Scottish Football: McLean thrives in the family way: James Traynor looks at the methods of the man who has revived Motherwell

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The Independent Online
THEY have been called Scottish football's Brothers Grimm, but never to their faces. Jim McLean and his little brother Tommy are stern, sober and earthy graduates of the game's old school and many have suffered their wrath.

During Jim's 21-year dictatorship as manager of Dundee United and now as major shareholder and chairman, many players, referees, and those creatures he considers to be at the bottom of the food chain - the sports hacks - have withered in the full blast of his rage. He dispensed bans from Tannadice almost with a relish, and players who transgressed were given extra training sessions, exiled to the reserves or fined, or sometimes all three.

When big brother, who had taken United, a club of modest and limited means, to a Uefa Cup final, a Scottish League championship, two League Cup triumphs, and six Scottish Cup finals, moved upstairs at the end of last season, it was as though a dark, brooding cloud had dispersed.

But already an uncannily similar voice was being heard in the land: 'We're definitely not good enough . . . It's not you, it's your paper, but you're banned.' It was the sound of Tommy McLean, the manager of Motherwell.

A former Rangers winger, who was assistant manager to John Greig at Ibrox before going it alone with Morton and then, in 1984, at Motherwell, Tommy felt that management could only be approached one way - the McLean way. His

single-minded methods have been vindicated; Motherwell share top place in the Premier Division with Aberdeen and Rangers having already won the Scottish Cup and played in Europe for the first time in their 107-year history.

'When I accepted the job nine years ago,' McLean said, 'the first thing the directors said was: 'You'll have to find pounds 100,000 if you want the players to remain full-time.' I sold two players I had never even seen play for Motherwell to raise the money, but we stayed full-time, which was the important thing. I learnt quickly I had to be both a businessman and a manager.'

He spoke often with his brother at Tannadice, 'but', he explained, 'I always made my own decisions. A manager is finished the day he hesitates over decisions.' McLean's notions have not always been popular with the supporters and a year ago - when Motherwell had only nine points at the halfway stage of the league - the fans were calling for his head. 'It was an attempt at mob rule and it didn't really bother me.'

Popularity has never been his raison d'etre and McLean had the confidence to be true to his long-term plan. He is gratified by seeing young players develop and at present there are five first-teamers - Phil O'Donnell, Jim Griffin, Jamie Dolan, Chris McCart and Paul McGrillen - who were all products of the Fir Park youth policy. The remainder of his squad were bought for relatively low fees.

When it comes to spotting a bargain, McLean appears to have the gift. Rob McKinnon, bought from Hartlepool for a song, is an example; the 27- year-old was capped for Scotland earlier this season. Tommy Coyne, bought recently from Tranmere, who has scored four goals in four matches, looks another wise buy.

McLean, who is also a director of Motherwell, is entitled to derive a fair amount of satisfaction as he negotiates his 10th season at Fir Park, but he frets about what has still to be done. 'In this business, complacency kills,' he counsels. After Motherwell had beaten Rangers at Ibrox earlier in the season, was the manager pleased? 'We were a disgrace. I can't accept that level of play,' he lamented. He was at it again last week after the 3-2 win against Hearts at Tynecastle. 'We played for only 20 minutes. We were shocking,' he said. He was drawing on the McLean philosophy: if you accept less than people are capable of giving, they will give you less.

'We McLeans (their older brother, Willie, is a former manager and is now an SFA coach) can't help the way we are,' Tommy said. 'If it's in our heads, we'll say it like it is. We know others may say we are all doom and gloom, but we are simply realistic.'

The reality which concerns Motherwell is that their McLean will not last as long as Dundee United's. Tommy is now 46 and has a two-year-old daughter, Lorna, whom he would like to watch growing up. 'The wee one is my relaxation and I wouldn't want her to suffer any upset when she starts school because her father is manager of the local team,' he said. 'I want to spend time with her and if I have to sacrifice the job to do that I will.'

He may be an awkward character at times, but Lorna's gain will be Motherwell's, and football's, loss.

James Traynor is football correspondent of the Herald, Glasgow