Ross Jackson


An alarming trend was continued in Scottish football in the January transfer window as both Celtic and Rangers stripped their SPL rivals of any resemblance of talent. Barry Robson left Dundee United for Celtic Park with Steven Whittaker joining Rangers.

These latest acquisitions join an ever lengthening list of players plucked from lower down the table, lured by big wages and destined to spend the rest of their careers at the Old Firm sides either on the bench or turning out in front of small crowds in the reserves.

Despite showing promise, the players being collected like trinkets by the sides from Glasgow, tend to make only a limited impact as their true level of performance is found out.

So, many a potential Scottish international of the future is left to rot in the reserves, not getting the priceless, and necessary, time to develop in the SPL.

Take Kenny Miller as a prime example; having burst onto the scene at Hibernian, the Easter Road side knew they were set to lose their latest jewel the moment he scored an SPL goal.

After 45 appearances, just 12 goals and a young player of the year award, Rangers saw fit to take the youngster to Ibrox. Within a year he had been moved on having made just 30 appearances.

From the top of the SPL to Championship side Wolves, Miller had to restart his career and, luckily for him, managed to forge a name for himself in the Premiership when Wolves had a brief stay in the top flight.

Fast forward a few years and, after an unsuccessful spell at rivals Celtic, Miller finds himself back in England at struggling Derby.

He has lost his place in Scotland’s starting line-up and must have been thinking what could have been if he had stayed at Hibs for a couple more seasons of guaranteed first team football.

No-one seems to learn from other footballer’s mistakes as, using Hibs as an example, a string of players have gone onto “bigger and better things” only to be left disappointed by the so called greener grass on the other side of the hill.

Few will recognise the name Ian Murray but when he first broke into the first team at Easter Road, he soon established himself as captain and one of the first names on the team sheet.

The lure of big money wages meant he predictably departed for Ibrox only to find chances limited and moved down south to England in search of first-team football.

The circle was complete when he rejoined Hibs on a short term deal during the transfer window after having his contract cancelled by Norwich City.

The best young talent that the SPL has to offer simply don’t get the time to develop into the players they could be, ending up as mediocre, bit part squad members brought on when the result is beyond doubt.

Doubtless people may point to the success stories; Scott Brown joined Celtic in a big money move and now he is established as a first team regular getting the chance to play in the Champions League.

This would never be possible at Hibs and benefits both the player and the National Team as Brown has continued to mature into a fine, tenacious central midfielder. But despite Brown’s rise to prominence, all too many footballers find themselves lost after signing for the Old Firm.

I wonder if anyone remembers the names Nacho Novo, Chris Killen, Kevin Thomson and, without predicting too gloomy an outcome for him, will anyone remember Barry Robson ten years down the line?

The impact of this trend is there for all to see with the SPL dreadfully short on quality and clubs outside of Glasgow needing to consistently produce young talent to maintain a team as they simply cannot afford to replace their lost stars.

Signed for a fraction of their worth, teams lower down the league remain poverty stricken (in a football sense), frantically searching for anyone of decent standard to walk into their threadbare squads.

As all the quality heads to Glasgow, no other team has a chance of getting into the Champions League where they can earn extra revenue for better players.

It is a vicious cycle which keeps the SPL in order.

An order that will not be changed unless teams can get their star youngsters on long term contracts, forcing the big two to pay a reasonable amount for the players they ‘desperately need.’

Maybe that may persuade them to not be so gung ho in their transfer policy within the SPL, improving the standards of every team in the league and creating more competition for the Old Firm.

Call me a cynic, but this is a fairytale which will never be realised, much to the detriment of the SPL.

Whenever there is a team even contemplating challenging Rangers and Celtic, the January transfer window rolls around and the challenging team is stripped bare of its assets, leaving them limping to the finishing line as the Old Firm disappear out of sight.

For a long time to come Rangers and Celtic will always be a spot on the horizon for the chasing pack and, as they sign players with only slight potential, the big two from Scotland will never win the Champions League.

Either way, everyone in Scotland loses in the long term; an alarming trend that must be addressed by all concerned with Scottish football.