Butcher puts accent on a little wizardry from Oz

CIS Insurance Cup final
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The Independent Football

Rejection, like potatoes, is available in all shapes and sizes. It does not matter whether you are big, like Terry Butcher and Gordon Ramsay, or small, like Gordon Strachan and Scott McDonald. The cut still hurts.

Rejection, like potatoes, is available in all shapes and sizes. It does not matter whether you are big, like Terry Butcher and Gordon Ramsay, or small, like Gordon Strachan and Scott McDonald. The cut still hurts.

Ramsay was famously clearing out of the Rangers dressing room just as Butcher was arriving at Ibrox in 1986, fresh from the World Cup in Mexico. Yet being England captain was no guarantee against the sack when Butcher turned his hand to management.

Butcher gave up the game in disillusionment after being fired by Coventry City and Sunderland, and returned to Scotland to run his hotel near Stirling - just as Ramsay was probably getting his first Michelin star - but he has gone from peeling the spuds in his own kitchen to whipping up a nouvelle creation at Motherwell that is within touching distance of silverware.

It has been 14 years since Motherwell lifted a trophy, but victory today in the CIS Insurance Cup final against Rangers would eclipse even the 1991 Scottish Cup triumph. It has been achieved against a backdrop of hardship that would have made even Ramsay flinch - when Butcher took over as manager in April 2002, the club had just gone into administration with debts of £11 million.

He had to sell his best players, James McFadden and Stephen Pearson, to Everton and Celtic to raise £2m, but the impressive youth system at Fir Park has kept on pumping out more raw ingredients for Butcher to mould. The exception has been McDonald.

He might sound like an authentic Scot, but the truth is that Motherwell's young striker has more in common with Ramsay Street than Ramsay the chef. The young Australian ended up at Fir Park after being released from Southampton by Strachan, who admitted on BBC television last week that he probably made a few mistakes among those decisions before his managerial sabbatical.

"I don't hold any grudges," said McDonald. "That's the way football works. A new manager comes in and he does not fancy you. I understand they have a hard job. I had five managers in four years at Southampton, which did not help. I made my debut at 18, but it is hard for young players - even when you think you've made the breakthrough.

"I came to England after I was spotted playing for Australia against Brazil in the final of the World Youth Cup in 1999. We lost to Brazil on penalties and Adriano, who is now a big star at Inter Milan, was playing for them."

A season at Bournemouth failed to yield the long-term contract McDonald was seeking. Then the 21-year-old changed his agent, coming under the wing of Dave McPherson, Butcher's former defensive partner at Ibrox, and everything fell into place.

McDonald has scored 12 goals this season - including one memorable strike against Rangers in the League. "I came very close to flying back home to Australia when I was without a club," admits McDonald. "If I had, it could have finished my career, because the professional league there packed up a year ago and I would have had to go amateur and find a nine-to-five job. Motherwell have brought some stability into my life, and my game has improved because of that."

Despite having an accent that sticks out in the Fir Park dressing room even more than Butcher's, McDonald will not be short of support today. His mother, Rae, and brother, Lauchlan, 15, will be at Hampden. They came over to Scotland to watch the semi-final against Hearts, when Scott earned a penalty in the 3-2 success, and decided to stay.

His father, John, has had to remain at home in Melbourne. "My other brother, Cameron, who is 17, has school commitments and they could not come," said the Motherwell forward. "There is a Rangers supporters' club in Melbourne who meet in a bar to watch the games. He knows a lot of people, though they might not want him in if he's supporting Motherwell. He will have to keep quiet, but if I score he might have to make a quick departure out the fire exit."

Despite the Caledonian names among his family, Scott's closest link to his adopted land is his grandparents. Yet, after spending five years in the UK, he now qualifies to play for one of the home countries through residency rules, giving him a dilemma - Australia are ready to cap him at full international level. So if McDonald shows his quality against Rangers, Walter Smith might want to hijack him for Scotland.