Ibrox’s Free Transfer Strategy Might Sell Tickets, But It Won’t Scare Celtic At All.

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I was flabbergasted the day before yesterday to read that the Ibrox club is trying to sign ex-England international Jack Butland, and the rumour mill has the offer in the region of £40,000 a week. He hasn’t played more than 20 games in the last three years and they are going to throw that kind of money at him, based on his name.

They’re also moving for Norwich City midfielder Kieran Dowell and QPR’s Chris Willock, and the press seems awfully excited about that one. The wages for those guys would give even the best footballing accountant at nosebleed, but this is apparently the plan.

Here’s the thing about those guys; every one of them is available for free. And that’s not a snark, or it’s not the snark that you probably think that it is. It’s just that they are going for the cheap end of an expensive marketplace and that’s crazier than even it sounds.

Let’s consider for a moment the position English clubs below the elite find themselves in right now. Brexit has annihilated their previous ability to go shopping on the continental market and bring in the kinds of players from abroad that they used to.

We have a much simpler system here, a work permit system rather than the insane points based one that has changed the way things are done down there. So every club in England is looking for English domiciled players. The market for those guys has never been less irrational or cost as much money. Even mediocre players down there are on ridiculous salaries.

So think about what that means in the context of the guys the Ibrox club is after. No club in England is willing to offer them what the club across the city will, even in an era where English domestic footballers are the be-and-all-and-end-all of the average team’s transfer plans. Nobody is queuing up for these guys … and Ibrox is going after them.

And why? Because The Mooch has watched some of them play against youth teams that he coached, or are players he knows well. This is them copying Ange except for two things; they are trying to do this with zero money and even then they are going to have to offer outrageous wages in order to get their men. Men no-one else wants.

This is the complete opposite of what Celtic has done, of course. Ange can spot a player, and that has been obvious since the moment he walked through the doors of Celtic Park, but we’ve signed exactly two players on free transfers out of all the deals he has done; James McCarthy, who has barely features, and Joe Hart.

The obvious narrative in terms of Butland is that he’s a similar signing to Hart in that they are both ex-England internationals who were once headed for the top of the game. The difference, of course, is that Hart reached the top of the game and won titles at Manchester City and was capped for England on more than just a handful of occasions.

Butland has nearly 90 Premiership games under his belt. Wow. Hart has more than 260 for Manchester City alone. He’s been capped 75 times. Butland has played 9 times for England, so the comparison is a little bit lacking if you ask me.

These guys might all be very decent players. The English Championship is a pretty good league. But I repeat; these guys should be attracting interest from EPL clubs if they really are as good as the Scottish media would have you believe, in no small part because they are available free and who wouldn’t want to take a punt on a freebie, especially when you’re being forced to shop in the domestic market regardless?

In addition, both Dowell and Willock are 25.

They’ve been playing in the spotlight of England’s big leagues for several years now and at that age should be at the peak of their potential and their earnings. There will be limited re-sale value in either if they sign long term Ibrox contracts and see them out to the finish. That’s a strange strategy to be following if their objective is to ape Celtic in what it is that we do with our players.

In the end, what really comes across here is that they are trying to compete with us by going after players The Mooch knows and who he can get for very little outlay.

You hear often – from The Mooch himself – about how much money we’ve spent, and that’s what you have to keep in mind here. This revolution was not built cheap … it was expensive, and if they think they are going to catch us with free transfers I would say think again.

Not that they have much choice. This will be sold as the great Beale revolution. In fact, this is simply all that they can afford. They should think on that a while too.

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  • Danny Fallon says:

    At 19 years of age in1974,Willock left Arsenal to sign a 5 year contract for Benfica.After 2years he was allowed to leave having not made 1 first team appearance.!!!

  • Benjamin says:

    Such are the limits of Financial Sustainability Regulations from UEFA. They have to cut their player cost structure, particularly if they’re not going to be generating any profit from player sales. Cutting transfer fees makes a lot more sense than cutting wages, so this isn’t terribly surprising.

    They have 9 first team players out of contract or whose loan deals expire in June. They have a lot of work to do to bring in new players and be ready for Champions League qualifiers. The one to watch to get a sense of their financial situation is Tillman. He’s been, arguably, their best player this season, and the fee to make his move permanent is in the £5-6m range. Call it Jota money. Their fans have been under the impression that his signing is all but a done deal, but if cash is as tight as it appears to be over there, there’s a good chance they don’t make that move permanent. That would be a major story, and the fans over there will put Bisgrove under a lot of pressure before the first ball is kicked if he can’t come up with the money to sign Tillman. If they then crash out of Champions League or have a rough start to the domestic season, things could get really ugly really quickly.

  • Johnny Green says:

    It’s all speculation right now, but it’s designed to excite their fans into forking out for season tickets. Let’s face it, it doesn’t take much to excite the bears anymore and get their hopes up, they are starving for success and the lease crumb of comfort will have them foaming at the troosers. While, we are not quite shopping at Harrods, we are nevertheless spending money in the mid range market while totally avoiding Poundland, for that is their domain. It’s probably not even worth discussing just now, we have bigger fish to fry and we always will have compared to the tiddlers that they are trying to hook.

  • John Copeland says:

    If the rumour mill is true and certain free players will be on £40 thousand pounds a week at Ibrox ,then hell mend them ! They will never learn … That’s a cinch ! Oops ! So much for all the horse manure of the prestige and honour of playing for the Rangers ,yet it’s 40 large or it’s not for me time ! If the SMSM think for a nanosecond that these players are not in it for the money then they are more incompetent than at first thought!

  • Geoff says:

    Pretty sure Hart cost close to £1m?

  • Jack says:

    Hart we paid a little over £1m for. Our 2 freebies are McCarthy and Siegrist. ?

  • Davie says:

    Freebies are free for a purpose, extremely few class players can be found on a free.
    Before they can sign several others need to leave in order to release wages, signing current non playing players is risky, Aaron Ramsey should have been a lesson learned as was the demise of the original Rangers.
    Anything just now is a dangling carrot for the fans to stump up season ticket money, just clever pr with nothing concrete.

  • Martin says:

    I’d broadly agree. Though I think Butland would be a substantial upgrade on McGregor now he’s past it. He’s a good keeper. He’s a few years you ger than Hart and as such missed the chance to play at EPL level much when he would’ve been good enough, because frankly the general standard of goalkeeper in the EPL for several years now has been utterly unbelievable. Almost to the point where you wouldn’t recognise them as the same thing as what came before. Even peak Hart wouldn’t be playing EPL just now. It’s frightening how good their keepers are, even lower half teams. But for SPFL Butland is good enough. Amusingly so is young McCrorie who they already have, for free, and could develop and sell on. But that’s not the sevco way!

    What they’re also rather stupidly missing out on is sale value. There is a market, we exploit it. We can sign players on a work permit, then they’re already UK based and English teams can access them. That doesn’t really work if you go for already UK based players…

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