Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Growing Scottish Influence in English Football

Written by Martin Domin, a Scottish football enthusiast

In the not-too-distant past, Scotland's top footballers were prevalent in England's top flight. Archie Gemmill, Denis Law, Billy Bremner and Graeme Souness are but four who played in the old English First Division in the 1970s and 80s. Indeed, 15 of the 22 players who went to the 1978 World Cup plied their trade south of the border, including four who were on the books of Manchester United. Now, 30 years on, Scotland's finest are once again making themselves at home in England including 13 of the original squad named to face Sweden, eight of whom play in the Premier League.

There is little doubt that Scotland can only benefit from these players' presence in what is widely considered to be the best league in the world. The gulf in class between England's top flight and the Scottish Premier League is growing ever larger with more and more players electing to make the move. What is of concern however is the number of Scots who have moved from the SPL to the Championship. Middlesbrough's Scottish spending spree has been well documented with Kris Boyd, Kevin Thomson, Andrew Halliday, Stephen McManus, Barry Robson and Lee Miller all moving since the beginning of the year. Indeed, four of those players have swapped European football and the prospect of winning trophies with the Old Firm for England's second tier.

The conveyor belt of talent leaving Glasgow in particular, and the SPL as a whole, is a damning indictment of the SPL, and it hardly comes as a surprise. Kris Boyd recently alluded to his delight at escaping from the goldfish bowl that Glasgow often become for Old Firm stars while the prospect of playing four games against Inverness and St Mirren every season is enough to drive any player to a division which has twice as many clubs and which offers the chance of a path to the promised land, something Charlie Adam will happily attest to.

Of those players who skipped the Championship and headed straight for the top table, Steven Fletcher and Craig Gordon are among the most successful. Fletcher enjoyed a credible season with Burnley with his eight league goals enough to secure a move to Wolves. He will have to battle with Kevin Doyle for the lone spot up front but the club's record signing has impressed in pre-season. He  joins another Scot, Christophe Berra, at Molineux. Craig Gordon has struggled with injuries of late and will miss the start of the Premier League season but is undoubtedly Scotland's number one. It is a surprise that he has not been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal this summer given Arsene Wenger's seemingly obvious need for a goalkeeper. Allan Hutton has struggled to nail down a place in Harry Redknapp's starting eleven at Tottenham and spent the end of last season on loan at Sunderland. He is another who has struggled with injury and may need to leave White Hart Lane if he is to play regular football and if Scotland fans are to enjoy his rampaging runs as witnessed so prolifically in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

Darren Fletcher has proved himself to be a key part of Manchester United's midfield over the last few seasons, something that look set to continue after an austere summer at Old Trafford. The build up to every Scotland match tends to revolve around why Fletcher doesn't perform in the same manner for his country but not only does he have better players around him at United but his duties are different. With Scotland he is expected to get into the opponent's box rather than simply dictate play and allow others to finish off the move. If Scott Brown can shake off his persistent injury worries and rediscover the form he showed for Hibs, he will take some of the pressure off Fletcher in the middle of the park. Around them, Charlie Adam and Graham Dorrans will fancy their chances of filling the other midfield berths. Both players enjoyed successful seasons in the Championship but it is Adam's story in particular that stands out. Often the subject of abuse at Ibrox, he joined Blackpool and was subsequently appointed captain before going on to score 18 league goals last season. While his side will struggle to avoid relegation, a good season from the midfielder will surely earn him a move next summer.

One player who has grabbed his second chance in the Premier League is Barry Ferguson. Having ruled out a return to the Scotland squad, he is instead focused on enjoying another successful season with Birmingham. Having failed to adapt to life away from Glasgow when he left Rangers for Blackburn in 2004, Ferguson has thrived this second time round. His success will have come as a surprise to many who felt his best days were behind him as he came to the end of his second spell at Rangers but working with Alex McLeish has brought out the best in the midfielder who was described as “phenomenal” by team mate Sebastian Larsson. Among the other Scots in the Premier League is Ferguson's team mate James McFadden, Scotland's talisman, and Gary Caldwell who must improve if he is to establish himself at Wigan. The DW Stadium is quickly becoming another home from home for players from north of the border with former Hamilton youngsters James McCarthy and James McArthur making the same move over the last 12 months.

As the Premier League campaign kicks off this weekend, there will be many keeping a close eye on the development of the Scottish contingent. Scotland manager Craig Levein will be desperate to see his key players performing week in week out while players in the SPL will be evaluating their prospects of a move south. Plenty of attention will also be directed at the Riverside as Gordon Strachan attempts to secure a tartan promotion. Failure to do so is likely to prove costly for the fiery Scot which could leave Kris Boyd and co with plenty to ponder come May.

Martin Domin is a valued guest contributor to The Flat Back Four. He is an award-winning freelance journalist, and can be found at

1 comment:

Tribulus said...

Good article. The more we have Scottish players playing week in week out in the English Premiership, the more chance Scotland has of being successful in my opinion.

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