Rangers manager Ally McCoist is primed to add more players this summer in the hopes of a successful transition to the Scottish Championship. Most supporters have already heard the names being linked to Ibrox – Kilmarnock’s Kris Boyd, St. Mirren’s Kenny McLean, Motherwell’s Shaun Hutchinson, & West Brom’s Scott Allan.
That’s a lot of salary.
Let’s hope that one of the caveats to adding salaries this off-season is that Rangers also need to ship some players out. Andy Little, Emilson Cribari, Kyle Hutton & Steve Simonsen are all out of contract & it would be a real shock if any of those players are re-signed by the club.
Given the admonishing Graham Wallace publicly gave McCoist for needlessly adding nine players to the squad last summer makes you wonder if the team may be more open to transfer offers this summer. For example, if Blackpool inquire again for the services of Nicky Law – will Rangers be more likely to accept?
One of the real oversights by the club over the last two seasons is the failed opportunity to mine the lower leagues for talent. Outside of Nicky Clark, McCoist has stockpiled players who were lured by Premier League salaries to play against part time players.
As Rangers get closer to a potential return to the SPFL, it is ever more unlikely that Rangers will take on players from the lower leagues to round out their squad.
This is a missed opportunity.
Players from the lower leagues would obviously come at a reduced salary & would be eager to earn their way into the first eleven. Even if they were not seen as starters, they could provide the depth necessary to have a fluid squad of players.
So here are four players Rangers should consider from the lower leagues of Scotland. These are not players you would expect to walk into the starting eleven. These would be individuals, that could combine with Rangers youth, to solidify the squad as it moves into its biggest challenge since demotion to the bottom of Scotland’s football ladder. Ideally, some of the more expensive reserve players would be moved out to create room for cheaper & more eager talent.
Ryan McCord, midfielder (25, Alloa Athletic)
The former U19 Scotland international began his career as a youth player with Dundee United. After being loaned out to Stirling Albion & Airdrie United , he signed with Alloa in the summer of 2011 & has made nearly 100 appearances since, notching 28 goals. His contract expires at the end of this season.
Colin Patterson, the Sports Editor for The Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, discussed McCord with Rangers Report. “He’s a very good footballer. Comfortable on the ball and very busy in the middle of the park. He has as scored eight goals so far this season and, at 25, you’d hope still has his best years ahead of him. McCord came through the youth ranks at Dundee United which has developed a reputation for producing good talent.”
Craig G. Telfer, who covers the lower leagues of Scottish football for Tell Him He’s Pele, added, “He’s a good player in his own right but I don’t think he’ll necessarily provide Rangers with an alternative to what they already have.”
“McCord is an all-action box-to-box midfielder but is hardly likely to get a game ahead of someone like Nicky Law. I think he’ll eventually return to full-time football at some point soon but not with Rangers.”
It appears that the talent is there when it comes to McCord to be an effective contributor. If Rangers were to consider him it would have to be as a back-up to Law & Lewis MacLeod. However, given MacLeod’s unfortunate issue with a virus, there is no guarantee of his services going forward. Rangers would be left achingly vacant in depth of creative, offensive midfielders to patrol the middle of the pitch. This is where a player like McCord could provide some of that depth.
Callum Morris, center-half (23, Dunfermline Athletic)
Morris began his youth career with Newcastle United where he was touted to have a successful future ahead of him. At the age of 20, he was released by the club & his career floundered for the next few years as he sought out opportunities to make that big break. In 2012, he moved north & signed with Dunfermline – it would be a move that saved his young career. Earlier this season he told The Dunfermline Press, “There was a point before I signed for Dunfermline that I was thinking about giving up football to work as I was getting fed up with it. After I’d left Newcastle I was struggling to find anything although I’d been all over England, to Portugal and to different places in Europe.”
Last season, Morris was named to the First Divisions team of the year, despite the team’s relegation, & was also named Dunfermline’s player of the year. The strong play has continued this season & with his contract expiring at the end of the season he has garnered interest from SPFL clubs. Craig Smith of The Courier reported that Dundee United, Aberdeen & Partick Thistle are all eager to sign Morris.
His manager Jim Jefferies feels that Morris is ready for the jump to the SPFL. “I think he’s got the potential to go and play in the Premiership, there’s no doubt about that. Whether he’s ready for that now or not, he’s been let go at an early age and he has one or two faults that he’s improving on, but when he’s on his game he’s a good player.”
