Stuart Kettlewell’s initial inclination as a manager is to protect his players. As a result, he is eager to dampen Motherwell fans’ excitement at the return of striker Mika Biereth from injury.
On the other hand, just as his amazing debut from the bench against Hibernian piqued the fans’ interest, everything he has seen from the on-loan Arsenal forward behind the scenes has convinced him that he can be a significant asset to his attack in the coming weeks and months.
Biereth may have lit up Fir Park on the pitch in that Hibs game, but his modest personality and complete lack of airs and graces have earned him adoration away from the pitch. He may one day make it big, but for the time being, his devotion to Motherwell is unwavering.
The forward returned to Lanarkshire and to full training yesterday, and is set to earn a place on the bench for tomorrow’s match against Ross County at Fir Park. And Kettlewell knows that news will excite supporters.
“It’s a testament to the impact he had,” said Kettlewell.
“We do need to manage expectations. He’s still a youngster. He came from a major club and is undeniably talented, but it’s critical that I put the right pieces in place to get him back playing
“He’ll be in a position to offer us something this weekend after sessions [on Thursday and Friday], but we must be cautious.”
We have a number of games coming up, and when players come back from injury, it’s so important that they stay in. There can’t be stupidity from myself by playing him minutes he’s not capable of.
“I’ve been in touch with him, and he has been terrific over the last eight or nine weeks. We’ve also been in contact with Arsenal, so we think we are now in a good place, and we’ll get to measure it over the next couple of days.
“I know the talent he is, but it’s about finding the right stages of games to integrate him and to see if we can get the level of performance we saw in that short snippet.
“I think he’s a classic case of somebody who plays the game a different way to what he is like off the pitch.
“You can see how laid back he is and how relaxed he is, but when you see him on the pitch and on the training pitch, he’s a completely different character, which is great. I think sometimes football players have to be that.
“I have been blown away by his mentality coming into this club, because it can be a dangerous thing sometimes that you see yourself as an Arsenal player and not a Motherwell player.
What does the training facility look like at Motherwell? What does the stadium look like? Do we have the same amount of staff as Arsenal? Do we have the same financial clout? No, we don’t. But you have to buy into those surroundings and try to use them as a stepping stone in what could be a really good career for Mika.
“To be fair to him, he has done exactly that, and those constant phone calls and messages to myself and the rest of the staff and the players that he is anxious and desperate to get back up here probably tells us a story.”
While Motherwell have been boosted by the return of Biereth, they also suffered a blow during the week as Pape Souare – just back from a calf injury – sustained another setback.
“He’s got an ankle injury, and that’s probably as much as we can say just now,” Kettlewell said.
“It does look as if it’s quite a bad one. It does look as if he will miss a period of time, and just when we felt he was fully back up to speed from his calf injury.
“I’m disappointed for him, but we’ll make sure we support him and back him and look after him through that stretch as well.
“I know he is pretty down and we have to be conscious of that with football players, because when you go through that four or five weeks as he did to get back from a calf injury, it’s a major blow a couple of weeks later when you go down with something like this.
“I don’t think it could be avoided, it was a bit of a freak accident. He was going to block a shot in the bounce game we played and his foot gets trapped underneath him. The ankle moves in a direction in which it has quite clearly sustained a decent degree of damage.”