Knowledge gaps in football don’t last forever. We discussed this last year when reviewing the advantage Celtic earned over others by investing in the Japanese market. On evidence from three of the four players we signed from Japan before this window, the quality recruited from there outweighs anything we have been able to acquire from European markets.
You, me and the recruitment bods at every Premiership club know this to be the case. It is also true that Japanese clubs and scouts know there is an emerging market in Scotland. If you had a player to move on, you would test the water here.
And so yesterday this particular sun rose for Hearts, who signed 21-year-old striker Yutaro Oda. The undisclosed fee is likely to be well short of £1m for a player who has made only 26 starts, giving a return of 5 goals. It should be noted Hearts had a Japanese loaner from Manchester City for season 2019-20.
Hearts fish in a different pool from Celtic. This is effectively true of every Scottish club, including Newco, who will always lose a player to Celtic, if we are sufficiently motivated. Still, any Scottish club that actually has money to spend on players would be mad not to learn from the lesson Celtic have very clearly taught them over the past 18 months.
This could be the last window we have an effective knowledge advantage for the Japanese market. The real lesson from Celtic in recent times is that these gaps exist and that finding and exploiting them is transformational.
I cannot let this go without comment. Former Rangers manager, Alex McLeish said “We’d never head down the conspiracy rabbit hole.” In response to Martin O’Neill’s unflattering comments about Scottish referees.
Those who earlier went down the conspiracy rabbit hole were able to uncover grand scale disguised renumeration during McLeish’ time as manager at Ibrox. He often fielded entire teams with “improperly registered” players. The conspiracy to hide second contracts extended to over 50 players and officials. When uncovered, it led to Rangers liquidation.
As much as anyone involved in Scottish football over the last 100 years, McLeish knows the truths that lurk down conspiracy rabbit holes. No wonder he doesn’t want to go there. How refreshing it would be if any of these dozens of characters still peddling their thoughts to the media were asked to open up about THE Grand Conspiracy in Scottish football.