I’ve just read, with amusement, the various news stories doing the rounds today about Hibs’ Scott Allan and the “transfer tug of war” which is allegedly being fought out between ourselves and the Sevco Newco over the player.
The headlines made me smile. The articles made me laugh.
I watched a video online a couple of years ago which features a tug of war between a 360 pound sumo wrestler and an orang-utan weighing well less than half that.
If you’re judging the contest on how long it took for a winner to emerge, the time on the clock from start to finish was a little over 40 seconds.
But it was never really close.
The wrestler was on his back, straining with all his might, inside of 10 and was unable to budge the primate even when it was using only one hand.
When the monkey began to exert itself – some 30 seconds in – the end was already in sight.
It wasn’t a contest as much as a demonstration of almost effortless strength.
Should Celtic and Sevco ever find themselves in a genuine competition for the signature of a footballer I expect it to last half as long and be even more one sided, unless said player is one of the “Real Rangers Men”, in which case the chances of us getting him in the first place would be about as likely as him leading them to a Champions League Final.
I like Scott Allan. But he’s never going to play on the Champions League stage, and as that particular stage is where Celtic is headed I wonder how the media ever thought this one was going to get past us.
I can’t help but notice that there’s a rather long line of players who are already in the Celtic squad and who’d have to be supplanted for him even to get on the bench.
It’s one of those stories that makes me want to get out the big red marker, slap an F onto the back pages of the tabloids and send to their editors with a wee note saying “Must Try Harder.”
Their objective is obvious enough, I suppose.
Allan is in the last year of his deal, and Hibs are stuck in the Championship for another season. By the time some of you read this, Sevco might be halfway through the playoff finals and on course for the SPL.
They have a pressing need to rebuild the squad and to do that they’ll need to spend money.
And money is in short supply at Ibrox.
Allan would be a good signing for them, in the sense that he would walk into their present starting eleven, which is made up of sheer dross.
With many of their current crop of players nearly out of contract he would be the guy they’d try to build a whole midfield around eventually.
All well and good, you might think.
But there are some problems with Scott Allan.
For a start, they could have had him at the start of this season, but he preferred to go to Hibs.
Now they’re facing having to pay £400,000 for him.
Selling that to the fans might not be particularly easy.
It might ask questions about what actually prevented them from doing this deal a year ago.
So they get their media lackeys to write a nice wee story linking him with Celtic. They invent the “transfer tug of war”, in which their team comes out on top. (Easy to do if you’re the only one bidding.) Celtic are thus “snubbed” and Sevco win a PR victory just when they need one most.
And lo and behold, you get your press buddies to write it up just so.
Like I said, I get it. I see it. Nice try. But no.
For starters, if this comes down to money then it’s like I said earlier, a contest only as long as Peter Lawwell (yes, he’s the orang-utan, you can stop laughing) doesn’t exert himself, or Celtic’s vastly superior financial muscle.
Beyond the time it takes for both clubs to slap in a bid, this isn’t really a match between equals.
Oh Celtic can make it fun, upping the ante and making Sevco pay much more than the guy is worth, for our own amusement and to limit what they can spend elsewhere, but if Celtic seriously wanted the player then we would soon find their limit, whether that was in the transfer fee itself or in the salary we could offer him. And then we’d win.
On top of that, Celtic can sweeten the offer with European football and a chance to train every day with a team of internationals, not to mention playing in front of the best fans in the world.
Yes, there’s a downside of course, said downside being that he wouldn’t be guaranteed a place in the Celtic team (nowhere near it) … but that’s the chance a player has to take if he wants to earn the kind of money that will see him comfortably in retirement.
Let’s be honest, Scott Allan playing every week at Celtic Park … not really going to happen, is it? Who’s he going to keep out of the side?
Scott Brown? I think not.
Stefan Johansen? Scotland’s player of the year … I see little prospect of it.
Biton? This guy is linked with a £5 million move, which is an insult to us, frankly. I doubt he’ll be stepping aside for the Hibs player.
Stuart Armstrong? Haha. A future captain and cost us four times as much. I think he’s staying put.
Then there’s Liam Henderson, who is shining in Norway and not a player I think we have the remotest intention of letting leave. He, too, looks a better prospect, long term, not to mention what Jamie Lindsay might do, or Aiden Nesbitt, or Joe Thomson.
Untested, yes, but all with the potential to go far, and perhaps be better players.
We have better uses for £400,000 than going for another central midfielder, a guy who, according to the reports, we’d be free to open negotiations with in January anyway.
If Celtic really do want him – as a squad player – I suspect we’d take our chances and wait until then.
And all of this overlooks one glaring problem with the scenario anyway; all this presumes Hibs are minded to sell him for that fee.
If I were Alan Stubbs I’d at least be focussed on keeping him for the last 12 months of his deal come what may, because either Sevco will be stuck in the league with them – in which case it makes little sense to punt your best player to them – or they’ll have Motherwell to deal with.
The case for retaining his services for an extra year is pretty self-explanatory.
Keep him, risk him leaving on a free and try and get to the SPL?
Or sell him, disrupt the engine room of the team, and be stuck in the Championship an extra year?
For less than half a million quid?
Hmmm … hard one.
But only if you’re a Scottish sports writer who can barely join dots.
Hibs are a well-run club, with little debt and zero incentive to sell.
Celtic are a well-run club with zero incentive to spend £400,000 on this guy.
Sevco are a dreadfully run club who probably can’t afford that.
And they most certainly cannot afford to go head-to-head in a transfer battle with us.
They don’t even have a manager yet (although I’m betting McCall is still there at the start of the season whether they’re in the SPL or not) and so to be talking about transfer activity seems a bit premature to say the very least …
Does this story stack up, at all? In any way, shape or form?
Of course not. Yet it’s in every paper.
It’s all over the internet.
It’s even being discussed by the semi-rational on some of the Sevco forums as if it’s realistic.
This is what you hire PR firms to do.
So job well done, somebody. You got your one day story and the potential for a much bigger scoop if Hibs decide to sell and Sevco has the cash to buy.
But this notion that somehow we’re in this, and that we’d have been “snubbed” for Ibrox ….
Please … don’t make me laugh, alright?
The only people these folk are kidding on … are themselves.
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