of young players within that 15-20 bracket that are within our group. I think in general we’ve got minimum five academy graduates training with us every single day.

“I don’t know the answer to how that number improves if we don’t give people more time. It almost becomes just an existence, as opposed to formulating a plan as to what they are trying to achieve.”

There is also the reality that a club like Motherwell can, in theory, produce better players through their academy than they can attract through the transfer market.

Indeed, some of the ever-tightening financial constraints that have been placed upon Kettlewell can at least partly explain why the form of his team has fluctuated this term.

“We significantly cut our costs from last season,” he said.

“We brought in 10 players in January, and I understand that Stevie (Hammell) inherited a group, and every manager wants to put his stamp on it. But then that number is really, really big, and there are serious cost implications of having three managers over the course of a season.

“There are genuine cuts, so within those cuts, we have lost a 29-goal striker in Kevin van Veen, an international midfielder in Sean Goss, we lost Max Johnston, Dean Cornelius, Mikael Mandron who went to St Mirren…you are undoubtedly losing a lot of quality.

“That is no slight on the guys that we work with now, because we have a lot of good players here that I really believe in, but the reduction in what you are able to put into the football department – not just in finance, but in numbers and quality of players – then of course that has to, I think, reduce expectation.

“Certainly, I think it’s fair to say that over this spell since February – not just in the last nine games – we have maximised and really managed to get the best out of the players.

“If you were to take the recent defeats and jumbled that up into all the form – and I know this is hypothetical and people will scoff at it – but you would argue that Motherwell is in a really, really good place.

“But we also acknowledge that we want to turn results around and we want to improve it.

"We all want to protect ourselves and we like to think that we get every decision right, but the fact of the matter is that you have to be humble and honest enough to admit when you have made mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

“But any I have made have been honest mistakes, it’s never because of my ego is getting in the way, because I don’t have one. It’s never because I don’t want the best for the football club, or want the best for the fans who are coming through the gates.

“But when I rhyme off some of those aspects there maybe people will probably think that it isn’t so simple to go out there and compete with the likes of Hearts, Hibs, Rangers, Celtic and Aberdeen.”

But compete, he must. At least with those outwith the Old Firm, and certainly to at least put Motherwell in with a shout of making the top six.

Kettlewell knows that, and that results must turn if he is to reach even his own short-term objectives for the club this season.

“I can assure people that nobody gives themselves more criticism than I do,” he said.

“I analyse myself and what I can do to change things and affect things.

“I look at it though in the context of being in a lot of positions in my life, different walks of life and different jobs where people have doubted me and questioned me, and it’s never been something I’ve been fearful of.

“I’m confident in the fact that I understand how to manage a football club, and I think facts and figures show that I understand how to win games of football and how to develop players.

“Ultimately, that’s where we are at a club like Motherwell. We’re trying to make players better, develop younger players and help the football club within that business model.

“I’d like to think that my track record shows that I know how to do all of that, but that is never going to shelter you from the obvious criticism when you are not winning games.”