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Team GB.

Team GB?

Upon the appointment of Stuart Pearce as manager of Team GB, the selection of players from all the home nations remains a huge talking point with only a year before the Olympics get underway.

I’m not going into this job looking only to select English players. If at all possible, it should be made up of all the home nations.” Certainly from Pearce’s point of view he is looking to select players from not only England, but the rest of Great Britain. A stance not necessarily reciprocated by the Scottish, Welsh and Irish FA but one which will not go unnoticed at their relevant HQ’s.

The concept of a Team GB entering the London Olympics in 2012 was one which generated much talk and excitement, but at the same time showed a clear lack of solidarity between Great Britain on a footballing front.

With the Scottish and Welsh FA both feeling it could compromise their position as an independent nation, it is understandable that their players have kept quiet over the issue.

However, the statement of intent given by Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsay over their participation in the event could pave the way for many more high profile players to make themselves available for selection.

At the moment Wales haven’t qualified for a major tournament in I don’t know how many years so it would be nice to play in one against the best countries in the world.” Bale obviously has the intention of being involved, and despite being a hugely important player for both club and country, he has now put himself in the forefront of both Pearce and the WFA’s mind.

So what position are Scottish players in?

Well the SFA have reiterated their opposition to the idea which is most important in this situation.

The Scottish Football Association represents the biggest threat to the plans of Team GB, with the chances of their opinion unlikely to change.

However, they have no right to block any call ups by the GB Olympic Team to any of their players and the decision will rest solely with the player and his club.

Also, the European Championships in 2012 have to be taken into account when any players are selected, being the second most important international footballing event on the calendar.

Again however, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been unable to qualify for this event so effectively all their players would have the ‘summer off’ and therefore be available.

Undoubtedly, the quality which could be brought together by a Team GB side could amount to a Olympic glory.

As Pearce has already stated he will not only select players from England, so there is a huge opportunity for players from the home nations to sample the biggest sporting event in the world, adding to their experience.

The question is who would be good enough to represent Team GB?

From an English perspective, despite the recent decline in quality from their youth teams, they still have an array of talent to pick from for this event.

With Pearce also the Under 21 manager, there is no one better suited to picking the best young talent they have.

The squad will be made up of 18 players who all must be born either on, or after, 1 January 1989 – but three players over this age can also be selected in the side.

This then paves the way for players such as Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Craig Bellamy and Steven Davis to be drafted in to add experience to the squad.

Fletcher is arguably the best Scottish player, but after the encouraging Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, players such as Barry Bannan, David Goodwillie and Danny Wilson could all push for a place in the squad.

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsay are without a doubt the best of a golden generation of Wales players and would be certain of a call-up.

Northern Ireland’s opposition to the Team GB could be seen as redundant by 2012, with the country having no real top-class players capable of making the squad.

Pearce’s position could be seen as an enviable one, but at the same time one which carries a lot of baggage.

With near free-reign on the best young talent in the UK, he must fight against the politics of the Football Associations to ensure he selects the best Team GB possible.

As a Scottish Fan who has only witnessed his country at an international tournament once, I would have no qualms with players such as Bannan, Goodwillie, Wilson or even Fletcher getting a call-up for the GB side.

As long as FIFA stick to their view that all the home nations will remain independent for the rest of the international events, then the Olympics participation will do nothing but galvanise the UK.

So, if I was Stuart Pearce and the tournament was next week, this would be my selection for Team GB.

     Allan McGregor (+21)

Chris Smalling                    Phil Jones                                            Danny Wilson                    Kyle Walker

 Jack Wilshere

    Aaron Ramsay                                   Tom Cleverley

Ryan Giggs(+21)                                     Danny Wellbeck                                  Daniel Sturridge

Subs – Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bannan, Steven Davis(+21), Ross Barkley, Goodwillie, Rodwell, Fielding.

THINK YOU COULD DO BETTER? Get a bit of discussion and give me your Team GB below.

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Celtic need McFadden

Could 'Faddy' recreate this for Celtic?

