Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell has admitted the departure of Joe Efford had helped to “balance the books” after the forward was released from the club’s injury-hit squad.
Efford’s departure was announced on Monday, with Motherwell saying the termination of his contract was by mutual consent, and Kettlewell explained that the decision was in the player’s best interest as well as the club’s.
The 27-year-old had moved from Waasland-Beveren to Fir Park in January 2022, with Motherwell paying an undisclosed fee to sign him but the move had not worked out.
While Efford played 31 games for the club, he had struggled with fitness and it had become clear he was not a central part of the manager’s plans.
“There was a couple of factors in the Joe Efford situation,” Kettlewell said.
“Joe had a bad injury to his quad before I came in, he was fighting his way back to fitness, there had been a lot of stop-start and other knocks and niggles and you’re trying to work through a pre-season and he got an opportunity against Kilmarnock.
“Joe has never been a problem to me and I’ll go on record saying that, but sometimes in football you need a fresh challenge and you need a fresh start and that’s how I see it.
“What I have done and the football club has done is to be very fair with Joe.
“But sometimes you almost have to hold your hands up and see that there needs to be a fresh start, and then there’s probably another bit on it as well. We never talk about it too much and managers don’t get a lot of credit for it, but it’s the financial side of it as well.”
Motherwell posted a loss of around £1m in their most recently published accounts and the manager acknowledged that it was helpful in one way to let one of the highest-paid players in the squad leave.
“Joe was one of the top earners at the football club,” he said. “I’m immensely proud with the work that’s been done over the summer in conjunction with the board, the chief executive, the head of recruitment, myself, other members of staff that we’ve managed to trim things down.
“Managers always want the biggest budget they can get and they always want loads and loads the options.
“We know we don’t have loads options at this minute, but the situation with Joe brings us back to exactly where we’re trying to be as a football club and what the board had stated was the ideal number for a budget.
“If you’ve asked me that I think we could get to the position that we’re in at the start of the summer, I would have the probably said no.
“So again, I have to go on record and say a huge amount of thanks to people who have been involved in that because that’s been a tough, tough process. In that, Joe gets an opportunity to move on in his career.
“What we are now is another player light which is difficult with the number of injuries that we have.
“But again, it’s trying to get that balance between the numbers, the squad, the balance, but also what that budget looks like and where you want it to be.”
Motherwell are back in action this weekend when they host St Mirren as second take on third in the Premiership.