20 past heroes who returned to Scottish football clubs

Aberdeen hero Eoin Jess. Picture: TSPLAberdeen hero Eoin Jess. Picture: TSPL
Aberdeen hero Eoin Jess. Picture: TSPL
After a week where Jose Mourinho was binned by Chelsea for the second time, and James McFadden went back to Fir Park for a third, we look at Scottish football players and managers who’ve returned to the scene of past glories. Some emulated previous success, some were indifferent, and others were just awful.

Derek Adams (Ross County)

Adams led the Highland club to their first and, to this date, only cup final during his initial time in charge, but it was after his return where he enjoyed the greater success.

The former player took a team that had narrowly avoided relegation to the third tier, built them into a title-winning side and then secured a top six finish in his first top flight campaign.

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Mark Hateley. Picture: TSPLMark Hateley. Picture: TSPL
Mark Hateley. Picture: TSPL

Things went wrong when he tried to sign 300 foreign players every transfer window.

Russell Anderson (Aberdeen)

The centre back is so synonymous with the club that it’s hard to imagine he spent four-and-a-half years away from Pittodrie.

As appreciated as he was initially, it was after his return that he would achieve legend status, lifting the League Cup in 2013, ending 19 years without a trophy for the Dons.

Neil McCann. Picture: TSPLNeil McCann. Picture: TSPL
Neil McCann. Picture: TSPL

Kris Boyd (Rangers)

The horror.

There is no way to explain quite what happened to Boyd last season. The previous campaign a leaner, meaner, more determined striker kept Kilmarnock in the top flight all by his lonesome. He then dropped down a division to join a winning side. Some people predicted 40 goals and it didn’t seem too ridiculous.

Instead, he got 10, and even those numbers were inflated by a flat-track bully tendency to score against jobbers in the League Cup and Challenge Cup. In the league he only managed three.

Garry O'Connor. Picture: David LambGarry O'Connor. Picture: David Lamb
Garry O'Connor. Picture: David Lamb

Callum Davidson (St Johnstone)

The attacking full-back had a very successful 13-year career in England bracketed by stays at McDiarmid Park.

In 2012 his one-year deal was extended when his form forced chairman Steve Brown to decide against letting the contract run down because of the defender’s age. He remains at the club to this day as Tommy Wright’s assistant.

Morgaro Gomis (Dundee United)

Picked up to act as cover and battle for a spot in the Dundee United midfield in 2014, Gomis instead struggled to make any impact and was unsurprisingly released in the summer.

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He’s since shown United they were maybe a little hasty in getting rid, as he’s been a steady influence in the Hearts midfield over the past 18 months.

David Goodwillie (Dundee United)

Goodwillie went down to England and forgot how to score goals. He still hasn’t remembered.

In the striker’s final full season at Tannadice he found the back of the net 17 times on league duty. He’s only tallied 16 in the five years since.

At Tannadice he was signed on loan to much fanfare but soon found himself playing second fiddle to Nadir Ciftci.

Mark Hateley (Rangers)

The striker responded to an SOS sent out by Walter Smith after an injury crisis enveloped Rangers while they were in a fierce battle for the title with Tommy Burns’ Celtic.

The Englishman made a name for himself at Ibrox by defeating opponents with his head. He took this approach a little too literally second time around, where he was mostly known for headbutting Stewart Kerr during an Old Firm derby.

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Jim Jefferies (Hearts)

Jefferies couldn’t quite repeat the historic triumph he achieved in his first period in charge of Hearts, though there were still some happy moments during his return, including a 11 game unbeaten streak in which Hearts won ten of their matches, briefly pushing them into a “title race” with Rangers and Celtic.

Then Kevin Kyle got injured, it became patently obvious Big Jim lacked a plan B, and Hearts barely won another game for the remainder of his tenure.

Eoin Jess (Aberdeen)

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The midfielder was a legend at Pittodrie. Aberdeen fans just loved him. It was a bond built on the player’s refusal to leave the club when bigger sides enquired about his services - oh, and that goal against Rangers.

He was still good when he came back after one year with Coventry, but unfortunately the Dons’ side he came into was a shell of the one he left, which wasn’t that great either.

