It’s an exciting time if your club is one of those that happen to have twenty million quid or so to spend on a player worth about a third of that. Or less. If not, however, it can become a bit of a long slog.
Getting to the end of the month without losing a rising star is always the immediate aim, and if a six month loan player can be brought in to make the fans feel as if the club is flexing some financial muscles then all the better for it. Even short of that, ending the month with what you started with is success. It might not be glamorous – but it is reality for those at the lesser end of the financial clout hierarchy.
Livingston – along with most SFL clubs – find themselves in such a situation. A grueling but fairly rewarding first half to the season has left the squad creaking with aches and pains, but no one in West Lothian will be holding out too much hope of the next ‘Breaking News’ bar on Sky Sports revealing a Gary Bollan signing. And quite right too. It feels like the club has done enough splashing of cash in its history to sink Manchester City.
Maurice Ross and Mark Fotheringham’s short-term deals will conclude at the end of the month, and that will probably be that. Bar, perhaps, said loanee.
So what does a Livi fan look to for comfort? What can offer some solace as the big boys empty their wallets in panic buys that will all have gone horribly wrong by July? Will the announcement that youngster Stefan Scougall has signed a new two-year deal go some way to seeing us through to 1 February? It’ll do for me.
Scougall has this season broken into the first team after a number of fleeting appearances last term. At first appearance, the small and slight midfielder looks like he could do little damage to an opposition side; but he is far from toothless. Sharp and tricky on the ball, Scougall takes no prisoners in a tackle and has a tremendous work rate and energy about his play that saw him – particularly early in the season – offer plenty of creativity and drive from the centre of the pitch for the Lions’ forwards.
Injury has resulted in his appearances limited over the last two months or so, but with him managing a place on the bench over the past two weeks it seems a return to the starting line up cannot be too far away.
The news, which broke just before Christmas, was met rightly with delight from Livi supporters. I doubt the Lions would be able to go out and pay money to acquire a player with that level of ability and potential. The rewards over the last few years from youth development has taught those at the club exactly that. Young players are crucial to the club’s future in terms of the money the more successful ones often move on for, certainly; but equally they offer a quality of play that most First, Second and Third Division clubs can only enjoy by nurturing their own talent.
That in many ways offers more hope for Scottish football than the size of the biggest transfer fee that involves a Scottish side this January. The development of our own young footballers is in fact far more exciting when considered from a long-term perspective. Livingston might not shell out a big bucks or be able to run live blogs on the latest transfer gossip surrounding the club, but knowing that another of our promising younger players is committed to the club in the immediate future is compensation enough.
In fact, in some cases I think we might have got a better deal. Just ask Liverpool fans how excited they are about Andy Carroll.