Say whatever you want about Scottish football. It isn’t a multi-million pound business full of different franchises with some of the biggest footballing names in the biggest stadia with tourists in the stands. It’s not but it could help get you there, if you so desired.
A stat came out earlier this month saying that Hibernian have fielded more ‘home grown’ players this season than any other professional football club, Scottish or otherwise, in the UK. If you’re looking to grow and improve as a player, Scotland can be the place to do it.
The nation is football obsessed and can be an alternative platform to super-stardom. Everybody’s heard of the famous story where St Mirren nearly signed one of the all-time greats Ronaldinho on loan from PSG. Here’s five players that haven’t done too badly since a spell in bonnie Scotland after giving it a chance.
Paul Dummett (now of Newcastle United, previously of St Mirren)
I know what you’re thinking but give this article some time. Dummett may be the least glamorous name on this list. He was, however, part of a successful St Mirren team whilst in Paisley, how many players can say that about their careers? Huh?
Seriously though, if you were to create an eleven of who St Mirren have had and who they could have had it’d be impressive. The previously mentioned Ronaldinho, Aaron Mooy had a spell and is now an established Australia international and Premier League midfielder at Huddersfield Town, Premier League winning Riyad Mahrez had a trial with the Buddies. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Two spells in Renfrewshire for the full back culminated in him scoring his first professional goal, winning his first professional trophy and that’s all you can ask for as a footballer, to be successful at any level. Black and white are definitely his colours it seems.
He grabbed the assist for Steven Thompson’s goal as Saints took a 2-1 lead against Hearts in the League Cup final in 2013, the Buddies going on to win the match 3-2. An international with Wales, a Championship winner with Newcastle and he’s made over 100 appearances for the Toon, his local side in the city where he was born. Not bad for some.
Jay Rodriguez (now of West Bromwich Albion, previously at Stirling Albion)
A former Stirling Albion striker scored a title-winning goal at Old Trafford? This is one of those crazy football trivia questions, as though it’ll appear at a pub quiz down your local boozer. But it’s legit.
After not yet breaking through at hometown club Burnley, Jay Rodriguez was sent on loan by Burnley to then Scottish First Division side Stirling Albion. Despite making his first team debut at the Clarets in December 2007, the Binos snapped him up in January 2008. Despite netting his first professional goal away at Greenock Morton and adding goals against now top tier duo Livingston and St Johnstone, Albion were relegated after finishing bottom of the table.
21 goals in all competitions in the 2011-12 season saw him named in the Championship Team of the Year as Burnley won promotion through the play-offs before earning a £7million move to fellow Premier League new boys Southampton. Whilst at Saints, he would go on and make his England debut along with playing in the Europa League and appearing in a League Cup final defeat to Manchester United.
He would end the Red Devils’ 2017-18 title aspirations whilst playing for West Brom after signing in the summer of 2017 for £12 million. A header from a Chris Brunt corner sealed a 1-0 win for the Baggies at Old Trafford. It also handed the title to Manchester City, in April earlier this year. The Baggies would later be relegated but it’s a pretty impressive accolade on Rodriguez’s CV. £20 million combined transfer fees, a title winning goal at Old Trafford but nothing must beat coming out to a full house Forthbank, am I right?
Jason Denayer (now of Olympique Lyonnais, previously at Celtic)
At 18 years of age, Jason Denayer joined the Manchester City academy as a relatively unknown – yet promising – defender. With the ultimate aim to break into City’s first team, he headed north to sign for Celtic on a season-long loan in August 2014 as one of Ronny Deila’s first signings. He scored on his debut and was named man of the match in a 6-1 victory over Dundee United. This, it turned out, was just the beginning.
Collecting valuable European experience was relatively routine for the Belgian as he formed a solid partnership with, as it stands, the world’s most expensive defender in Virgil Van Dijk.
Current Nice manager (at the time Manchester City development manager) Patrick Vieira would keep a watchful eye over the ever-improving Denayer. He claimed several individual awards including PFA Scotland and Celtic’s Young Player of the Year. He also helped the Hoops win both the league title and League Cup in 2014-15.
Still just 23, progress seems to keep on coming with the centre back having collected eight Belgium caps so far. He has now moved to Lyon for €6.5 million to play alongside former Celtic striker Moussa Dembele.
James Maddison (now of Leicester City, previously of Aberdeen)
“I was a 19 year old lad playing in a Scottish League Cup final at Hampden in front of 60,000 against Celtic. That’s an experience I will never forget”. Despite the Dons losing 3-0, it appears James Maddison can’t praise Aberdeen highly enough.
After making his first team debut aged just 17 at Coventry, Maddison was signed by then-Premier League new boys Norwich City under Scotsman Alex Neil in February 2016 before rejoining the Sky Blues on loan. However, it was at the Dons where he would flourish.
A memorable late winner from a free kick against Rangers live on Sky and a League Cup final appearance is not too bad considering he was in The Granite City for four months. After further progress at Norwich, winning their Player of the Season last campaign along with being named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year, he moved to Leicester for an undisclosed fee, said to be in the region of £20 million.
Following Premier League goals against Bournemouth and Huddersfield in consecutive weeks, both of which came from set-pieces, he received a call-up to the senior England squad in October 2018.
“That’s an experience I wouldn’t have got by staying in England in the lower leagues.”
Kasper Schmeichel (now of Leicester City, previously of Falkirk)
This has to be the standout of all the loan spells though. A Premier League winner previously representing Falkirk, who’d have thought it? Another Foxes representative, the Bairns also loaned Tim Krul from Newcastle United years ago. Clearly, they keep a watchful eye on promising young goalkeepers.
Krul’s Netherlands side may have finished third in the 2014 FIFA World Cup but nobody remembers losers on this planet unfortunately. It’s all about winning and Schmeichel being part of that historic Leicester team, I don’t think, will ever be forgotten.
The two-time Danish Football Player of the Year was at Manchester City before arriving at Falkirk on a loan spell until the end of the 2006-07 season in the January window. It was in games against the Old Firm where he was arguably at his best. A man of the match performance against Rangers on 18th February was later emulated by saving a Craig Beattie penalty in a 1-0 win over Celtic on 18th March 2007. In May, it was said he’d have liked his loan spell to have turned into a permanent transfer.
Later loan spells at Cardiff and Coventry followed. He joined both Notts County, linking up with Sven-Goran Eriksson again, and Leeds United permanently. He has become best known at Leicester after being signed again by Eriksson. He’s made over 250 appearances and made history with that famous title win under Claudio Ranieri.
Over 40 caps for his national side along with other accolades, his father – another cracking keeper in his day – couldn’t be more proud. From Falkirk to a Foxes legend in less than a decade, an unbelievable story.
Future superstars shaped by Scotland?
Could James Wilson emulate James Maddison at Aberdeen? Jimmy Dunne at Hearts has been called up to the Republic of Ireland senior squad for the first time. Ryan Kent and Ovie Ejaria both look decent at Rangers under Steven Gerrard. Emerson Hyndman, an American international, is enjoying a second Scottish loan spell at Hibs.
Like anything, it needs to be tried before you can give a verdict. Still reckon your nan could play in this league?