Tapping up is nothing new in Football, and many clubs have been culpable of using this method of attracting players to their clubs for decades. Including Scottish clubs.
A football agent told BBC Sport: “It has always been part and parcel of the game. A manager who wants to approach a player under contract will probably go through a third-party unless he is very confident. Agents are often involved but it cannot happen without the knowledge of both clubs involved. Ultimately you cannot have a deal without someone buying and selling.”
The clubs involved? Rangers and Dundee United. The player? Dundee United striker David Goodwillie. The third-party? The Media.
Since the end of the 2010-2011 SPL season, Rangers and David Goodwillie have increasingly filled the back pages of our biggest selling newspapers, with news of him being a Rangers target, Rangers officials raving about his talents on the pitch and then the enquiry from the Ibrox side on how much he would cost. That was followed by McCoist and Whyte stating that £2 million for the Scotland international was too much, and that they would not pay over the odds for a player.
But now, with no fee agreed between the two sides, it seems as though Rangers are using the media as a tool to allegedly tap up the striker.
In today’s Daily Record, Keith Jackson talks to Rangers manager Ally McCoist, who urges Goodwillie to choose medals rather than money. This stance comes after Rangers lost out on THREE players, they were raving about in the media – Israeli Tomer Hemed, Craig Conway and Neil Danns. As well as McCoist attacking the SPL over the early start to the new campaign, a decision backed by the club before the season ended, a decision that was to help all Scottish clubs in Europe, and to help with potential fixture congestion due to winter conditions in Scotland.
Rangers are still a big lure to any player given their name, however in today’s game money talks, and despite Rangers owner Craig Whyte intimating to all who will listen, that he has the funds, that he will give McCoist up to £10 million this summer to buy players [not including the wage bill], we have not seen a single penny. And now they run the risk of losing full back Steven Whittaker, who McCoist calls an integral part of the Ibrox side.
The excuse or should I say statement emanating from Rangers at the moment is, the club had ‘dodged a bullet by failing to land players who would rather chase a buck in England’s lower divisions than go for European glory in the Champions League’. However through the late 80s and 90s, Rangers were a club splashing the cash at any player, luring them from the English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A etc by paying well over the odds not only in wages but also in transfer fees. That policy saw the likes of Terry Butcher, Brian Laudrup, Paul Gascoigne, the de Boer brothers, Artur Numan and many more swap the luxury lifestyles of the top European leagues to join Rangers and play in the SPL.
However it now seems to be getting under Rangers’ skin that they cannot attract the players they want, just on name and European status alone. If they had the money that Murray had during his early years at the club, then you will probably have seen those players who turned their backs on Rangers, turn up at the ground in a flash to sign on the dotted line, but they don’t have the money now.
Craig Whyte’s continued stance that they will not pay over the odds for a Scotland international, who was one of the top scorers in Scotland last season and is contracted to his club until 2013 will wear thin with the Rangers support after a while, even more so if Goodwillie signs for Cardiff City, a decision that is closing very quickly. £2 million for one of the top striker’s in the country, who has Scotland caps and limited European experience is not over the odds, given today’s market. If Rangers are claiming that Steven Whittaker is worth £2 million, a player whose contract ends next summer and who is capped at international level also, but scored far less goals than Goodwillie – is Whittaker’s price over the odds also? Certainly if Whittaker is worth £2 million to Rangers, then Goodwillie would be worth at least £3 million if not £4 million based on Rangers’ estimation of their own player.
McCoist said to the Daily Record’s Keith Jackson: “Some agents like to guard their players from talking. I’d much prefer an opportunity to speak with players direct. The information we have received about Danns is that he is joining Leicester. Am I disappointed? Yes, I would have liked him to have come here. It was the same with Conway.
“As a guy whose glass is half full rather than half empty, the fact they chose another club indicates maybe their hearts were never in coming here in the first place. Maybe it’s alright that we missed out.
“You’d have to ask them why they chose the Championship over Rangers. I can’t comment on that. But we offered them European football and the chance to compete for cups and titles and they elected to go to the Championship.”
And recently appointed Director of Football Gordon Smith, was at it also.