It’s easy to think that Scotland’s James McFadden is in the twilight of his career.

Released by Birmingham at the end of last season, the Scottish maverick has become the forgotten man following Scotland’s Euro 2012 campaign, barely featuring in the squads run to 3rd place.

However, in typical McFadden style he has returned to the headlines conspicuously over his proposed move to Celtic.

Again, it would be easy to think that McFadden is approaching the end of his time as a football player.

After breaking on to the SPL scene as a raw striker for Motherwell, moves to Everton and Birmingham have seen him establish himself as a Premiership player.

The surprising truth is McFadden is only 28 and despite numerous injuries, his most recent cruciate ligament damage, he is still a fantastic player.

What would he give to Celtic though?

A much needed quality and inspiration in the final third which has benefitted all of his previous clubs, not to mention Scotland on the international stage.

McFadden is notoriously flamboyant in his play and strikes against France and Holland assured him a place in Scottish football history.

Although chances to show this flamboyancy regularly in the Premiership came few and far between, McFadden has demonstrated he is proficient, equally as a striker and midfielder.

Scotland were often reliant on his link-up play and ability to score important goals, and long before Kenny Miller had any sort of international pedigree, McFadden carried the flag for Scotland.

Potentially he wouldn’t carry the brunt of the team’s goalscoring obligations as Hooper and Stokes are able to do this, however he would be able to provide a link in the final third.

This link would allow him to play with a freedom he enjoyed at Everton and with Scotland, utilising his eye for a pass, ability to create goals in big moments and a keen work ethic.

Celtic’s need to supplement the threat Gary Hooper poses is something Neil Lennon has to address, and the opportunity to sign McFadden out with the transfer window will presumably tempt the Celtic manager.

The recent draw at Kilmarnock, as well as defeats against Hearts and Rangers have only accelerated the need for something to lift both the fans and players.

So what next for McFadden?

If he signs for Celtic, it will undoubtedly be the biggest transfer of his career.

At the age of 28, a run of good injury free form could see the ex-Everton man give the green half of Glasgow a timely boost in the title race.

Not to mention it would benefit his international hopes. Certainly Craig Levein would welcome a cheeky playmaker like McFadden back to his squad to supplement the already blossoming options at his disposal.

First however, McFadden and Celtic must come to an agreement over, what one would presume to be, a substantial deal.

It is now up to Lennon and Peter Lawell to make the first move.

If it is to be believed that the striker has been offered a trial with the club, then it is a sad indictment of how Celtic has worked in the transfer market in the past 6 months.

Despite superb early signings such as Emilio Izaguirre, Gary Hooper, Beram Kayal and Joe Ledley, Lennon has followed these up with contrastingly poor captures.

Badr El-Kaddouri, Mo Bangura, Adam Matthews and Victor Wanyama have yet to show anything of promise.

So the opportunity for Lennon to sign a proven international Scottish striker for free is one which can’t be threatened by offering him merely a trial with the club.

Celtic would represent McFadden with the opportunity to finish his career at a top club, competing for trophies and playing in Europe every season.

Soon enough then, the inspiration which Scotland badly needed in the Euro 2012 campaign could make a return for our huge World Cup bid.

Tall-ish Order.

Scotland hoping for more goals against Spain.

Qualifying for Euro 2012 is an outcome which many Scottish fans may have seen as a tall order when the country was placed with superpowers Spain and notoriously difficult teams Czech Republic and Lithuania in their qualifying group, but on the eve of our penultimate qualifier against Lichtenstein, the nation could still achieve this tall order.

Sitting third in the group, with two away fixtures against Lichtenstein and then Spain, Scotland must take full points to have any hope of making the play-offs for the tournament. Couple two wins with a defeat for Czech Republic against Spain tonight and the play-offs is where the country will be, representing a real chance to reach a major international tournament for the first time since 1998. It is a difficult challenge but one which is achievable, so how will Scotland overcome such a challenge?

