Too many Scots toiling to fulfil early promise

Kris Boyd is the latest high-profile Scot to return to familiar pastures. Picture: SNS
Kris Boyd is the latest high-profile Scot to return to familiar pastures. Picture: SNS
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THERE is apparently no truth in the rumour that Steven Spielberg is considering using Scotland as a location for a new Back To The Future film.

But, as the SPL suddenly gets all retro, it might be only appropriate for Marty McFly to roar up to a stadium near you in his DeLorean DMC-12.

With James McFadden’s return to Motherwell last week quickly followed by Kris Boyd rejoining his first club, Kilmarnock, on a similar short-term deal, it is like 2003 all over again for Scottish football.

It remains to be seen if either player can recapture even a hint of their former glories at the clubs where they forged their reputations. Both are yet to celebrate their 30th birthday and feel they have much yet to offer at a high level of the game.

With 28-year-old Kevin Thomson currently training at his alma mater Hibernian, there is the prospect of another of Scotland’s once most-vaunted talents attempting to rebuild his career on familiar turf.

It is a startling reminder of how a certain generation of Scottish players have either lost their way or failed to fully live up to the hype which once surrounded them.

It takes only a quick perusal of the roll of honour of Scotland’s Young Player of the Year over the past decade to be reminded of how often the country’s most promising talent see their careers meander into relative mediocrity and obscurity.

Kevin McNaughton, who lifted the prize in 2002, has enjoyed a decent career at English Championship level with Cardiff City. But, after been called up to the senior Scotland squad at the wrong time in the wrong circumstances by the blundering Berti Vogts, the former Aberdeen prodigy took some time to recover.

In 2003, it was Vogts’ “cheeky boy” McFadden who lifted the Young Player of the Year prize. With 48 caps and 15 goals for Scotland, McFadden can hardly be accused of under-achievement. Yet there remains a sense, which he is determined to prove wrong, that he has not completely fulfilled his potential at club level.

Stephen Pearson, the 2004 Young Player of the Year, now finds himself at the wrong end of the English Championship with Bristol City. The former Celtic midfielder seems some distance away from any prospect of a Scotland recall.

The 2005 award winner, Derek Riordan, is even further out of the loop. Currently without a club following his release by Bristol Rovers of League Two, the former Hibernian striking prodigy is perhaps the most extreme case of wasted talent in his generation. So there is perhaps a warning there for more recent recipients of the Young Player of the Year prize. Danny Wilson, winner in 2010, is on loan at Hearts after failing to make the first-team breakthrough at Liverpool.

David Goodwillie, the 2011 winner, has struggled to make a significant impact at Blackburn following his move from Dundee United. There are exceptions, of course. Steven Fletcher, a double winner of the award in 2008 and 2009, has steadily flourished in English football and gone on to become his country’s most expensive player of all time.

So let’s just hope that Celtic winger James Forrest, Scotland’s reigning Young Player of the Year, can maximise the potential which makes his manager Neil Lennon enthuse about him so regularly.