£12 Million? You could get 7 Scotsmen for that!
The more green eyed among us will have been staring on with incredulity as Gordon Strachan drove once again into the transfer market on Friday to obtain the services of Kevin Thomson from Glasgow Rangers. Cynicism has been apparent throughout this process and English football is littered with the carcases of bespoilt tartan reputations in recent years. Comfortably outspending all rivals will immediately make Boro a scalp and the low esteem in which the Scottish game is currently held, as well as the unfamiliarity of the newcomers, leads most to eagerly anticipate Strachan’s hubris, but I feel there could be reason and rhyme to all The Ginger Man’s activity. Here are a few reasons why I think he can silence us all:
If the past month’s jamboree has told us anything, it’s that two defensive midfielders are now de rigueur. Yes, Nicky Bailey and Thomson are familiar in style, but so are Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva. The best of these combinations in South Africa provided midfielders subtly different in approach, with Busquets and Xabi Alonso their apogee, and if both were essentially there to defend and recycle the ball without fuss, they were complementary rather than jarring. Similarly, Bailey’s more adventurous style and excellent strike record will fit well with that of man who has just 4 goals in 150 league games. Boro’s soft centre is now plugged up with the toughest polyfilla.
Speaking of Bailey, Jimmy Greaves style jokes at the expense of our Northerly neighbours are also misplaced in his case; the manager’s fellow carrot top joining from the decidedly un-Scottish surrounds of Charlton. If most of the acquisitions may find time to settle in a league of which they know nothing, the bustling, squat ex-Barnet and Southend man is well known in these parts; having enjoyed an excellent first season in scarlet despite relegation in 2008-9. Bailey is probably the most watertight of Strachan’s buys and if £1.4 million seems steep for a third tier player, he is admirably consistent.
Similarly no nonsense is Stephen McManus. Colin Hendry has described the former captain as the last of an ancient breed and given the pathetic attempts of Championship strikers in stacking up goals in 2009-10, the ex-Celtic captain’s old fashioned approach is unlikely to be a problem. McManus resembles another man who took a similar path in the twilight of his career a few summers back — and Malky Mackay is still among us, albeit wearing suit and tie.
There’s a more solid look to this second wave of signings — a stiffer challenge akin to the ’45 in comparison to the January loan period’s ’15? Only Barry Robson of the previous arrivals has proved to be an unqualified success, although Willo Flood has shown well in bursts. Scott McDonald costs a packet and Lee Miller and Chris Killen simply didn’t work out: the latter now out of contract. I was critical of the gaffer a month ago, but Strachan has acted swiftly in identifying the need for a more robust selection of talents and the career records of those joining now is much better than those of six months back.
Of the money…well yes, it will cause minor jumpiness on Teesside. £3.5 million for McDonald already looks horrendously wasteful and the sums disbursed on the others have also been sizeable. But, given that this was the club that squandered £12 million on Alfonso Alves alone, Steve Gibson probably looks on it all as comparative short change. Certainly wee Gordon has been forgiven his profligacy in the January sales — and lower key, younger acquisitions such as Andrew Halliday may be just as canny as his Auld Firm choices.
Which brings us to Kris Boyd. Alex McLeish tried to sign him for Birmingham for £4 million and likens him to Ally McCoist. Shudders that the diminutive front man may share that gent’s sense of humour apart, such comparisons will be met with lifted eyebrows in the Northeast given Alistair’s failure as a player at Sunderland, but Boyd’s strike rate cannot be ignored: 101 in 143 for Rangers and a respectable goal every other game in a truncated and now revived international career and it seems that we now have a genuine British sporting personality enlisted among us. Few moves this Summer will provide a better barometer of the Scottish scene as Craig Levein aims for Euro 2012.