Firstly, Lichtenstein is a team which Scotland has beaten already in the qualifiers. Albeit unconvincingly, the 2-1 victory went some way to helping the Tartan Army get to this point in qualifying, so the players should approach Saturday’s game with a sense of confidence.

Secondly, arguably Scotland’s best performance of the campaign came in the narrow 3-2 defeat to Spain at Hampden, with only a late Fernando Llorente goal being the difference between the sides. Spain in Alicante is a totally different scenario however and it will take a superhuman performance from the team and the manager to get anything from the game.

Levein has been experimental in this campaign, as well as the friendly matches between qualifiers, and that sense of experiment will not be lost in the next two games. Saturday represents a chance for the manager to test his attacking arsenal without the inclusion of Darren Fletcher and Kenny Miller.

Arguably two of Scotlands best players, both are suffering from slight injuries meaning they won’t be risked in Lichtenstein, but there absence could be seen as a blessing in disguise for players such as David Goodwillie, Craig Mackail-Smith and Barry Bannan.

In Levein’s 4-5-1 formation, there is only space for one lone striker and Mackail-Smith, Goodwillie and possibly Steven Naismith are the only realistic options to lead the line. Scotland have been heavily reliant on Miller’s work rate and mobility in their counter attacking play in this qualifying campaign, and these three players have the capability to try and replicate Miller, albeit they may not have the nack of scoring in big games like the Cardiff striker does.

I wouldn’t be surprised however, if Levein opts for Mackail-Smith in a surprising move, with the Brighton striker in red hot form with 6 goals in 12 games. The 27 year old is the only striker demonstrating this season that he can score regularly, contributing to the reason I would pick him ahead of Goodwillie, despite the Blackburn striker being arguably a better player. That goal threat added to his high work rate and ability to run the channels means he could be an able deputy for Miller against Lichtenstein.

In all Scotland’s tussles’ with the big nations in the past 5 years, we have always had a creative talisman who has bare the brunt of producing the inspiration that Scotland fans crave. In games against France, Holland and Italy, James McFadden produced moments of magic which have been few and far between in this qualifying campaign, however in Aston Villa’s Barry Bannan Scotland now have a man capable of taking this mantle.

Bannan was the star man in Scotland’s win over Lithuania in September, taking on the majority of the creative responsibility before eventually setting up Naismith’s winner late in the game. From then on he has also managed to become a regular in Alex McLeish’s Aston Villa side, contributing to their terrific start.

He is undoubtedly talented, a pocket dynamo capable of the faintest of touches or the fiercest of shots, the closest we have to a player you will see in the Spain squad. Allowing him to express himself and influence games in the final third could prove the key in winning both games.

For the scepticists, Spain may be seen as a game where Scotland should sit in with 11 men behind the ball, soaking up pressure before hitting long balls in to the channels for Kenny Miller to chase down, but I see the game as more than that. Levein must approach the game unlike everyone else and look to attack Spain in their weakest area, which I feel is in defence.

Spain dominate games through keeping the ball and through that possession, world class attacking players such as Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Torres and Pedro put teams to the sword, but in defence there are areas Scotland can exploit, if they are brave enough to go and attack them.

At left back, Spain have no recognised encumbent of this position after the demise of the reliable Joan Capdevila, so the right sided Alvaro Arbeloa may find himself there. At centre half, the partnership of Pique and Puyol is formidable, but one which has seen its best days. Finally, Sergio Ramos is a top quality right back, but again when defending can sometimes be rash and error prone.

I understand Scotland may not have all the players to exploit the weaknesses I see in the Spain squad, but with the dangerous players they have, it is up to Levein to allow them to attack Spain to try and achieve something, rather than sit in scared and wait for them to hurt us. A draw is simply not enough.

Scotland must first hope that Spain do them a favour on Friday night, then either have an off day or rest there stars for the final qualifier on Tuesday. It is time for the country to believe, hopefully providing the impetus and inspiration for the national team to pull off the unlikeliest of results.

