Aberdeen signing Kenny McLean for £300,000, Celtic clinching their deadline day duo of Stuart Armstrong and Gary MacKay-Steven alongside Hibernian snapping up Fraser Fyvie and keeping their playmaker Scott Allan strengthens my feeling that Scottish football is slowly on the up.
The talent pool is getting wider, the players are becoming more technical and the leagues are interesting to the point that we have legitimate title races in all four senior divisions.
In all leagues we have players who are capable of playing higher and capable of helping their team mates to be better.
Kenny McLean will be playing in the same side as the enigmatic and enterprising strike force of McGinn and Goodwillie. Ryan Jack is full of energy with the ability to match and it is players of that ilk who are providing Celtic with a challenge in their attempt to win a 4th title in a row.
Jack and his teammates will be disappointed to have lost points and of course their league cup semi final in recent weeks but the signing of McLean will help to rejuvenate them as they move in to the latter part of the season.
Celtic also face a challenge from Inverness and Dundee United as we enter the business end of the season.
These two clubs have entertaining young players even allowing for Billy McKay’s departure and United losing the aforementioned MacKay-Steven and Armstrong.
They will be a huge loss but just as Nick Ross, Aaron Doran and Ryan Christie showcase their talents for Caley so will Souttar, Telfer, Muirhead and Dow for the Tangerines.
The average age of all the players mentioned minus the now departed Billy McKay is 20.5 years of age. Only Niall McGinn is over the age of 25.
The rest of the players all have the majority of the footballing careers ahead of them. Add in guys like John McGinn, Stevie Mallan, Craig Wighton and a handful of the youthful squad that has served Hamilton so well and you can see why there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to the future of our game.
Championship starlets Sibbald, Alston, Holt, Reilly are complemented by players like Longridge, Mitchell (both Stranraer) and Ryan Scully (on loan at Dunfermline) among the future stars all playing within leagues one and two.
Queens Park, need only point to their own academy and the story of Andy Robertson. It is testament to the determination of the lad but also to show all is not lost if indeed you are released by a bigger club.
Thoroughout the whole country teams are cutting their cloth, ironically though the lack of big money and big name signings is actually helping to improve our domestic competitions.
The majority of clubs, especially in the top league, are beginning to work their way towards being debt free and in turn are growing their academies to become self sustainable. Producing talent that their supporters can relate to before selling them on for a big profit.
Throw in the fact that the top goal scorers (who are currently with their respective clubs) in three of the four leagues are Scottish and under the age of 25 and we can be proud of how our game is evolving.
Declan McManus, on loan to Morton from Aberdeen at 19 years old is also a close second to Brechin’s 30-year-old ‘veteran’ striker Alan Trouten with 9 goals so far this season.
League sharp shooters Greg Stewart, Jason Cummings and Simon Murray boast a healthy 38 goals between them so far this season.
Murray’s goals earning him a move to the Premiership with Dundee United where he will line up alongside some of the country’s most talented youngsters.
United have loaned him back to Arbroath so that he can continue his progress in a Red Lichties side aiming for promotion this season. Arbroath set the pace in League two despite having the youngest average age per squad. An average of 23.2 years, only beaten by Cowdenbeath (22.7) throughout the Scottish Leagues.
The Premiership average is 25.1 so it is clear young players are getting more and more of a chance at even the bigger clubs.
In bygone days Scottish football was a breeding ground for some of the most talented players we’ve ever seen. Of course lately there has been a big gap in that production but slowly we are beginning to see the fruits of the clubs work in and around coaching, academies and natural progression.
It would be too easy to try to relate a Jack to a Souness, an Armstrong to a McAllister, a Fyvie to a Strachan and a Muirhead to a Dalglish but that would be doing the kids of this era an injustice.
They’ve got the platform to become legends in their own right. The clubs are now nurturing talent in the correct way and letting them progress in their own time.
Ryan Gauld’s move to Sporting Lisbon shows what can happen if you apply yourself correctly as a young boy when coming through.
I would love to see all these players stick around at Scottish Clubs then when the time is right move down South or abroad.
It’s maybe worth being that wee bit hesitant as you have to be exceptionally talented to go to one of the top leagues in Europe and make an immediate impact as a young talent.
The Bundesliga and Ligue 1 are in and around the SPL at 25.0 and 25.3 average years of age per squad.
Serie á, La Liga and the English Premier League all sit above 26 years of age though so it’s understandable that players who do go down south or further afield find it hard to make the breakthrough.
That’s not to say Ryan Gauld won’t continue the fine start to his Sporting career and he is most certainly talented enough to do so.
For every Ryan Gauld though we could have another Garry O’Connor. One player is showcasing his undoubted ability on foreign shores alongside the next batch of Cristiano Ronaldo’s. The other showcased his ability in between the ‘lines’ so to speak.
O’Connor could have made an absolute fortune out of football. To be fair he made a fair bit before it all, literally, blew up in his face. He was a big strong bustling striker with an eye for goal, he could have played at the very top. He even scored the winner in a Russian cup final but suddenly his life imploded. Money meant nothing to him; he thought he could do no wrong. Help and guidance came too late unfortunately he was just another man listed under the heading: ‘A Wasted Talent.’ We could all name a player from our favourite club who would appear on there beside big Gaz, couldn’t we?
Living the playboy lifestyle of a rich, party-hungry young footballer must sound like every man’s dream but there’s a lot more to playing the beautiful game. There was then and there certainly is now.
We have all got a responsibility when it comes to the future of our game but none more so than the authorities and the clubs. They’ve got to ensure that our footballers become more rounded individuals, more understanding of the pressures, realise the effects of their lifestyles and comprehend the lifestyles of others. Gauld will not only become a better footballer for his stay in Portugal but learning a different culture, speaking a different language will help to stand him in good stead for his career as it progresses.
Perhaps the new breed of Scottish Footballers will be more inclined to follow this path or Armstrong’s law degree studies as opposed to being the ones breaking the law.
I urge all young Scottish footballers to take stock of what they have got. Appreciate the position they are in, improve their ability, work with their clubs and seek all the glory whilst living all their dreams but most importantly live within reality.
Players shouldn’t be restricted by what’s deemed right or wrong and the opinions others hold but this is an opportunity for us to catch up with nations like Belgium, Croatia and Poland and put Scotland back on the map of proud footballing nations.