Motherwell sour over Pearson's Celtic deal

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The Independent Football

Celtic have finally agreed a fee of £350,000 for Motherwell midfielder Stephen Pearson. The protracted transfer will go ahead after Motherwell's manager, Terry Butcher, admitted the player did not have the heart to remain at Fir Park.

The Scotland international will now begin negotiations over personal terms at Parkhead. The Motherwell chairman, Bill Dickie, said the club was reluctant to allow the player to leave and unhappy that Pearson was not prepared to wait until the end of the season when the club would have been prepared to take a chance with a tribunal deciding the fee. Dickie said: "We have very reluctantly accepted an offer of £350,000. Initially, Celtic offered £250,000 but that was wholly unacceptable.

"Although the offer was increased, we still feel it is substantially below the true value of the player and we were perfectly prepared to leave the matter to a tribunal.

"However, after extensive discussions with Terry Butcher, it became clear he did not have any confidence in Stephen Pearson being ready and willing to meet the challenges that will lie ahead at Fir Park until the end of the season.

"In view of that, it was agreed it was in the best interests of Motherwell to sell the player to Celtic."

Pearson, 21, is a boyhood fan of the Hoops and Butcher had already expressed concern that the player's mind was not on the job after he was linked with Celtic earlier in the season.

"I don't think there is any doubt that being linked with Celtic has had an effect on Stephen in terms of his performances," Butcher said.

"I'm not just talking about the speculation in the last week either. It started to kick in a lot earlier than that. I'd say from the very first mention of it.

"It's a move he's dreamed about ever since he started to play football so I can understand his situation."

Indeed, the midfielder yesterday conceded his heart had been set on a transfer to his favourite club. Pearson said: "I have obviously supported them all my life. My heart has always been set on Celtic, so it is a dream move for me.

"It had dragged on a bit, so I am very relieved as I did not want to leave on a pre-contract agreement. I wanted Motherwell to get as much money as possible.

"Now I can concentrate on my football as I know that Celtic have a team full of world-class players and I might have to bide my time before breaking into the first team."

Pearson made his debut for Motherwell in March 2001 as a substitute in the 1-1 draw at Hibernian.

He was a Scotland Under-21 international before graduating to the senior team for the Euro 2004 play-off first leg against Holland in November where he almost scored after his introduction as a substitute.

Celtic manager Martin O'Neill has tracked the player for several months and has now got his man.

The Celtic midfielder Alan Thompson believes his Champions' League experience has put him on the brink of an England call-up. Sven-Goran Eriksson's assistant Tord Grip watched Thompson star in Celtic's 3-0 demolition of Rangers, the win capped by a superb free-kick strike from the 30-year-old.

Eriksson names his England squad next month for the friendly with Portugal.

Thompson said: "I think playing in Europe has helped me because you can be judged against some of the best players.

"It is important you have a European side to your game and coming up against different systems and different environments has been good. I'm sure if I were playing international football it would be of benefit."

Chris Sutton, who has been operating in a midfield role this season, has also been tipped for a call-up which Thompson says would be deserved.

He said: "I can't remember the last time he had a poor game. He keeps producing massive performances for us week in, week out and has been doing that for the last couple of seasons."

Thompson said: "I think I am playing some of the best football of my career and I'm certainly enjoying it more than ever.

"It is probably down to a bit of experience, a bit of maturity and also because of the people around me."

The injured Celtic defender Joos Valgaeren is expected to resume training next week after being sidelined by a groin problem. Fellow defender Ulrik Laursen is also close to a comeback following a similar complaint, but Johan Mjallby is sidelined for up to six weeks as he recovers from a knee operation.