Tevez: Right or Wrong?

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Refusing to come on as a substitute in Manchester City’s Champions League group match with Bayern Munich was a decision which has sparked huge controversy, but for Carlos Tevez the refusal will have been well thought out.

Tevez made it clear from the end of last season that his time at Manchester City, a club he has served wonderfully for two seasons, had to end. Beset by personal problems and a lust to join his family in South America, the striker made it public knowledge that he wanted to leave and gave his club the whole of the summer transfer window to try and make that happen. So for me, Tevez’ controversial decision to reject his manager’s order is one which is unprofessional, but also one which comes as no surprise.

I don’t want anyone to mix that up with how Tevez is as a professional and as a character, as throughout Tevez career in England I have found him to be highly professional in how he plays and conducts himself on the park. He may have made some decisions which have left a sour taste, such as his celebration aimed at the Manchester United hierarchy when contract negotiations broke down in his final season at Old Trafford; and his staunch pledge to leave Manchester City after achieving so much with the club last season.

However, Tevez is adored at his first club West Ham, whom he saved from relegation on the final day of the 2006/07 season. Despite loathed for his move from Utd to City, he contributed 19 goals to the red half of Manchester in two seasons, 5 of which helped them lift the Champions League in 2007/08, as well as lifting the Premier League twice and the League Cup. Then with City, Tevez has contributed massively to their quasi renaissance since coming under new ownership, and provided them with a world class player and controversial story which went some way to raising the profile of the club.

On the park he scored 43 goals in 65 games over two seasons, finishing 5th in his first season and 4th in his second, as well as captaining the side to theFA Cup, their first domestic trophy since 1969. Despite having played only two seasons, Tevez could be seen as City’s most influential player in the last 20 years due to the Cup win and first ever Champions League finish, and as a result of this I feel Man City and Mancini have dealt with the situation terribly.

As mentioned, Tevez made it clear he wanted to leave City from the start of the summer transfer window, which has now ended. Throughout that window, there was a protracted transfer to Corinthians, and despite not knowing the ins and outs of the deal, City played hard ball on a fee which, by the look of how they have spent this year, they don’t really need. I can understand the point that City still have to do their business properly and like any other club in the world If they are to sell their best players then they must command the best fees, but Tevez was quite clearly a man with his mind set on leaving, so can they really be surprised at last nights event?

The Argentine is a flamboyant character and to be honest, I feel an incident like this has done well not to rear its head too many times before. However, I think Mancini has a lot to answer for in how he treats his players. Again it can only be guessed how he interacts with them in a one to one situation, as well as in the team dynamic, but from the outside looking in, he has been found left desperately wanting when big stars, signed by him, have stepped out of line. Mario Balotelli on numerous occasions, Jerome Boateng all last season, Eden Dzeko last night and now Tevez also. I struggle to believe that if another top class manager such as Mourinho, Ferguson or even Wenger had the same players, that they would encounter the same problems.

Without doubt Tevez was City’s star performer last year, despite the defensive heroics of Vincent Kompany. He was their captain, top scorer and all-round talisman, so upon the break down of negotiations with Corinthians, Man City were reassured by Tevez that he would return from the Copa America committed to the next season, and up until this point in the season that is what Tevez has done.

Mancini has obviously took him to breaking point, and having played football to a decent level, I can understand Tevez’ frustration at having to remain somewhere he is obviously not happy in, but in the same token has to remain on the bench, after being such a huge part of the team for the last two seasons.

I agree that if a player is paid money to play as their job, then they should do so when told. However, I don’t think it matters whether they are paid £200 a week or £200,000 a week, the fact still remains that they are being paid for the services.

Tevez saw last night as an opportunity to let Mancini know once and for all that he wouldn’t be cast off as a player that City needed in times of distress, he instead sees himself as the player to help avoid situations like being taught a footballing lesson away to Bayern Munich.

