THERE has been a sense that Rangers have engaged in a phoney war with their quest for Scott Allan.
Had they steamed in with an opening bid of £850,000 for the 23-year-old, Hibernian would have faced a dilemma about keeping a player in the final year of his contract – even if his suitor was the Leith club’s main challengers for the Championship. By contrast, any six-figure bid that starts with a ‘2’ or even ‘3’, which may be all Rangers can afford, leaves Alan Stubbs and his board with absolutely zilch to ponder since it would represent such poor value for so unwanted a sale.
Yet, the Hibs manager doesn’t care much for this hypothesis since he sees it as suggesting a certain phoniness to the position taken by his club over selling the midfielder to their main rivals. “Not for sale is not for sale,” Stubbs said, implying there are no ‘right price’ caveats. “Scott Allan is one of the most prestigious talents in Scottish football at this moment in time. Why would we accept £850,000 when you’ve got someone who goes to another club for over £1 million?”
Stubbs would not say if the “someone” he had in mind just happened to be Rangers midfielder Lewis Macleod, whose move to Brentford last Christmas was said to be worth £1.3m to the Ibrox club with add-ons.
It can now be pretty much guaranteed that Allan will not be a Rangers player this year. Hibs have made this a pledge they would now break at their peril. And for all the feverish debate that the situation has engendered, the search for villains of the piece ultimately might be misplaced. Rangers are well within their rights to make bids for a player; Hibs are well within their rights to reject any such bids. Allan is well within his rights to lodge a transfer request; Hibs are well within their rights to reject that request.
As for Allan’s ‘verbal agreement’, it doesn’t hold up that the Leith club would have told him that he could go if a bigger club came in for him...irrespective of what fee was offered. Yet, that is what those accusing Hibs of reneging on a promise to the player would appear to be suggesting.
Stubbs was heartened to receive the endorsement of Rangers managerial godfather Walter Smith for his club’s stance over Allan yesterday. The former Scotland manager said it was “quite rightly so” that the Easter Road side would not consider selling their main creative presence to “anyone never mind their closest rivals”. Stubbs believes too few of a Rangers disposition had taken a neutral view of new Rangers manager Mark Warburton’s pursuit of 23-year-old Allan.
“Walter Smith is a good guy and a man of his word,” said Stubbs. “When you know something is right you don’t need people to tell you. What we have done is in the best interests of the football club. Mark [Warburton] is right in saying he doesn’t want to speak about it. I see lots of ambassadors for the football club have managed to speak about it. Maybe that’s a way round it.”
As Hibs prepare to kick off their Championship season with an opening league game at Dumbarton tomorrow, Stubbs is hopeful that the club and its supporters, rarely unified, will have been drawn closer because of the stance taken over Allan. In announcing their plans for fan ownership last year, Hibs said one of the drivers in selling 50 per cent of the shares to supporters was to achieve “sporting ambition”.
“When you’re a big club you will always have ambitions and we are an ambitious football club,” said Stubbs. “We want to get out of this division as quickly as possible and what we’ve done shows a clear intention of that. The club’s response has been normal and positive.
“It’s right for our fans as well. They’ve had a tough time over the last number of years and for the first time in a while, they can see the club taking a stance to their beliefs as well. This is not a club pulling in different directions, this is a club pulling one direction. We’re trying to build a football team that they’ll be happy to support. When they’ve got a team on the pitch that they can relate to, that will only confirm their desire to really get behind the club.”
Even if Allan has privately made plain his desire to sign for his boyhood club, the reception given to the midfielder by Hibs supporters last week confirmed their desire to get behind him. Allan was cheered when introduced as a 65th-minute substitute in last week’s League Cup victory over Montrose, and cheered again five minutes later by the Easter Road faithful when he found the bottom corner with a drive in the 3-0 success.
Stubbs has no concerns about the transfer tussle affecting Allan. “The club is the most important thing, the team comes second to that,” the Hibs manager said. “That will always be the case. An individual’s needs do not outweigh the club’s or the team’s. It’s always the club, the team and the player. It will not change whatsoever. Some people might think it will change, but it won’t.
“When you’re a player and go out on the pitch it always takes your mind away from things. You want to play and it can become a release from everything. Normally this wouldn’t be good for Scottie, it’s something the club has not wanted, but we’ve dealt with it and we’ve dealt with it in the right way.”