Is Scottish Football really on its way down?
Football north of the border has taken somewhat of a battering in recent years, ramped up with Adam Rooney’s transfer from Aberdeen to Salford City recently. But with the game in Scotland improving under the noses of English fans, Grant Barnes explains how Scottish clubs can fight off their criticism.
As Scottish football was plunged back into the dark ages after Adam Rooney decided to swap Aberdeen for the Salford City, it came as light relief to witness BT Sport’s ensemble rally around the Scottish game in our darkest hour.
Yes, it was truly disheartening to see a 30-year-old declining striker move down south for higher wages at a lower level thanks to Salford’s millionaire owners. As always, Sky Sports and talkSPORT stalwart Jim White asked the question on everybody’s lips; Is this a new low for Scottish football?
The move comes at a time where the Scottish Premiership (or SPL if you’re Sky, talkSPORT etc.) is the highest attended league in Europe per capita, and 3 out of the 4 teams competing in European football still find themselves in their respective competitions after progressing against their opposition.
A new low indeed.
The question wasn’t directed as to why fifth-tier side Salford were paying so much for a striker that was struggling to maintain his place in Aberdeen’s first team, it was whether this placed Scottish football at a new low. This was coming from a Scottish journalist from an English-based radio station that constantly looks for ways to berate the Scottish game, rather than to focus on the positives on their own leagues. After such a positive World Cup for England, it must have been extremely worrying to see Burnley needing extra time to scrape past Aberdeen, especially without the Dons’ talisman striker.
The general consensus is that coverage regarding the Scottish game has improved in recent years. BT Sport, in particular have devoted a lot of time to covering the Scottish game. With the bar being set so low from Sky, who barely gave 15 minutes of build-up to crucial derbies, cup-ties etc, it is heartening to see Darrell Currie and co conduct proper research and deliver it in a way that Scottish football fans can be proud of.
The recent Twitter video that BT Sport released after the Rooney saga was again a welcome wake-up call that there are decent pundits out there looking to market and show Scottish football for what they, and the fans believe it is worth.
The days of English clubs penny picking Premiership players seem be a thing of the past, with players such as Moussa Dembele, Kieran Tierney and Scott McKenna all remaining at their clubs despite interest from clubs south of the border.
For Scottish football to be seen as a prominent figure however, our own biggest clubs need to start seeing it that way. In recent weeks it is our two premier clubs who have been guilty of trying to penny pick their rivals’ stars.
Celtic look set to miss out on John McGinn as he looks bound for Aston Villa after failing to meet Hibernian’s asking price for the player. After ‘standing firm’ on an offer of £2 million, half of what Hibs were asking for McGinn, Peter Lawwell’s plan to either wait to get McGinn on a pre-contract in January or for a low-cut price now, seems to have spectacularly backfired.
Despite their recent jaunts in the lower leagues, Rangers have also chanced their luck in testing their rivals’ resolve. A £200,000 bid for Kyle Lafferty was instantly rejected by Hearts, who reportedly value the player at around £750,000. Whilst the player will no doubt be tempted by a return to Ibrox, Hearts have again stood firm on their value for their top scorer last year.
The Old Firm’s recent attempts to sign rival clubs’ players for pennies has been met with a firm resistance which hasn’t been seen in recent years. Celtic have benefited from this in the past, Dundee United the victims in selling Gary Mackay-Steven, Stuart Armstrong and Nadir Ciftçi for a combined £4 million. Armstrong was recently sold to Southampton for £8 million alone. If Hibs are looking for £4 million for one of their star players, for Dundee United to sell three of theirs for the same price perhaps shows either a side not knowing the true value of their stars, or another who are used to getting their own way.
Scottish football is on the up, it’s a phrase that we’re used to hearing that bears fruit, with the quality of football improving along with the number of fans attending games. Our players are becoming more marketable and more clubs are reaping the rewards of that. If our two most marketable clubs don’t realise this and start acting that way, then it’s more fool them for not realising it, and John McGinn won’t be the first player they miss out on if his move to Aston Villa goes through.
Will Scottish football ever recover from the loss of Adam Rooney? It’s too early to say. Is it time for Scottish football to stand up and be counted and realise it’s true value? You can make your own mind up about that one, unless you’re listening to talkSPORT, in which case you probably already have.