Scottish football will forever be looking “over the fence” at their rich neighbours


At the time of writing, English Champions Manchester United have thrashed out a £16million deal for Blackburn Rovers defender Phil Jones. On the other side of the M62 to Liverpool, Anfield boss Kenny Dalglish has just secured the £20 million signing of Sunderland’s Jordan Henderson.

In a world of football that boasts household names such as the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – as well as Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard on these shores – you’d be forgiven for asking…….WHO?

The mega bucks signings of Jones – a hulking, no nonsense 19 year-old centre half – and Henderson – a creative, box-to-box midfielder in the mould of Gerrard himself – paints a frightening picture of the spiralling transfer fees most in the modern game, and Scottish football in particular, will struggle to compete with. Ever.

The transfer window north of the Border this summer will mostly consist of clubs thrashing out free transfer and loan deals while continuing to count every penny coming in and going out of their respective clubs.

But in England, it is another world altogether. The English Premiership has gone mad. Money seems to be no option.

Take both Jones and Henderson, 20, for example. No one can doubt their potential after an explosive season in the “world’s greatest league”. But to be the subject of huge transfers this early in their careers is ridiculous. Especially as they have achieved nothing in the game.

Defender Jones made his debut for Blackburn just two years ago in the 2009/2010 season, making just 9 appearances for Rovers’ first team. Last season he added a further 25 games to his Rovers’ career, earning plaudits for his performances. He has yet to play for England’s first team, making just five appearances for the U21s.

Henderson is slightly more experienced. Slightly. He made one appearance for the Black Cats in 2008 before being sent to Coventry on loan. On his return to the Stadium of Light, Henderson became a mainstay in the side, notching up almost 100 appearances in two seasons between 2009 and 2011. He has received one cap for England, and is still just 20 years-old.

Despite both being in the early years of their respective careers – in Jones’ case, he is slightly more experienced than an apprentice – they are set to sign for two of the biggest clubs in the world for the grand total of £32 million. Compare that to the money that both Celtic and Rangers have splashed out for their entire current squads and you get the picture.

Compare this current situation to that of just under 20 years ago when Manchester United splashed out £3.75 million to prize Roy Keane away from Nottingham Forest in 1993. It is frightening.

That fee was the British transfer record at the time and similarly a controversial one despite Keane having three years’ experience in England’s top league, two appearances at Wembley and two losers’ medals under his belt. But at least Keane had experience and had grabbed a foothold in the game under the stewardship of Brian Clough at Forest before he was subject of a big money move. Now though, both Man Utd and Liverpool are set to sign players seemingly worth four times more than Keane but having achieved much, much less.

So what does the future hold then for the rest of world football and, in particular, the Old Firm in general? Where does this madness stop? And will clubs such as Celtic and Rangers still be able to compete in ten or twenty years time when, for example, the average transfer fee south of the border has jumped to, let’s say, £50 million?

Who knows what the future holds. But when Manchester United and Liverpool can splash out a combined fee of over £30 million for “potential”, it doesn’t bode well for everyone else hoping to catch the occasional diamond falls from the big boys’ table.

By Joe O’Brien

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One Response to Scottish football will forever be looking “over the fence” at their rich neighbours

  1. FFF says:

    Good article. I agree that the gap between the English Premier League and the SPL is widening and will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. As recently as 2001, Celtic reportedly had the fifth highest wage bill in British football. Nowadays, they’re probably closer to fiftieth.
    As for looking ‘over the fence’, I think that for Scottish football that’s part of the problem. Domestic football in Scotland will never match England in terms of attendances, TV money or pulling power. As a result, they should focus on trying match countries with a similar population, e.g Belgium or Holland. The way ahead is developing young players and selling them onto clubs in the south for a profit.
    Of course all of this is nothing new, with Scottish sides regularly punching above their weight for years. As far back as 1970, Celtic’s line-up cost a fraction of the Leeds team who they defeated in the European Cup semi-final.

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