While you’re all settling in with your alcohol, Doritos, and days off readying yourself for what promises to be a thrilling deadline day down South, spare a thought for us in Scotland.
Against UEFA’s advice, the SPFL brought the deadline day two days forward to end on a Saturday night, a Saturday where every team in the Scottish Premiership was playing! It was arguably most boring transfer deadline day in the country’s history. There were four moves. Four. So as I was readying myself four a full blown article of hysteria and last gasp signings, I instead find myself writing a summary of each club’s business, and who will catch the eye.
Aberdeen signed up former St Johnstone and Bristol City boss Derek McInnes, and he wasted no time bringing in proven quality in the premiership. Willo Flood and Gregg Wylde were both brought in from Dundee United and Bolton, and target man Calvin Zola was brought in to provide more of a battering ram option to key man Niall McGinn’s quick direct approach. Michael Hector was brought in for the 15935th loan of his young career and Nicky Weaver was brought in as cover for keeper Jamie Langfield, but that cover could soon prove competition for a man nicknamed by the red army “Clangers”. For me, the most important bit of business was Barry Robson. The man who won an SPL title with Celtic in 2008 provides experience and sheer grit in the middle of the park, he’s the kind of player that will grab the game by the scruff of the neck, something Aberdeen sorely lack. Alongside youngster Ryan Jack in the centre of midfield, Robson will aid the youngster’s development, and it could prove priceless for the young Scot’s future.
My team, the champions, had almost 20 times as much to spend as anybody else, a budget further increased with the joint £20m sales of Gary Hooper, Victor Wanyama and Kelvin Wilson. Selling the spine of the team was partly fixed, Celtic brought in classy Dutch young defender Virgil Van Dijk, cocky Vitoria target man Amido Balde and Ajax winger Derk Boerrigter. Celtic then did nothing for a while, despite having bids for Marco Arnautovic accepted, before being turned down by the player himself. On the final day Celtic signed former Manchester City target, holding midfielder Nir Biton and Finnish striker Teemu Pukki. All the big names have big shoes to fill and with champions league football imminent, they will be expected to hit the ground running.
United manager Jackie McNamara wasted little time in raiding former club Partick Thistle of some of their top players. Paul Paton and Chris Erskine were both brought in, and centre half Calum Butcher has been asked to cover for suspensions of the usual defenders. The sickening blows of losing Barry Douglas to Lech Poznan and Johnny Russell to Derby was softened with the arrivals of Nadir Ciftci and Brian Graham, the latter a consistent goalscorer with Raith in the Championship. The loan return of David Goodwillie following a disappointing spell at Blackburn is A decent replacement for target man Jon Daly who has joined the newly reformed Rangers. The major feat of United’s transfer window, was keeping Gary Mackay-Steven. The tricky winger has a bright future ahead of him, and is vital to United’s success.
Hearts are currently under a transfer embargo for going into administration. The only incoming player was Danny Wilson, who was on loan from Liverpool last season. Webster, Mullen, Barr and Sutton all left the Jambos, and Hearts will have to rely on their young players to haul them out of the -15 point deficit. They turned down 2 bids from Nottingham Forest for midfielder Jason Holt, and that itself took guts, especially considering the financial predicament they currently find themselves in. But it could prove effective, Holt and Jamie Walker are without doubt the two best players in the team, and Hearts could see the two of them sold for a nice little profit should they continue developing at the rate they are presently.
Firstly, Hibs lost Eoin Doyle, not that many Hibs fans are losing sleep over that one. On paper, Hibs brought in real quality. Liam Craig came in from St Johnstone, James Collins signed for £200k, and Paul Heffernan came in for free from Kilmarnock. After the return to Wolves of clinical and consistent Leigh Griffiths, Hibs were crying out for a striker, and they’ve signed two reputable frontmen. Owain Tudur-Jones has given them a bit if steel in front of the back four, a back four that also contains Michael Nelson following his move from Bradford City and the aforementioned Fraser Mullen means they don’t have to play with Alan Maybury (hallelujah). On paper they look a top six outfit, that quality yet to shine through on the park.
