RUNNING through the Scottish teams who came out best from their business over the summer months.
On Monday evening the Scottish football transfer window slammed shut - only for Peter Lawwell to pry it open again so John Guidetti could squeeze himself inside - finally giving us time to reflect on the whole piece.
Who went about everything in a calm and collected manner, and who scrambled around desperate for anyone to fill a spot in the squad? Three members of The Terrace Scottish Football Podcast give their opinion over the winners and losers in two separate blogs. First up is the winners.
Craig Fowler: To start, I’m going to throw out a pretty obvious one right away: Hearts.
Craig Cairns: Liking this. I think Neilson’s business was excellent this summer. Like you said a few weeks back, it seems like he was able to identify exactly what the team needed and find a suitable player. I do think centre-half is a little weak though. I’m not convinced by Alim Ozturk.
CF: I know what you mean. Hearts fans seem to have some sort of infatuation with him. I think he’ll be a great player one day, but he’s still pretty young and makes the kind of lack-of-concentration errors you see in a centre back of his age.
But, to be fair, that’s the only problem I have with the entire Hearts squad; they still might be a little young to win the Championship.
John Callan: The standard of the players brought in is clearly high enough to get out of the division. I can imagine that must have been something of a concern when the remaining experienced, higher earners were being culled back in May (or was it June?) - and that too much expectation would be placed on the younger guys who excelled towards the tail end of last year. Guys like Gomis and Buaben though are capable Premiership players, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the others could make the step up too.
CF: It was May. The most impressive thing about all the signings is that there aren’t any who have struggled initially, which is surprising given the volume. Well, apart from Lee Hollis, but he was always going to be a stop gap and he’s gone already.
CC: Something I didn’t get in about Ozturk. He reminds me of Ismael Bouzid: looks the part but probably thinks he’s better than he is. I also think that this team is definitely good enough to win the division, especially with the problems at Rangers that just won’t go away.
CF: Shots fired! Ismael Bouzid? That’s rough.
I think he’s better than that, though I do get your point. I would say he’s more like a young Zaliukas, although less mistake prone.
CC: I was talking about appearance rather than ability. I do think he’ll turn out a better player than Bouzid. I think he fancies himself (for want of a better phrase) but he’s probably better in his own mind than he actually is.
CF: Fair enough. Shall we move on from Hearts? Who would you guys like to throw out?
JC: I think Dundee will be pretty satisfied. I think they are the only side who will be pleased with both their outgoings and signings. They have added more experience than most promoted teams are ever able to call upon, and I think the McGowan signing was a particularly decent bit of business. Early days yet, but the rest have had good starts too, especially Kyle Letheren and James McPake.
CF: What’s most surprising about the promoted two is that they’ve both started well despite going about their business in completely different ways. Hamilton have kept the core of their team while Dundee have ripped it apart.
CC: Yeah, Hamilton have really blown everyone away so far without adding much top-flight experience.
I think the best bit of business Dundee done was to get rid of Declan Gallacher.
JC: It shows there’s more than one way to do it, I guess. Although Alex Neil would probably say he’s delighted to keep roughly the same bunch together while adding Redmond and Imrie, he’d probably still have liked to take Keatings into the Premiership to give a bit of variation from Antoine-Courier and Scotland.
CF: Going back to Dundee, I think everyone must be surprised with the form of McPake so far. We probably shouldn’t get carried away with them just yet, though. I still don’t like the amount of moaning/pouting/cop assaulting players Paul Hartley has brought in. It’s all rosy right now but will it stay that way when they lose five games in a row? Also, Hartley doesn’t have the best track record with regards to that.
JC: He doesn’t really have any track record with regards to that. Hartley does seem like a volatile character, and Dundee aren’t going to go through the season without any kind of adversity. You could make the counter-argument that when that does happen you’d rather have ‘stronger’ personalities (not necessarily a euphemism) than inexperienced players who may feel cowed in the top flight.
CC: I think Dundee will be fine, all things considered. They will have a slump, as will Hamilton, but I think they have a strong enough squad to stay in the division comfortably, even if one or two end up in jail over the season.
I’m going to throw out Inverness. May seem a bizarre choice due to their lack of activity, but I think keeping continuity is undervalued sometimes.
They probably could have done with another striker though.
CF: Think that’s a great point, and what’s more, we all thought they were nuts.
JC: It was a huge result for them to keep hold of their core. There were Aberdeen supporters convinced up until 10.55pm on Monday that Graeme Shinnie was coming to Pittodrie, which was bizarre given that he’s under contract. Losing McKay would have taken so much out of the side, too.
CF: I love fans rumours like that. Reminds me of the time Hearts and Hibs fans were convinced that one of the two was going to snatch Stevie Naismith away from either of the Old Firm. Think the offer to Killie was a tenner and a packet of fags. He went for close to a million, if I recall correctly.
I’m going to offer up Dundee United, which may seem a little controversial considering who they lost, but getting £6 million for two players who cost nothing is terrific for any Scottish club outside Glasgow. Hell, that’d be terrific for Rangers right now!
JC: I was going to say them too, actually. They’ve lost two of their strongest players and look largely unperturbed by it. Jaroslaw Fojut and Callum Morris have strolled through the matches I’ve seen, and who wouldn’t want a player like Mario Bilate in their team?
CC: Rangers would have released Gauld at 15, citing he was too small, then they’d probably try to buy him back for a quarter of his value years later.
CF: You clearly didn’t see the Celtic game, John. I think they still lack depth, and they’ve gotten a little lucky with Chris Erksine playing as well as he has, but the main issue they needed to address was their defence and they’ve done that. I’m particularly impressed by how well Morris has played. He was a bit hit and miss in League One last year.
JC: Right enough - I dare say the result speaks for itself on that one. Even leaving aside the recruitment of personnel though, being able to clear their entire debt as a result of player sales, in the grand scheme of things, is as successful a transfer window as any Scottish club could hope for.
CF: Any more to throw out before we move onto losers?
I actually quite liked Motherwell’s transfer window, even though they’ve been dreadful so far.
CC: It’s injury that has been their problem rather than ins and outs. They’ve had less activity this summer than recent ones but have always carried a very thin squad. This is the first time I remember them having this many injury concerns and it is taking its toll on the squad.
CF: Yeah that’s basically my thinking. Getting back Henrik Ojamaa is a great signing. If he can recapture his previous form he’s an upgrade on Henri Anier and, given his displays last year, James McFadden. Losing Hutchinson was a blow but then he didn’t have a great 20013/14 campaign either. My problem with Motherwell is that I just think their we’ll-score-one-more-than-you style is a little unsustainable. I still think they’ll make the top six, however.
JC: Hutchinson didn’t have his best season, true, but if you take arguably the strongest component part out of a poorly-performing defence, it’ll be a struggle. And although we’d doubtless all agree that signing Ainsworth permanently is a great bit of business, it doesn’t actively improve them from last season. It always feel like they have to work so hard to just tread water...then they go and finish second again.
• The losers section will be online tomorrow. In the meantime check out The Terrace Scottish Football Podcast website - an alternative look at the country’s beautiful game.