Raith Rovers: Boss Ian Murray has sympathy for severe pressure on Scottish Cup opponent Steven Hammell
After a miserable run of one win in 15 Premiership games, Hammell and his squad have come under fire from disgruntled supporters, who this week placed a banner reading ‘Show some passion for the badge on your shirt’ in front of the main stand at home ground Fir Park.
But Murray, 41, whose managerial career started impressively a decade ago when he comfortably steered unfashionable Dumbarton clear of the first division relegation zone, argues that Hammell is currently in a tougher position than he was back then.
The Rovers gaffer told the Fife Free Press: "I always maintained that when I was 31 at Dumbarton that I was very, very fortunate because I could make loads and loads of mistakes but outwith the spotlight.
"We were always the underdogs and there were loads of mistakes looking back, because you’re learning.
"Steven’s in a different situation. He’s at a club that’s been at the premier league now for nearly 40 years, so they have expectations.
"It’s very, very difficult for young managers. You give them time.
"It’s like anything. You go into any job in any walk of life, you must be given time to learn your trade.
"You have to make mistakes to learn. Managers still do it, they’re never going to get it perfect.
"Knowing Steven, knowing what he was like as a player, a really aggressive, focused left back then I don’t see him changing as a manager.
"It’s one win in 15 but generally the games that Motherwell have lost this season have been fairly tight.
"They were certainly denied what looked to be a stonewall penalty recently against St Mirren, which would maybe have got them a point at a very hard place.
"We have to be careful. As the underdogs we know the pressure is on Motherwell but we also know they have good players and a good manager.”
The teams’ contrasting recent form – Rovers are unbeaten in 11 league and cup fixtures after beating Dundee 4-3 on penalties following a 2-2 draw in Wednesday night’s SPFL Trust Trophy semi-final – would indicate Raith have a major chance of causing an upset.
But Murray refused to downplay the size of his side’s task.
He added: “Look, I think we have to be realistic. Motherwell are in the league above us for a reason.
"They are normally very strong in that league. They are going through a difficult period at the moment, of course they are and results don’t lie.
"But they’re also playing against better opposition than we’re playing against.
"So we have to give them that full respect as they will give us. But on the flip side we have good players that we know can cause problems.
"We know on our day we can give a lot of teams a game, but we have to be on it.
"We have to be really good, we have to be really well organised, really focused and concentrated because against these teams you tend to find they always find a way of getting through.”
Murray was at Fir Park on a scouting mission last midweek to see Motherwell produce an abject display when losing 2-0 at home to St Johnstone in the league.
"It was obviously a disappointing performance from them,” he said. “Conditions weren’t the best.
"I actually felt St Johnstone were very sharp in the midfield and front areas.
"I thought they were just sharper but there wasn’t a lot in the game.
"Motherwell still had a bit of energy and players that were willing to take the ball. They had a clear identity in how they wanted to play but unfortunately they are on a dip at the moment, the fans aren’t happy and when they do that they voice their opinion.
"We are really looking forward to the tie.”