Ryan Gauld has heard all the whispers and he knows what people in Scotland are saying about him – the former Dundee United starlet is just the latest Scottish talent to fail to live up to his potential after making no impact in Portugal. But Gauld insists he is more determined than ever to prove his critics wrong.
The midfielder arrived at Sporting Lisbon two years ago with a price tag of £3 million and a bag of potential that suggested he was certain to be Scotland’s brightest young talent for decades. Gauld and Sporting always stressed his development was a long-term project and he would take time to blend into their system.
Despite brief glimpses of first-team action for the Portuguese giants, mostly in Cup games, Gauld hasn’t managed to break through into their first team and remained in their B team. Huddersfield Town were thwarted in an attempt to take the Scotland Under-21 player on loan earlier this year and Sporting decided in the summer to place him into Vitoria Setubal instead to get him some top-flight football.
He’s yet to make an appearance for Vitoria and has been operating in a deeper role for Scotland Under-21s in their double-header losses to Macedonia and in Ukraine last week, which is where he sees himself playing in future.
Gauld is far from stupid and knows how it looks to people in Scotland, but he’s got a message for those who think he’s flopped.
He said: “I feel that people back home are maybe waiting for me to fail out here. Because I haven’t played too many games, that’s probably the way they’re thinking.
“But I couldn’t really care less if they think I’m failing right now. Since I moved to Portugal, I’ve learnt ten times more than I think I would have done if I’d stayed in Scotland or the UK. I’ve learnt ten times more about football and ten times more about life in general.
“If that’s the way people think about me right now, it’s up to them. But I don’t care about their opinion. That drives me on to succeed. But it’s just people’s opinions and I’d need to deal with that.
“The loan has been good so far, I’m enjoying it. When I first went, I was a bit behind in terms of pre-season training because in the first few weeks at Sporting I wasn’t playing games. We got a call to say Sporting would sanction a loan move and going to a Portuguese team was something we’d spoken about at the end of last season.
“As soon as we got the call, we learned that Vitoria were interested and I was very keen to get there. Huddersfield tried to get me in January last year, but Sporting rejected it. They still wanted me around the place to train with the ‘A’ team and play every week in the ‘B’ side. They turned that bid down but they’ve changed their view this season.
“Sporting are happy with how everything is going. I haven’t played yet at Vitoria but that’s only because I got there late and I’ve had a lot less games than everyone else. The team have started really well this season, they’ve got seven points out of nine so the manager has put together a really good squad.”