With Rangers now languishing in the lowest league in Scotland, the door has been thrown wide open for the rest of the Premier League teams to challenge Celtic for the title. The current Scottish champions are already running away with the league after opening up a sizable 18 point gap between themselves and the chasing pack. Closest to them in second place is Motherwell, who strengthened their squad yesterday with the return of the iconic James McFadden. The Scotland striker has been without a club since leaving Sunderland early last month and has signed a deal with the North Lanarkshire club until the end of this season. In a deal that never looked likely to happen, due to McFadden’s legacy wage demands, it would appear as though the player has backed down in order to secure consistent first team football. Its a win win situation for both parties as Motherwell push to cement their current position and McFadden attempts to get his career back on track.
At only 29 years old, McFadden shouldn’t be back at his first club, but instead terrorising defenders in the English premiership or a league of similar stature, as he did during the early part of his twenties. Unfortunately, like Scottish compatriot Craig Gordon, this talented player’s career has been ruined by long term injuries that has limited his playing time. Without regular on field exposure, clubs have had little faith that McFadden is still the player he was and has resulted in him being released by Birmingham, then Everton and most recently Sunderland. Its a vicious cycle that many a professional has had to face and is hard to correct without the player demonstrating that he is beyond the injury problems that have hindered him. Some take to more innovative methods to prove they are worth a contract. Owen Hargreaves, a free agent after leaving Manchester United in the summer of 2011, posted YouTube videos in a bid to convince potential suitors of his fitness, which was enough to convince Manchester City to sign the player on a short term deal. McFadden’s move to Motherwell shows a sign of faith from the club that McFadden’s injury worries are behind him.
McFadden will be hoping that his injury troubles are behind him as well, as he looks to kick-start his career again. Once the first name on the Scotland team sheet and seen as a legend in the dark blue by the fans, McFadden will be hoping he can regain the form he once had and force his way into new boss Gordon Strachan’s long term plans. The new Scotland boss would love to have the old McFadden back to his best and will be monitoring the players progress at Motherwell with interest as he looks to potentially call up the player who last starred for his country in February 2012. Criticised by former boss Craig Levein in that game for his poor attitude and performance, McFadden will want to wipe the slate clean and show the Scottish faithful that he can still be a match winner for them as he had done in the past. But first he needs to play regularly for Motherwell and put in the type of displays that the club grew to expect during his first stint at the club.
It was in the summer of 2000 that a young 17 year old James McFadden burst onto the Scottish football season, in stunning fashion. Not since Davie Cooper had the Motherwell fans been so excited by a player in the claret jersey. The combination of high octane pace, close control and undeniable brashness made McFadden an instant favourite with the home support. Within a season, McFadden was picking up the countries Young Player of the Year award and gaining a reputation as the most exciting prospect to come out of Scotland in a decade. Before long, McFadden was moving to England’s top flight with a move to Everton, where he stayed for five years, making himself into a useful component in manager David Moyes plans. A £5 million move to Birmingham followed but unfortunately for McFadden, it was at St Andrews that the problems with his right knee started. His troublesome right knee has dogged the player ever since and failed moves to Everton and Sunderland, have eventually led the player back home to Scotland.
Motherwell don’t necessarily need McFadden but the player will be welcomed into the squad regardless. Manager Stuart McCall has built an impressive team on an extremely tight budget but still lacks that x factor needed to win the title. Motherwell sit in second place on merit and whilst they have scored regularly in games, their over reliance on striker Michael Higdon has not gone unnoticed. His 17 goals this year have secured more points for the club than any other player, with only three others in the squad scoring more than one goal all season. McFadden in his first spell with the club averaged a goal every second game so McCall will be hoping that he can pick up where he left off and help push Motherwell closer to that lucrative second place finish and a shot at the Champions league. If McFadden regains his form and fitness, it is unlikely that Motherwell will be able to hold on to him beyond the summer as the player still has a good four to five years left to play. It’s a big if at this stage as McFadden hasn’t played competitively for some time now and will need to step up if he is get back to his best. McFadden knows his career is not over yet and now is his chance to get it back on track and once again become a player who sends fear down the spine of opposition defenders the world over.