Harry MacLean: Ibrox has it easy after the iniquity of Dens
THOSE Rangers supporters who believe their team has been victimised with the 12-month registration embargo that stood on appeal last week might care to consider the fate of the last Scottish club to enter administration.
Just over a year and a half ago Dundee were driven into insolvency after they, like Rangers, had withheld payments to HMRC. A transfer embargo, as well as a 25-point – not ten-point – penalty, was imposed on the First Division side by the Scottish Football League. Imaginative ways were found to get round the ban on signings. However, what these proved to be will offer no helpful pointers to the Ibrox club.
Dundee utilised trialists – three in total – in the second half of the season as they sought to bolster a squad reduced to nine outfield players. The same number, indeed, as were made redundant the instant the administrators went into Dens Park in October 2010, with the playing pool further diminished in the subsequent January transfer window. In that month, memorably, Neil McCann, pictured below, was tempted out of retirement to assist the relegation fight of his old club. He scored a late winner in his first outing and was able to feature a further twice because there is provision in the SFL rules for any club to play trialists in three league matches.
Rangers will not have that crumb of comfort. The rules of the Scottish Premier League do allow for trialists, and do permit them to play in three “official” matches of member clubs. The rules, though, also expressively state that the term “official” does not apply to league matches. Bang goes any hope of exploiting the trialist loophole for Rangers, then. In the opinion of Harry MacLean, Dundee’s chief executive throughout their recent administration, there should be no need for the Ibrox club to turn to the desperate measures forced on his team last year.
“Rangers have 40 players on their books, we ended up with ten,” MacLean says. “We had no choice but to get bodies in. Now if Rangers even get 20 players to sign on, they will retain a pretty strong squad. And, as wasn’t open to us, they can bring in players under the age of 18. You may not want kids playing in the SPL, but even if you retain three or four of your big players you could be looking at having a spine of Allan McGregor, Carlos Bocanegra, Steven Davis and Lee McCulloch. That would be the envy of practically every other club around you.
“We were left trying to scrabble about for players just to keep us in the league because we had 25 points to make up. Which we did. Rangers, whatever team they have to put out, won’t be fighting for their survival. They won’t be competitive in terms of challenging Celtic for the championship, though, and that prospect is what makes the embargo so unpalatable for them.”
Rangers have never finished lower than sixth in the Scottish top flight in their entire 140-year history, the continuation of which may be challenged if prospective owner Charles Green fails to take the club out of administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) and goes down the newco route. Green maintained on Friday that Rangers could win the title were they to retain all their players. Yet he also as good as conceded that there was little prospect of that actually happening.
He acknowledged that agents would be clamouring to exercise the escape clauses players had written into their contracts in February when accepting wage cuts of 75 per cent for three months. These clauses mean Steven Naismith and McGregor can walk if £2 million fees are lodged for them, while the bounty for Steven Davis is £1.65m. Steven Whittaker’s price is £850,000, with Dorin Goian, Kyle Lafferty and Maurice Edu available for around £500,000. All will go but these are headaches MacLean would have relished in early 2011.
Then, Dundee had to be grateful a fan was effectively willing to play for them. When the January window closed they could only use trialists who were former players last registered at Scottish clubs, or who made the step up from the junior ranks. Lochee United midfielder Craig Robertson came into the latter category, but what was notable about the veteran’s temporary switch was that it came after he had donated the proceeds of his testimonial to the club’s fighting fund. A month later, in mid-March, Dundee recruited another trialist from Lochee, though it is doubtful if the then 20-year-old striker Jake Hyde had ever heard of the club before making his way there after being freed by Hayes and Yeading. He played no games for the junior team before Dundee took him on trial, where he scored three goals in two games. He couldn’t play a third time because SFL teams are not allowed to play trialists after 31 March of any season.
“There may have been a quibble from some about the way we brought in Jake Hyde but we approached the league and they were perfectly OK with what we did,” MacLean says. “We abided by all the rules, which are applied rigidly, but we saw something in them that presented us with an opportunity.” Maybe Rangers will give MacLean a call after all.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North east