Telfer agreed that Morris would be a smart player for Rangers to target, “Callum Morris would improve the team, I’m pretty sure of that. I’d say he’s a better player, pound-for-pound, than Lee McCulloch (who I’m sure will have a difficult time of it next term up against more potent strikers than in League One).”
“In the last two years, Morris has done a good job of holding Dunfermline Athletic’s ropey defence together, particularly at the tail-end of the 2012-13 season and throughout the current campaign. They’re a porous side, but don’t let that force any doubts about Morris’s ability – his most obvious quality is his ability to read the game, while his positional sense and spatial awareness is impressive.”
“He can head and block and tackle well, and he’s a good organiser and communicates well with his backline and his goalkeeper. He’s also good at bringing the ball out from the back.”
“Along with Stranraer’s Frank McKeown, he’s probably been the best centre-back in the division this season. Morris is currently at an impasse with Dunfermline over his contract so, if a club like Rangers were to move for him, a transfer could be a plausible outcome.”
Should Rangers fail to sign Shaun Hutchinson or Dundee United’s Gavin Gunning it would be prudent of the club to consider making an offer to Callum Morris. Given Rangers failure last summer to sign their preferred center-back targets (Boris Pandza & Christophe Berra) McCoist would be wise to have multiple players that he is targeting.
Given McCulloch’s age & Bilel Mohsni’s unpredictable play, center-half should be Rangers top transfer priority – especially as talk of switching Jon Daly back to center back escalates.
Nicky Riley, midfielder (27, Dundee)
Signing the talented winger would be a calculated risk for Rangers. Riley has dealt with injuries for much his career, as a lingering back ailment has been the biggest culprit. In 2010, those injuries led Celtic to give up on Riley after seven seasons in their youth program. He signed with Dundee after that & has made a positive impression for the Dens scoring 12 times in over 100 appearances. However, injuries have always gotten in the way of consistent stints in Dundee’s first team.
Craig G. Telfer of Tell Him He’s Pele offered a mixed assessment of Riley stating, “He’d provide a different dimension to the side’s attack – he’s a proper ‘chalk on the boots’ player and would certainly be better used on the flank than Arnold Peralta or Fraser Aird.”
“As quality a player as Riley is – there are fewer wingers in the lower leagues who can match his potency – do Rangers really need another wide boy with a patchy fitness record when David Templeton’s already there?”
Therein lies the risk. Rangers already have had little success with chronically injured players – Templeton, Andy Little, & Kyle Hutton spring to mind- but at the same time the club has had little success procuring a player to effectively fire up & down the right flank. The experiment of using Peralta as a right winger failed miserable, while Aird’s recent success has come more on the left side, linking up with the likes of Lee Wallace & more recently Steven Smith. Given Templeton’s history of inconsistency & injuries, coupled with Ally McCoist’s apparent lack of faith in Barrie McKay, Nicky Riley may be the kind of affordable talent that is worth making a risky investment in.
Riley’s contract expires at the end of this season.
Rory McAllister, forward (26, Peterhead)
McAllister was named this season’s League Two Player of the Year after tallying 31 goals for league champions Peterhead. The former Aberdeen youth player has resurrected his career after scoring only five goals in over 50 appearances for Inverness back from 2005-2009. McAllister moved to Brechin City where he starred for two seasons, winning back-to-back Player of the Year awards. That success earned interest from Scottish Premier League teams, along with English clubs like Sheffield United, Charlton, & Port Vale.
St. Mirren had the best chance of signing McAllister, but the youngster decided to sign with Peterhead. What appeared to have been a strange move on the surface, in actuality may have been a sign of McAllister’s maturity. McAllister decided to remain a part-time player so he could spend the rest of the time finishing his apprenticeship as a plumber – just in case footballing didn’t work out. At the time of the signing, Peterhead’s then-manager John Sheran commended McAllister for his sensibility.
Via BBC Sport, Sheran said, “It is a wise choice for Rory McAllister the player and Rory McAllister the person to develop his game while at the same time continue to earn his trade qualifications to fall back on when he stops playing football. He lives and works in Aberdeen so Peterhead are the right club to support Rory as he can achieve both career goals with us.”
