One of the rich crop of local talents who shone at Fir Park in the 1980s, Andy Walker is now enthusing over the new flurry of young talent coming through the Motherwell ranks – singling out a certain emerging midfielder for praise.
That was just one of the topics Ladbrokes News covered with Andy, as we caught up with the former Well sensation to discuss everything from the upcoming games at Aberdeen and Celtic, to their chances of a top-half finish, and why he thinks Louis Moult is playing “the best football of his career this season”…
Ladbrokes News: The Well are currently in sixth spot in the Ladbrokes Premiership, but there are six teams below them within 3 points of catching Mark McGhee’s men. How do you rate their chances of a top six finish?
Andy Walker: I think when the league’s so tight, and there aren’t many points separating you from the bottom, then the aim isn’t really the top-six – certainly not yet. The main focus will be on breaking free from a relegation battle, which I think all those teams are involved in right now.
LN: Do you think they’re the best-equipped side in that pack?
They’ve definitely got a few real talents in the squad, though. Chris Cadden’s been given a lot of game-time for a young player, but he’s been very impressive throughout the season. And then you’ve got that pairing of Louis Moult and Scott MacDonald up front, who can guarantee you goals.
There’s experience in that squad, too. Keith Lasley and Steven McManus both know the Ladbrokes Premiership so well. And re-signing Stephen Pearson will also boost the Well on that front, and give the squad a lift.
I personally think they’ve got enough quality to avoid that dangerous relegation play-off spot, and certainly to finish above the bottom – but the table is so tight right now that you can’t really call who will get sixth spot.
LN: Two very tough games up await in the league, with trips to Aberdeen and Celtic next week. Motherwell suffered a pair of narrow losses against Rangers last month, but do you think they could take anything from either of these fixtures?
AW: It’s going to be difficult, no question about that. Aberdeen are very focused on trying to secure second place this season and have a real battle on their hands to do that.
Obviously Celtic have been imperious this season, but Motherwell gave them a very good game at Fir Park back in December when they lost 4-3. Louis Moult scored one of the goals of the season that day, with that volley over Craig Gordon, and he’ll have to be at his very best again if they’re to take anything from Parkhead.
Motherwell do have experience of winning at Celtic Park. They won 2-1 there last season, and though this is a different Celtic side, you can’t rule out a shock result here.
LN: Mark McGhee did quite a bit of business in January, with the likes of former Swansea midfielder Lee Lucas, Elliott Frear and of course, the returning Stephen Pearson joining the side. What do you make of those bits of business?
AW: With the table being so tight, it’s been a very important transfer window for Motherwell, because those signings could give them an extra edge on the sides around them.
Mark’s added a few quality players there, and it obviously gives him opportunities to rotate the squad more if there are injuries – or in weeks where they’ve got multiple games, like the next one.
LN: One real positive is that Louis Moult is continuing to bang in the goals – having now reached double figures in the Ladbrokes Premiership for the second successive season. How highly do you rate him? And what would you say he brings to the team besides fine finishing?
AW: I like his attitude. He’s a physical player and not afraid of using his strength – but he doesn’t cross the line and do anything rash. His movement’s good, and he’s very alive to anything that happens in the 18-yard-box. If the ball breaks, then he’s on it in a flash.
It goes without saying that he’s an absolutely key man for Motherwell. His all-round game is excellent, and he’s such a clinical finisher.
And of course, anyone who can get four goals in a Ladbrokes Premiership game, as Moult did against Hamilton Academical, obviously has something very special about them!
He’s playing the best football of his career right now, and you can see that he’s really enjoying being part of the set-up at Fir Park. The opening goal he scored against Celtic was a thing of beauty, and he’s the kind of player that fans love coming to watch play.
LN: Mark McGhee has really put his faith in Motherwell’s youngsters this season – a number of whom have had fairly regular game time, like Cadden, Jack McMillan, and Ross McLean. Does that policy bode well for the club’s future? And do you think it’s a good club for young players to progress at?
AW: It’s definitely the right approach to take. Mark is working with fairly limited resources compared to some clubs in the division, so developing and playing young guys totally makes sense for Motherwell. And so far the guys who have featured have impressed me.
The likes of McLean and Cadden – who we mentioned earlier – have so much potential, and the exciting current crop reminds me of my time at the club, when you had local guys like myself, Gary McAllister and Chris McCart coming through the ranks and getting a real chance to break into the first-team.
There’s a lot of very gifted young players in Scotland, and it’s clubs like Motherwell who need to take advantage by developing them and giving them that chance. And that’s something I feel they’re doing with Mark in charge.
Next up for Motherwell is that trip to Aberdeen on Wednesday evening, with 7/1 on offer for the Steelmen to enjoy a first win at Pittodrie since 2014.
Meanwhile, you can back the in-form Louis Moult to net anytime against the Dons at odds of 11/4.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing