Craig Fowler picks out the most interesting deals from transfer deadline day in Scottish football.
Scott Allan to Hibs
It’s a homecoming for the former Easter Road favourite. Now let’s see if he can win back the fans after his protracted exit from the club in the summer of 2015 left a sour taste in the mouth. It had looked likely that he would leave for boyhood heroes Rangers, who were poised to challenge Hibs for the Championship crown, before Celtic fancied making themselves a banter signing.
The advanced stats guys will tell you Scott Allan has been great this season. The average Dundee fan will say he’s been mediocre up until the last few weeks. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
He does rate quite highly in the top flight for categories like expected assists and scoring chance creation rate, though he does tend to press things in the final third when there’s not a lot on. That’s maybe a trait which suits stronger teams, but when you’re on a side battling relegation it can lead the manager to pull his hair out. He’s also not that strong defensively.
On the other hand, he didn’t exactly have much assistance at Dens Park. The club’s best players this season have been Jack Hendry, Glen Kamara, Paul McGowan and Jon Aurtenetxe, all team-mates who’ll spend the majority of the game situated behind Allan on the pitch. At Easter Road there’s still a similar problem in terms of missing a regular goalscorer (unless Jamie Maclaren or Flo Kamberi can fill that void) but at least they have Brandon Barker and Martin Boyle excelling in the wide positions. These are guys who should benefit from Allan’s enthusiasm and ability to play a reverse through ball.
Sam Cosgrove to Aberdeen
This screams “project signing”. The ex-Wigan Athletic striker has not been a regular starter for League Two Carlisle United, scoring only once in 12 appearances this term, so it would be a surprising to see him thrown right into the Aberdeen starting XI. Manager Derek McInnes will look to coach up his skills over the next two-and-a-half years as his touch and strength will have to improve before he’s ready to become a star in this league.
At the same time, don’t be too shocked to see him make a few appearances before the end of the season. The Pittodrie side lack a target man-style forward in their corps, and Cosgrove may be used late in games when they’re pumping balls into the penalty area.
Cosgrove is listed at 6ft 2in and possesses a good leap. He got a wiry frame which means he can be muscled off the ball by bigger defenders, but he’s not as cumbersome as traditional target-man centre forwards can be.
Simon Murray to Dundee
This is interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s a boyhood fan realising a lifelong dream of signing for his favourites - but with a twist. Murray previously turned down the opportunity to move to Dundee when he was at Arbroath, instead signing for arch-rivals Dundee United. Having received a certain amount of stick for the decision, he’s not shied away from winding up the furious Dundee faithful ever since. Some will not be happy at this u-turn, though they’ll all forgive and forget if he starts scoring goals.
Whether he manages to do that is a different story. Murray is a streaky scorer, even in a Hibs team with plenty of inventiveness from midfield. Ironically, the perfect midfielder to position behind a speedster like Murray is Scott Allan, and he’s just swapped places with the hard-working red-head. Without the mercurial playmaker, it’s hard to imagine who’s going to create the chances from which Murray will find the back of the net.
Overall, though, Dundee should still have enough about them to keep their collective heads above water. Murray, for his faults, is still a better option than Sofien Moussa, Marcus Haber or Faissal El Bakhtaoui in attack.
Liam Fontaine to Ross County
So the Fontaine of Knowledge takes his social media patter and questionable songwriting up to Dingwall in an attempt to save the Staggies from certain relegation.
In a vacuum this would be a good signing. Fontaine is a tad unlucky that in Efe Ambrose, Paul Hanlon and Darren McGregor, Hibs have three good top flight centre-backs who just happen to be better than him.
He’d get a game for most sides in the Scottish Premiership and should prove this at Ross County.
The only downside to the deal is that another centre-back isn’t necessarily what the Staggies need right now, unless there’s a chance that Andrew Davies may struggle to regain his fitness this season. They needed someone to come in and take the place of the commanding captain who was toiling with injury issues, though it appeared they’d already found their man with the capture of Harry Souttar on loan from Stoke City.
Fontaine was thrown right into the squad for Wednesday’s match with Aberdeen, but it didn’t improve the club’s fortunes. His presence forced Marcus Fraser out to left-back. Not only is it not the stand-in skipper’s preferred position, it’s not even his preferred foot. County, as expected, lost to Derek McInnes’ side.
One route County could possible take to maximise the benefits of this deal is a three-at-the-back system. Owen Coyle needs to try something, anything, to haul his side out of his tailspin.
Jack Hendry to Celtic
The 22-year-old is an undoubted Scottish Premiership talent, but this deal is still a little curious. As good as Hendry is - and for a club of Dundee’s standing in the league table, he’s absolutely terrific - does he do anything to improve Celtic? At present, it’s doubtful he’s better than any of Dedryck Boyata, Kristoffer Ajer or Jozo Simunovic. Then there’s new signing Marvin Compper. At a time when fans have been screaming out for a player to help them progress in Europe, this wasn’t the sort of deal they were expected the club to make.
Having said all of that, Brendan Rodgers has been something of a wizard when it comes to improving players within his Celtic squad. Perhaps there’s something he sees in Hendry which he believes will take the centre-back to the next level. He certainly has the tools to get there: he’s tall, quick, good in the air and composed with the ball at his feet.
In the meantime, though, Rodgers has a bit of juggling to do with his defensive corps. Although, the omission of Mikael Lustig in recent weeks, along with his resistance to playing Cristian Gamboa, may mean a move to the 3-5-2 system permanently.