REMEMBER the draconian days of the Jim McLean contracts? Back then we were all outraged at the lack of rights enjoyed by players and it was only correct that changes were made.
Let’s be honest, though, it appears things have swung too far in the other direction and auld Jim will be offering a wry wee grin at the mess the game has got itself into as a consequence. Maybe it is about time this generation of players were made to realise that contracts have to mean something. After all, they are the first (well, let’s be clear on this, their agents are the first) to bleat when clubs try to renege on terms or try to cut them loose without the proper pay-off, so I’m hoping that Hibs do dig their heels in over this whole unseemly Scott Allan debacle. He has a contract, the club still want him, so he should be made to honour it, regardless who he supported as a boy.
It was Barry Ferguson who said this week that “once a player’s mind is made up, there is usually only one way it ends. It’s just a matter of when and for how much. But if he wants to go it is pointless keeping him if an agreement on a fee can be reached between the clubs. The way the game has gone the power is all with the player these days.”
But no entity should have all the power; not the boards, not the managers, not the players and not even the supporters and why should a player get what he wants, especially if his moving to a rival club could cost Hibs promotion or a better shot at the Championship title. It’s a farce and that is why Hibs should be applauded for their unwillingness to entertain Rangers’ paltry bids and pander to Allan any more than they already do.
So what if he has asked to leave? It’s not a formal written request, we are told. He has just made his preference known. So what? Even if it was etched in blood on the back of a Rangers kit already bearing his name, as Alan Stubbs said yesterday it is irrelevant.
But we have all witnessed it before, the supermarket stand-off between a weary parent and a persistent child. The pleading and the pleading, the pleases and then the whining before the petulance takes over and the tears and the tantrums follow. There are critics of Allan who suggest that could be his thing but he should think twice.
Hibs are not just being mean spirited, they aren’t being stubborn for the sake of it, they are making a decision based on sound football and business sense and good luck to them. Stubbs issued a categoric assurance that the playmaker and last season’s Championship Player of the Year would not be sold to Rangers. The insulting bids tabled by the Ibrox club thus far have made it easy for the board to back that stance. But even if Rangers were to add a zero on to the end of their initial offer, Rod Petrie and Leeann Dempster cannot do business without leaving their manager looking pretty silly.
But if you don’t sell him, you end up with a player in the dressing room who doesn’t want to be there, says Ferguson. So what? Plenty of people have to turn up at jobs they don’t love, some they don’t even want, but they do their job to the best of their ability because that’s what pays the bills, that’s what they are contracted to do. And it’s not as if the contract is a belts and braces one which locks him into a life of drudgery for a decade. He gets to play football, for heaven’s sake. It may not be for his boyhood heroes but he wasn’t too fussed about that when he was extolling the joys of playing for Stubbs last season and telling everyone who spoke to him how he was enjoying his happiest and most fulfilling period in the game.
And truth be told, for all that Rangers fans were goading Hibs yesterday with chants of “he’s one of our own”, if a big English side suddenly decided that Scott Allan was top of their wanted list and promised him Premier League football and three times the money Rangers would be offering him, how big a factor would those boyhood ties suddenly be?
The fact is Hibs won’t sell to their biggest rival, strengthening their squad while significantly weakening their own and if they did they wouldn’t do it for a fraction of the money they could make by gaining promotion. Even when Dundee United are unlikely to be vying with Celtic for league honours, they made them pay a premium to take Nadir Ciftci. That’s the reason the Tannadice club would have accepted an offer of £1m from a club down south but they demanded £1.5 million from Celtic.
Rangers don’t have that cash to splash so come the end of August there is every likelihood that Allan will still be at Hibs and he can huff and he can puff but he will soon get short shrift in the dressing room from players who know that he is a luxury, a luxury they have to compensate for in terms of all the dirty work on the park.
At the moment they accept that because he can provide the spark of genius to win them games. If he isn’t holding up his side of the bargain, they won’t put up with his petulance and onfield tongue lashings for long.
The fact is, like most ordinary people who want to switch employers, Allan is effectively working his notice and he will have to do so in accordance with his contract.
The difference is, unless he has a pre-contract agreement to sign in January, he will need to maintain the standards he set last term or he may not have somewhere else to go. Any sign that he has downed tools in a fit of pique will not endear him to any future employers.
That’s why, despite what Ferguson has said, it’s Stubbs who has the power in this battle and the player’s advisers would be better placed reminding him of that fact rather than trying, fruitlessly, to engineer his exit.