As is usual with Inverness, the vultures swooped. Caley lost Tudur-Jones and Andy Shinnie, but miraculously held on to their talented forwards Billy McKay and Aaron Doran. James Vincent is the man to replace Tudur-Jones, and cover in all areas of the park was secured with the signings of Carl Tremarco, goalkeeper Dean Brill, Curtis Allen and Marley Watkins. The eyebrow raiser for Caley was the signing of Ben Greenhalgh, who was the winner of Football’s Next Star, and spent a brief time with Internazionale’s youth academy.
New manager Allan Johnston has big shoes to fill. Why Kenny Shiels was given the boot is something of a mystery for Scottish football fans, but he’s swiftly brought in a host of players to fit his style of football including loan signings of Celtic kid Jackson Irvine and United fringe player Michael Gardyne. The team has been built around the return of all time SPL top scorer Kris Boyd, and Mark Stewart is another wide man who’s main job is to service the big front man. After losing first choice keeper Cammy Bell to Rangers, Killie signed two Premiership goalkeepers, Craig Samson of St Mirren and Antonio Reguero of Inverness. Another team who have struggled for form in the opening weeks of the season, I personally think Killie haven’t signed enough to quality, and will be in a scrap for relegation.
As is becoming common practice for the Steelmen, the majority of their top stars left during the summer. Nicky Law, Chris Humphrey, Darren Randolph, Henrik Ojamaa and the league’s top scorer Michael Higdon all left with only Ojamaa getting the club any money. Motherwell have attempted to replace the backbone of their team with seasoned Scotland international Stephen McManus and former County creative midfielder Iain Vigurs. Henri Anier and Lionel Ainswoth both came in on loan, as well as holding midfielder Paul Lawson, but Motherwell will have a difficult season in order to emulate last season’s second place finish.
The league’s new boys have a pretty solid squad set up. They lost Stevie Craig to Wycombe, as well as Paton & Erskine but a series of loan deals from English clubs have seen depth brought into the Jags squad. Former Hamilton defender Gary Fraser was immediately loaned to Thistle following his move to Bolton, and Henoc Mukendi has arrows from Liverpool. The solid and versatile Mark Kerr was also joined by Kallum Higginbotham, who after failed spells at Huddersfield, Carlisle and Barnsley is looking to resurrect his career at Firhill.
County were last season’s surprise package and, judging by their transfer dealings, are looking to build on that. Dutch pair Kevin Luckassen and Darren Maatsen have joined silky winger Graham Carey. Carey is no doubt the coup of the window, with an eye for a pass and a wonder goal, it’s something County didn’t have last season. The return north of the border for former Chelsea kid Ben Gordon is a good catch as well, back County for a top half finish.
St Johnstone’s signing of David Wotherspoon appears to have given the midfielder a new lease of life. Out of form in Edinburgh with Hibs, Wotherspoon has returned to his hometown club and his form has returned too. And he compliments young striker Stevie May who has returned following a productive loan spell at Hamilton Accies. Proven Premiership players Rory Fallon and Gary McDonald have joined up at McDiarmid Park, and the Perth side have a good set up for the season ahead.
St Mirren have signed Gary Harkins from relegated Dundee and youth players David Cornell and Jake Caprice from Swansea and Blackpool respectively. Conor Newton is back for another loan spell from Newcastle, but even the deadline day arrival of Nice target man Stephane Bahoken won’t be enough for St Mirren. The loss of Samson is fatal to the Buddies, and although Lewis Guy’s departure isn’t the end of the world their squad is wafer thin. Based on their dealings and start to the season they’re my favourites for the drop.
It was the type of deadline day that even Jim White couldn’t light up. But the window itself has changed the total complexion of the league. For example, Aberdeen who were a bottom half side last season are now favourites to finish second. Although on saying that, I’m sure many Aberdeen fans will be telling you they won’t be holding their breath…