19 June 2023

Stuart Kettlewell warns Riku Danzaki he faces fight to get into Motherwell side

19 June 2023

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell has warned Riku Danzaki faces a battle to break into his team.

The Japanese midfielder arrived from a spell with Brisbane Roar in January and played in Steven Hammell’s final three matches, but only featured once under Kettlewell, as an 89th-minute substitute in a 2-0 win over Hearts on February 19.

Injuries were partly to blame for his absence but Kettlewell was happy with the likes of Blair Spittal, Callum Slattery and Harry Paton in his midfield.

The 23-year-old was viewed as a player whose impact would increase once he settled into Scotland and the style of football but he looks like he faces a challenge to get into Kettlewell’s plans.

The Motherwell manager said: “I never signed Riku, it has been really hard to get him on the park, there have been a number of issues in terms of his fitness. He was back fit for a few days then had to drop out. It’s been a frustration for hm and the football club, it’s been very much stop-start.

“Obviously Riku sits with a contract at the football club, he was brought here for a reason, but prior to that when he was fit, it was difficult for him to get into the team as well. We only go based on results and performances in training and what we see on the pitch on a Saturday and it has been difficult for him to get in.

“It’s hard when it’s that change of culture and country, I acknowledge all these factors, but these things are all taken into consideration when there are decisions made on who plays. I’ve been very loyal to guys who have been fit and able to play for us on a Saturday, and that’s what I believe in.

“Riku, technically, you can understand why he was brought to the club for a particular style of play. That has substantially changed, in terms of formation. Riku would probably indicate he is a number 10. I have not played with a number 10 at times.

“I see it a completely different way, so that would probably let you acknowledge why it could be difficult for him at times to get in. ”

Motherwell returned for pre-season training on Monday morning with Ricki Lamie present after getting a hernia surgery late last season after the Steelmen had secured their top-flight status.

“I need to pay testament to Ricki, because a lot of players would have wanted to get that operation done instantly,” Kettlewell said.

“Ricki still felt he could offer us something, he was still available. I know he would have wanted more game-time, but such has been the form of the guys at the back that it has been difficult to get into the team.

“But full marks, in the modern day where sometimes I think players are quite happy to miss training sessions and games, but Ricki didn’t miss a single thing.

“We got him in for surgery a wee bit earlier and that gave him the chance to start pre-season and make sure he is fully up to speed.”

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