He said: “I believe it shouldn’t always be about money. My own opinion is that players should be making decisions which are football decisions, rather than financial. I tried to do that myself when I was an agent, I tried to say to the player to make the right football decision.
“If I was a player coming through, would I go to a club playing in the Champions League or go to a club that’s playing in the Championship? I know where I would want to go.
“It’s a shame because you lose players who don’t quite see it that way. But we move on. If a player decides not to come to us, we have to take the attitude that maybe it’s not such a bad thing. He’s maybe not got the right attitude that we want because what we really want is people who see us as the place to come to.”
Smith added: “It is a different world these days. We have budgets here, we have a certain amount of income and we have to be sensible spending the money. I think the fans realise that nowadays. I’m very aware of salary levels at Premiership level, but the Championship level salaries have also rocketed. There are clubs coming down from the Premiership into the Championship and they are keeping the wage scales going.
“Clubs are getting new owners and deciding to compete to try to get into the Premiership because they know there is big money. So that’s the market.”
Rangers continue to use the media also to try to entice Carlos Cuellar back to Ibrox, despite not willing to fork out the £3 million price tag that Villa have placed on the Spaniard, and Arsenal have told Rangers to wait on Kyle Bartley – a decision which caused McCoist to attack the SPL schedule.
However it seems that Rangers are in talks to sign two players – veteran defender David Weir and striker David Healy. Weir has been a stalwart for the Ibrox side since Walter Smith brought him back to Scotland, however the re-signing of the Rangers captain is more to do with squad numbers and cover, rather than him being a first choice defender. While he is one of the fittest 40 year old’s in Scotland – and there aren’t many of them around – if Rangers are relying on Weir to pull out another full season from his ageing frame, then it is a massive risk and one that would fail big time.
Weir was found out in Europe time and time again, but the likes of Bougherra, Bartley and McGregor covered up for him. Not to mention Rangers defending very deep also. Walter Smith’s tactics in Europe revolved around not only defending their goal, but also covering up for Weir’s lack of pace. Even in the SPL he was found out by the pace of wingers and strikers, but again the majority of the time he was backed up by the likes of Bougherra or the gloves of McGregor.
As for Healy? Well his arrival at Ibrox was like the second coming of Christ. A Northern Irishman, who noised up the Celtic fans, by pretending to be Paul Gascoigne playing the flute at a friendly between former side Fulham and the Parkhead club. Not to mention the fact he was a boyhood Rangers fan. Sadly that boyhood fan failed. He managed a mere 10 games with eight coming as a substitute, scoring just once between January and May 2011.
And despite the player working under Walter Smith and Ally McCoist, he couldn’t manage to live up to the hype, but it seems that McCoist is set to offer the Northern Irish striker a deal. A baffling decision given that Kyle Lafferty keeps Healy out of the Northern Irish International side, and will continue to do so at Rangers. Again it is if McCoist is signing a player just to make up the numbers or for signing sake alone.
The recent spate of knockbacks have clearly ‘irked the Ibrox club’ as Keith Jackson stated in his article. But the Ibrox side now MUST rely on not only their youth system at Murray Park, but their scouting network. While money talks, Rangers cannot compete with Championship clubs on the wage front, yet they continue to believe that Rangers, the SPL and playing in Europe is enough for players now. It isn’t.
And it may sound ridiculous, but Rangers must follow the lead of their rivals Celtic, who have used their scouting network to sign the likes of Beram Kayal and Emilio Izaguirre to the club. Not to mention partnerships with clubs across the world, a deal that would see them buy these clubs top players, while being able to giving up and coming youngsters trials at the club.
Celtic continued to add to the list of clubs on their books, with St Louis Lions this week. A decision that will not hit the headlines or even rock the boat. But the United States Football/Soccer scene is growing, and there will be a few bargains to be found there as well as star players.
If Rangers are to entice top players to their club, they can’t just expect to buy them when they have developed now, like they used to do. They must now buy them before that potential is shown to the world, to get in on the ground floor. Because they no longer have the money to entice players and on top of that the SPL is not in the Top 10 leagues in Europe now either. Another reason why players will not sign for a club, that isn’t competitive with wages on offer.