Keith Lasley & Steven Hammell (Motherwell)

Most observers would be forgiving for thinking this pair are one-club men. That’s not quite the case. They’ve accumulated 28 years at Fir Park between them, though both their times have been punctuated by two-year spells in England.

Lasley with Plymouth, Hammell with Southend. Neither skipped a beat and excelled upon their return.

Shaun Maloney (Celtic)

Injuries ruined Maloney’s return to Parkhead after an unsuccessful spell at Aston Villa. He just couldn’t stay fit for any length of time and the club ended up cutting their losses, selling the playmaker to Wigan for over £2 million less than they spent to re-sign him three years earlier.

Luckily for Scotland, Maloney managed to get over those seemingly chronic injury issues and has been one of the most important players in the national team over the past couple of years.

Kevin McAllister (Falkirk)

Falkirk’s ‘Player of the Millennium’ returned to his first club on two occasions, with the last of those the most noteworthy as he helped the side reach the Scottish Cup final in 1997 and semi-final of the same competition the next year.

While both of those matches would end in disappointment, ‘Crunchie’ would leave a lasting impression in the semi against Hearts.

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His performance that day was simply magnificent as he netted one of the best Scottish Cup goals of the last 20 years. If you watch the video, look for the lad behind the goal in the maroon jacket. He can’t help but stand and applaud McAllister’s strike, despite it tying up the scores very late in the game.

Neil McCann (Hearts)

McCann left for Rangers in 1998 a flying winger who would hug the touchline, tear past the full back and whip the ball into the penalty area.

He returned in 2006 a midfielder fond of pirouetting in the centre of the park, and not capable of much else.

Garry O’Connor (Hibernian)

After multi-million pound moves to Lokomotiv Moscow and Birmingham City failed to bring sustained success, O’Connor returned home in 2011.

Looking back - while he was something of a punch-line to fans of other clubs due to an inflated waistband and a high profile scrap with the law - O’Connor’s scoring record on a desperately poor Hibs side was actually pretty solid.

Derek Riordan (Hibernian)

Hibs paid cold hard cash to bring home the prodigal son after he’d left on a free to Celtic two years earlier. In the time between Riordan mainly sat on the Parkhead bench, thus inspiring one of the better Only An Excuse sketches of the last ten years.

There’s little doubt the move robbed Riordan of his career momentum, and while he was a success upon his return to Easter Road, it lacked the spark of his initial time with the club. He still netted into double figures in every season, however, which is a record that cannot be sniffed at.

John Robertson (Hearts)

The modern day King of Hearts battered in the goals for Hearts either side of a completely forgettable spell at Newcastle United, where the forward was used as a midfielder for a reason that’s never been properly explained.

Rudi Skacel (Hearts)

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Skacel played one season at Hearts before deciding he wasn’t a fan of this ‘sacking managers while top of the league and replacing them with Graham Rix’ malarkey and left to join his old boss George Burley at Southampton.

Fast forward four years, Skacel, out of work, then decides being an employee of Mr Romanov wasn’t that bad after all.

As much of a success he was in his first spell, Skacel was arguably even better in his second. Highlights include scoring a hat-trick of goals from outside the area and netting twice in the Scottish Cup final, before leaving Tynecastle and using one Scottish club (Dundee United) purely as a means of trolling supporters of another (Hibs).

Walter Smith (Rangers)

Turning to their old boss after Paul Le Guen had made a right ol’ mess of things was exactly what Rangers needed in 2007. He steadied the ship enough to finish second, thus re-entering the Champions League, before embarking on an incredible second campaign where the club would reach the Uefa Cup final.

Even though that season would end in disappointment, considering there was a real possibility Rangers were going to win four trophies (they made do with two), they soon bounced back to win three titles on the spin before Smith retired.

Ivan Sproule (Hibernian)

Hibs couldn’t re-bottle the influence of the lightning-quick winger after he returned from four years at Bristol City.

Sproule would play consistently in the 2011-12 season before falling out of favour completely the next term. Halfway through the campaign he was released, then Hibs fans watched on incredulously as he signed with Ross County and started lighting up the league again.