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Caretaker Stephen Craigan and Kenny Shiels keen to land Motherwell's top job


Experienced coach: ex-international Stephen Craig is also the manager of the Nothern Ireland U19 side

Experienced coach: ex-international Stephen Craig is also the manager of the Nothern Ireland U19 side

Experienced coach: ex-international Stephen Craig is also the manager of the Nothern Ireland U19 side

Stephen Craigan is facing competition from a fellow Ulsterman in his bid to land the vacant Motherwell manager's job on a permanent basis.

Former Ballymena United and Coleraine manager Kenny Shiels is among over 30 early applicants for the position. He has thrown his name into the reckoning following Ian Baraclough's sacking on Wednesday.

A shock name also believed to be among the runners for the job is Stuart McCall, who was only sacked by Motherwell last year.

Craigan, who is currently the club's under-20 coach, was immediately installed as caretaker manager and he will have the chance to impress the club's board when he leads the team into action against Partick Thistle tomorrow afternoon.

Well captain Keith Lasley has publicly backed his former team mate Craigan for the job.

He called him 'a safe pair of hands' and said that Craigan is a natural choice to step into the breach, at least temporarily, as he knows the team's style of play 'inside out'.

After also acting as caretaker manager for a short spell while still a player with the club some six years ago, Craigan is understood to be keen on making the step up to replace Baraclough, whose exit came after Tuesday's League Cup exit at the hands of Morton.

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Alongside him in the dugout will be another former Northern Ireland international, Stephen Robinson, who remains at the club after his spell as Baraclough's assistant.

Craigan played more than 300 league games for Motherwell, in a Fir Park career that spanned 18 years in two spells.

The 38-year-old spent three years with Partick Thistle from 2000 to 2003 - during which time he made his Northern Ireland debut - but has always been considered a Motherwell man.

He faces stiff competition from the 30-plus applications for the Fir Park post.

Shiels is keen to get back into management after a five-month spell with Thai outfit BEC Tero Sasana recently came to an end.

Shiels knows the Scottish game well and he has returned to live in Edinburgh following his time in Bangkok.

He can boast silverware too after winning the Scottish League Cup with Kilmarnock before he was sacked in the summer of 2013 and the 59-year-old was also in the running for the Motherwell job before the appointment of Baraclough last December.

Craigan retired in the summer of 2012 and he returned to Motherwell as under-20 coach last July.

His work on BT Sport's Scottish Premiership has made Craigan a highly thought of TV pundit in Scotland, as well as an up and coming young coach.

Michael O'Neill brought him into the Northern Ireland set up too and Craigan is currently under-19 international manager.

Any permanent engagement with the Motherwell first team would, most likely, bring an end to his time in that role.

Well have won only two of their eight Premiership games this season, but sit outside the relegation places in 10th, ahead of Dundee United and tomorrow's opponents Partick Thistle.

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