“He had many offers to return to full-time football but he is sensible lad and those opportunities will still be there if he continues to play to the level he is capable of with Peterhead”
It appears that the lack of success at Aberdeen & then Caley Thistle was a humbling experience that gave McAllister foresight that is often lacking in young footballers.
Colin Patterson of The Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, believes McAllister would be an ideal signing for Rangers. “He is a striker I have admired for quite some time. He guarantees goals and has scored 30 in League Two this season to help his side to the league championship and has over 100 goals to his name in his professional career.”
“He is a physical presence up-front, over 6ft tall and a deadly finisher. He will be 27 next month so there is plenty more in his tank. Real quality for me. He is the perfect replacement for Jon Daly and will be cheaper as well.”
Telfer added, “Rory McAllister’s a funny one. When Rangers were in the Third Division, I even suggested they should have made a move for him ahead of someone like Fran Sandaza (editor’s note: this is a must read in hindsight). Since he joined Brechin City in 2009 (after pretty dismal periods at Aberdeen and Inverness Caledonian Thistle), McAllister’s proven himself to be one of the most potent strikers in the lower leagues but, to some extent, I think he derailed any chance of moving to a big club when he moved to Peterhead in 2011.”
“At the time, he was highly coveted, with St. Johnstone, St. Mirren, Port Vale, Charlton and Sheffield United interested – would they still be as keen in signing him now? I don’t know the man so I can’t really comment on his personal circumstances but he seems quite comfortable at Peterhead – it’s reasonably close to his home in Aberdeen, there’s not as much pressure on him there as there would be at a club of Rangers’ stature and he’s very well paid (relative to other part-time players).”
“He’s also signed on for 2014-15. I don’t know where his long-term ambitions lie but I don’t think it’s in full-time football. A shame, because I think he’d be an asset to most clubs in the bottom three divisions.”
One thing is for sure, Rory McAllister is on Ally McCoist’s radar – whether he follows through with the interest in another thing. Peterhead’s manager Jim McInally acknowledged to The Daily Record that he recommended McCoist scooped up McAllister.
McInally said, “Rory could set the Championship alight. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rangers come in for him but from a selfish point of view we all hope he stays here at Peterhead.”
Now a bigger question lingers, is all of this talk of strategic signings from Scotland’s lower leagues for nought? McCoist has had two seasons to pool the lower leagues for talent & has shown little interest in doing so. The signing of Nicky Clark has been the only exception.
Craig G. Telfer argues that all of the evidence points to McCoist ignoring his time in the lower leagues as a means of adding talent to the club.
“The chances of Ally McCoist signing anyone from the lower leagues in the summer are remote. The manager showed little interest in recruiting players from the basement tiers when the club were shunted into the Third Division (when, perhaps more than any other time, they required personnel with the know-how of duking it out when the going got tough), so I doubt he’ll have any use for them when his team are one season away from returning to the top table.”
“The only player he has drafted in from the seaside divisions is Nicky Clark, someone who has probably been a one-hit wonder following his superb goal-scoring record with Queen of the South in 2012-13 (he’d never shown much aptitude before then).”
“Even then, you could argue his career has stagnated since he’s joined Rangers – he’s been on the periphery of the team and when he has played, McCoist seems unsure of how to best to use him.”
“If a young player is looking to advance their career, I’d probably advise against them joining Rangers under the current coaching regime – granted, few other teams in Scotland could match the status and financial rewards that Rangers could provide, but I don’t think anyone has improved at the club in the last three seasons.”
“Three of the four players actually featured on Tell Him He’s Pelé’s Top 25 Superstars of the Lower Leagues feature back in December. Callum Morris, Ryan McCord and Nicky Riley all appeared and while they have their qualities, I can’t imagine the manager (or the support, to some extent) welcoming in players of that calibre when they’re on the cusp of returning to the top flight.”
“I don’t think McCoist would be interested in any of them. For someone who talks about the club’s frugality and his desire to implement an ‘Ajax model’, none of it has come to fruition. He’s only interested in drafting players with top tier experience, players he’s heard of, or players he’s worked with in the past.”
“It’s been written so many times before but this really has been an opportunity missed for Rangers.”
- What do you think? Should Rangers look to the lower leagues to add depth at an affordable cost? Or has that ship already sailed?
Follow Colin Paterson on Twitter @Colin_Paterson_