I read, with some amusement, the stories going around yesterday about English clubs expressing an interest in Martyn Waghorn. This is music to the ears of some of their supporters; they will be less impressed when they realise that any offers will be pretty poor.
They will be lucky, very lucky, to secure a seven figure fee.
This isn’t what they want to hear, of course, but it’s true nonetheless.
When they appointed Mark Warburton, they thought they would use his contacts book to sign quality young players – many of them unknowns – to develop them and then sell them on for big fees. They had a specific blueprint in mind, but it wasn’t something they constructed inside Ibrox. In fact, they were copying it, wholescale, from us.
They watched in envy as we brought in footballers like Forster and Van Dijk and sold them on for tens of millions. They saw guys like Ki come and go, making us big profits. The one that shocked them, and got them salivating most, was Victor Wanyama. He cost us less than £1 million, and we sold him for ten times that.
On top of this, we made another couple of million when he moved on to Spurs, and if there are further big moves to come (and there will be) then we’ll coin in even more.
This is exactly what Sevco wants to replicate.
It looks simple, of course.
A lot of things do. I’m not a pub games person because although darts and snooker appear easy I’m absolutely awful at them. It’s no wonder Sevco is struggling to replicate our own success; they’re greatly mistaken for thinking that it was either straightforward or cheap. To find these players – and those like Bitton, Kayal, Izaguerre and the rest – has cost our club untold millions in scouting fees over the last decade. And for every success there have been failures, many of them costly, some incomprehensible.
Sevco has next to no chance of putting together something on the scale of this. Warburton thinks he can replicate it solely by signing lower league English players; if that strategy were capable of bearing fruit, Celtic itself would have adopted it years ago.
It would have been cheaper and easier than scouring the leagues of Holland, Belgium and Scandinavia.
The Sevco strategy is to use Warburton’s “knowledge” of the lower leagues in the hope of finding some gems.
It’s never going to happen.
Celtic’s securing of Scott Sinclair is a phenomenal piece of business and it’s to the credit of everyone at Celtic Park that it was ever done. It’s a deal I simply cannot believe we were able to pull off because he’s been at huge clubs there, and was signed for huge fees.
I am equally astounded that we were able to get our hands on Dembele, beating off serious competition for him.
My surprise doesn’t come from the sudden realisation that these are good players; it’s grounded in the fact that they were so obviously great players, and we were able to secure them anyway. Both had been scouted and were wanted by other big teams.
It’s no surprise to discover how good they are, or that they are taking Scottish football by storm.
England is probably the most scouted football country on the planet; believe me, there are no great shocks to find down there anymore and whilst there’s always that once in a blue moon chance of a club finding itself with a late bloomer like Jamie Vardy the odds on it are miniscule. Everyone down there with money to spend – which is everyone down there, just about – is on the lookout for the unpolished gem, the next big thing.
Not a single English club was willing to go toe to toe with Sevco when they signed the likes of Waghorn, Tavernier, Crooks, Windass, Forrester and others. Most of these guys had been loaned out everywhere and none of the sides they’d gone to fought terribly hard to keep them.
Their parent clubs were only too happy to allow them to leave.
McCoist was supposed to be doing this stuff too, of course; Nicky Law and Nicky Clark were originally being touted as superstars, the kind of players who could be purchased cheap and sold on for big bucks. Neither was. Clark is at Dunfermline now; Sevco allowed him to leave on a free transfer, he went to Bury and lasted just two months there. Nicky Law, who, whilst at Ibrox, generated some of the stupidest and most slavering headlines I’ve ever read about a player plying his trade in the lower leagues, is now at Bradford City. He too left Ibrox on a free. The so-called prodigy, David Templeton, left on the same day as those players. Also for nothing.
I could go on, and on, and on and on.
Sevco’s criminal chairman, Dave King, has a two-fold stratagem for “developing” his shattered football club.
The first is for their fans to outspend ours, as he alleges Rangers fans did for years. I’ve comprehensively proved this claim to be false, but when you consider the source that’s hardly a surprise. Little words of fact ever escape that man’s lips. With that particular part of the plan a proven ruin, what remains is this scheme to exploit the English league’s propensity for spending ridiculous sums of money on sub-standard players.
It definitely happens, but no-one down there is rushing to buy Josh Meekings or Kenny McLean for £10 million. Those are far better players than many of those who have washed up at Ibrox. The clubs down there aren’t entirely daft, and as none of them were willing to take the likes of Timo Pukki off our hands there’s no way they will pay daft money for the dreck Warburton has been allowed to sign. The people at that club have spectacularly missed the point.
The players we’ve sold to English clubs in recent years were all very good footballers, and they were that before we signed them. Oh yes, we helped develop them into better players but we got money for them because they were talented in the first place, possessed of class, the sort of guys who could hold their own against top, top teams. Our strategy only worked because it was based on finding decent players first; it wasn’t about scooping up dozens of them on the cheap and hoping for the best, that some might be worth the punt.
That’s not a strategy; that’s chancing your arm.
They had hoped to enlist the media in this scheme, turning it into a scam instead.
The job of the press pack was to talk up the abilities of useless footballers, in the hope of enticing English interest.
The stupidity of this is manifest.
Most of the clubs down there know who these players are, of course, having scouted them already and nothing further was going to be learned watching them against part time football teams. Now that the club is in the SPL there are more opportunities to get the measure of them, but considering how awful their start has been that’s not going to bear fruit.
Sevco is not doing anything extraordinary here.
They’ve watched what Celtic has done and concluded that it’s not difficult.
I’ve made the same judgement watching people trying such simple pastimes as playing pool and golf. My scorecards are a measure of how well that’s turned out; if I was depending on my prowess there to pay the bills I would literally starve.
That Sevco’s survival is being bet on transfer fees and their fans spending more than those of Celtic gives you some indication as to how good the rest of the business plan is.
It’s not for nothing that many of us have concluded that their club is living on borrowed time.