I remember the headlines when Ross Wilson breezed into Ibrox. He was the “transfer guru” who had discovered top class players at Southampton and who had been wanted by the elite of England and was at Ibrox to replicate our transfer strategy.
Some of us looked at his record at Southampton and found it more miss than hit, and we recorded that fact at the time. The successes were big ones, but they deal at the high end – if not the top end – of the market and can afford to spend fortunes so when they do make a good signing, like Virgil Van Dijk, there’s also a huge fee when he moves on.
The press had lauded him repeatedly since. You only have to read this pearl of wisdom – hilariously awful, but even more so with hindsight – from The Record’s Scott Burns, from June this year. A matter of only months ago, to get the gist.
“Sporting director Ross Wilson helped (Ibrox) get back on the road to glory. He has put the finishing touches to a squad that has motored towards a recent Premiership crown, last season’s Scottish Cup and faced the heartbreak of a penalty shootout defeat in the Europa League Final. Wilson is now the man at the heart of (the) transfer activity as they gear up for another big summer that they hope will lead Giovanni van Bronckhorst side to the money-spinning Champions League and even more silverware.”
The man at the heart of the transfer activity.
It says so right there, in a piece that is as sycophantic and gushing as anything you will ever read.
The number of players he has been responsible for bringing to their club has been extraordinary.
So too has the list of signings made on this side of the city, and in an even shorter space of time, by the man at the heart of our own transfer strategy, Ange Postecoglou. He probably hasn’t signed as many players. (I haven’t counted.) But his success rate is incredible, and the contrast when you look at it could not be clearer. It is amazing.
Someone over on one of the Ibrox fan forums helpfully produced a list of the players Wilson has been instrumental in bringing to their club. When you compare the records of Ange and the much worshiped Ibrox “Sporting Director” it’s gobsmacking, and forms a clear part of the case against him which is being made in addition to the one against Van Bronckhorst.
Ibrox’s directors have poured their own money down the black hole of “backing his judgement.” They, too, are fully entitled to examine what they got for it.
Since taking over at Ibrox, this is his signing record; if you don’t recognise some of these guys, or had forgotten them, that won’t be a great surprise.
Hagi, Kamberi, Roofe, Itten, Defoe, Wright, Balogun, McLaughlin, Bassey, Simpson, Zungu, Ofoborrh, Bacuna, Zumowski, Lundstram, Sakala, Diallo, Ramsey, Sands, Davies, Yilmaz, Matondo, Lawrence, Soutar, Colak and Tilman.
For context, the guys who are most present in their team at the present time – McGregor, Goldson, Tavernier, Barisic, Arfield, Davis, Kent and Morelos – were all signed before he arrived.
That Kent still plays every week, that Tavernier is first choice right back, that an ageing McGregor is still their keeper and that their top central defender is a dud like Goldson should be viewed with horror by each and every one of their supporters.
Our own squad is unrecognisable from that which it was just 18 months ago; of the team that started at the weekend just one – David Turnbull – was a regular back then, although Ralston was on the periphery of the squad.
The picture is even clearer when you look at the subs; Taylor and Forrest were first team players. The rest are Ange’s guys.
Who are our notable “failures” under this manager? If you exclude the reserve signings who were made with God knows who’s leadership in mind – the Sheffield Wednesday boys, specifically – then only Ideguchi and James McCarthy haven’t hit the heights. We’ve talked a lot about McCarthy. The Japanese might yet surprise it … he will certainly get a chance.
But two players out of more than a dozen; it’s a glorious success rate, and speaks to a lot of work done at our club in addition to that which Ange does himself. He clearly knows what he wants in a player, and his talk about personality types shows that it’s more than just about what someone can do on the pitch. The blend works beautifully.
The Everything Celtic Twitter feed posted a remarkable fact tonight; “Celtic signed Reo Hatate, Matt O’Riley & Sead Haksabanovic this year for a total of £4.6M. (Ibrox’s) deal for Ridvan Yilmaz is worth £5M, he’s played 370 minutes over 27 matches since joining.”
When you tote it up, Wilson has wasted a colossal amount of their money, and having done so their squad should be completely transformed. How many of those players are even currently at Ibrox? How many of them have actually been successful?
He was supposed to come into the club and mastermind a transfer policy which would ape ours. How many of those players has he successfully moved on for big money? One. Bassey. Who Ajax grossly overpaid for. Where’s the next success story from that lot? On his watch they’ve also sold a youth player, and Aribo who he didn’t sign.
The Record gushes about a title, a cup and a European run. Ange has already managed the title, and the domestic trophy. We are nine points clear in the league right now. The European run hasn’t come yet, but Wilson has also been part of a history making campaign which saw his team finish bottom of their group with the worst record ever.
Those who claim Van Bronckhorst is the problem should think again. Lennon was not the only problem at Celtic, and that’s why the CEO left with him. Wilson modelled himself on Lawwell; that much is clear. When Ibrox’s boss falls on his sword there are some who will say that this guy should follow him. But it took a disaster – an all-out disaster – before Lawwell departed Parkhead and there are still rumours that he might yet return.
Ibrox fans are stuck with this guy, it’s really that simple. I don’t see any scenario where he falls on his sword just because Van Bronckhorst is removed from post. He is built in with the bricks over there now, and he can assure the board that his strategy has started to bear fruit, and point at the Bassey sale and Patterson’s transfer fee as the proof.
As far as he’s concerned, what the manager does with the players he provides is up to him. The directors, who have taken £10 million of their money back thanks to the sales of those players, will in all probability agree. Ibrox fans are doomed to a lot more of the same, and the contrast between Ange and this joker will continue to grow and grow.