HOW do you judge the worth of a football career? Is it in terms of medals or money, caps or cash?
Last week Scotland manager Craig Levein made it clear he is not keen to select players who have elected to play for newco Rangers in the Third Division. He believes it would be hard for players to earn their crust playing at such a lowly level and then switch to the demands of the international stage.
It means that walking away from Ibrox has helped Steven Naismith, Allan McGregor and Steven Whittaker retain hopes of playing in Brazil in 2014. For others, such as Lee Wallace who had already been capped and Ian Black who was on the fringes of the squad, it looks like they have put club considerations before their ambitions to play for their country. They will be richly rewarded in monetary terms but when the scrap book is being leafed through in later years, will it be enough?
It’s not just the damage the decision has done to their international aspirations, either. Given the chance, which match would you choose to be involved in, the Edinburgh derby or a no-win trip to Third Division Peterhead?
There are several who have opted for a stint in the lower reaches of Scottish football and while it is bewildering some it is infuriating others. The lure, undoubtedly, is lucre and while players who are trying to provide long-term security for themselves and their families cannot be totally condemned for that, it is galling.
Hibs manager Pat Fenlon is the latest to express his frustration. In need of a striker and being badgered by fans, he says he has tried, really tried. Apparently, he looked at bringing Dean Shiels back to Easer Road and had a shot at landing Fran Sandaza but both bought into the Rangers revolution instead. Or, perhaps more accurately, they were bought over.
After all, no kid ever spent their days in the playground dreaming of making it into top-flight football only to swap it for a contract in the lowest tier of the SFL.
Fenlon is mad that after the summer of discontent, having generated a mess that threatened to bring Scottish football to its knees, Rangers are back out splashing the cash like it was never an issue. He’s not the only one. Not the only manager who has been forced to live within even more stringent budgetary constraints due to the mismanagement at Rangers and the impact on gate receipts and television deals, not the only fan who waits patiently for big-name arrivals, not the directors who bear the brunt of it. If the Hibs boss is angry then imagine how the clubs who are still waiting for their football debts to be settled feel. Or the wee, local businesses who will never get the balance of cash owed to them. They will continue to struggle through the dire economic times which blight everyone out with the football bubble.
Protecting the integrity of the game? Where is the integrity in that?
There is merit in players such as Lee McCulloch hanging about. A player with the club at heart and the best years of his career behind him, his decision has probably got more to do with heart than wallet.
Football is an emotional game and it is also a business so we can’t totally blame players who have been at clubs where finances weren’t always sound, wages not always timely. They too have families to feed, mortgages to pay and a career that is all too short. People such as Kevin Kyle, who has had his shot at the top and is looking for another year or two of decent money to tuck away for that rainy day. Getting someone to pay him the kind of money Rangers are, despite him being out with a hip problem since the beginning of 2011, it’s not to be sniffed at.
But it’s the younger guys, who must surely harbour ambitions to play at the very highest level, who have to be questioned. They want to be part of something special, some have said, be part of taking the club from the foot of the leagues right back up to the hilt.
The last time someone tried to do that by over spending to such a degree, they went out of existence. Rangers are no Gretna but they are also a club who don’t seem to have learned from their own mistakes. It was their desire to buy success during the Dick Advocaat era which laid the foundations for the misery the whole of the Scottish game endured this summer.
No wonder people are frustrated.