Living so close to England it’s easy for us to get drawn into the ways and processes which prove effective south of the border. SPL clubs all scout there, more often than not trying to pick up physically robust scraps discarded by the lower leagues, or troubled souls looking for a sixth chance. Scottish clubs are full of players who have failed to make the grade in England.
When Motherwell were looking for a manager a year ago I heard one of their directors say they hoped to get someone with experience of the English lower leagues, as this has proven to be an effective place for them to network in the past.
Problems with the neighbours works both ways. It’s too easy for English clubs to use the loose change part of their budget to scoop up anything that looks like promising talent from the SPL. While most players will earn well in England, few enjoy the career progression they hoped for.
They do things differently elsewhere. When was the last time teams from Cyprus or Switzerland badgered an English League Two side for their surplus talent? Developing football teams is difficult but a good top level plan helps. One of the most encouraging aspects of Celtic’s top level plan is that it meets criteria that match our place in the world. Recruit talent from the right markets, at the right age and price. Some money has been spent in England, but not much, and those who have arrived from there look decent value.
If Celtic are to match the recent Champions League achievements of Basel or Apoel Nicosia, players like Izaguirre, Kayal, Wanyama and Ki, who pitch up in Glasgow from what appears to be beyond the horizon of the English, will be crucial. Just as those players at Basel and Apoel, they arrived here within an affordable budget and appear to have the talent required to compete at the level Celtic aspires to.
11 years ago we bought Chris Sutton from Chelsea against competition from other FA Premier League clubs. He was soon joined by others at the peak of their ability and reputation, all relatively low-risk signings. We had a few years in the sun but it was neither affordable nor sustainable.
We’ll know soon enough if the current crop of players trying to establish a reputation for themselves have what it takes to win the league and compete in Europe. Good top level plans can still fail in execution, but I’d rather this strategy than send my cash down the M6.
Issue 5 of CQN Magazine is due out next week, let me know if you would like to advertise, firstname.lastname@example.org.