Somehow I feel that if Mancini had buried the hatchet when Tevez iterated his commitment to the team this season, then City would be in an even better situation than the already good one they find themselves in.

Where does Tevez go from here? Well Mancini says the striker will ‘never’ play for him again. I would not be surprised if he makes a Wayne Rooney-esque return to the team after a couple of months.

Number 10.

Messi: Greatest Number 10 ever!

In football, 10 in squad number terms, is the number given to the player who embodies creativity, flamboyance, imagination and inspiration through their play.

 
The number has become synonymous with the position between midfield and attack, whether it be as a forward dropping deep, or a midfielder pushing on.
The number has been worn by great players in the past such as Diego Maradona, Pele, Zico, Michel Platini and Roberto Baggio as well as current greats such as Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, Mesut Ozil, Wesley Sneijder, Clarence Seedorf and Francesco Totti.
All these players would be considered to be responsible for a large percentage of their team’s attacking play, providing the creative spark and imagination in the final third to unlock difficult defences. Their game is concentrated on dictating the play, as well as providing killer passes and smooth inter play around the opposition penalty box and goal. Primarily they are there to either score goals, or assist goals and players such as Maradona, Pele and Platini provided outstanding examples to current players such as Messi, Rooney and Sneijder who also play in the ‘Number 10’ position.
I believe that in order to create a great team, you first must employ a formation which accommodates a ‘number 10’ but also have a great player who plays in this position.
The ‘number 10’ is traditionally a player with very little defensive responsibility, conserving his fitness in order to make short sharp bursts of play when on the ball maximising his potential to cause damage when near the goal. This therefore, means that teams can sometimes play with what seems like a man down and sides who are playing on the counter attack or just to defend against constant attacking, can do without a ‘number 10’.
Formation is key for a ‘number 10’ so a system like 4-3-3, 4-4-2 and 3-5-2 could be seen as the best to use when employing this creative player with the role of contributing to the majority of the teams attacking play.
Also the style of the teams play must be one which focuses on playing fast, attacking football with the ball remaining on the ground when in possession. Barcelona at the moment, are the prime example of a football team who play with a high tempo with slick and precise passing as well as quick movement, and through Lionel Messi they have a great player in the ‘number 10’ position who acts as the focal point of their attack.
Once the formation and style of play is correct, the team must have a player able to play in this position and have the required attributes to do it to a high standard.
As mentioned, Lionel Messi is a prime example in a magnificent team who play with a ‘number 10’ and equally as important is Wayne Rooney who contributes a great number of goals as well as assists in his Manchester United side.
Wesley Sneijder, who plays for Inter Milan, is the best example of a midfielder who operates between midfield and attack, a space often referred to as ‘in the hole’, his precise passing and ability to shoot with accuracy from outside of the box is a cornerstone of his play and contributes to his and Inter Milan’s success especially under Jose Mounrinho’s tenure as Inter manager.
It is evident that the ‘number 10’ still exists in the modern era, making a return from a sabbatical after the introduction of more defensive formations and the use of counter attacking at the top level in world football.
However, has it been lost in the high tempo, fast paced, sometimes kick and rush style used in the UK and specifically Scotland and can it be attributed to our decline in standard both domestically, continentally and internationally for our sides?

 
With Celtic and Rangers, both teams do not have a designated ‘number 10’ who operates ‘in the hole’ with Anthony Stokes an out and out striker, and John Fleck a midfielder who as of yet, doesn’t have the required level of ability to be the focal point of the Rangers team. For Scotland, our formation is a 4-3-3 which gives the side the chance to play a ‘number 10’ but our style of play is very much based on counter attacking and only the introduction of Barry Bannan could be seen as a positive step towards designating a ‘number 10’.
England, have definitely felt the effect of playing without a ‘number 10’ despite having Wayne Rooney in their squad. Capello has used Rooney as more of an out and out striker due to the absence of a goal scoring striker for the national side. However, with the emergence of Andy Carroll and Darren Bent, as well as Capello’s introduction of a 4-3-3 formation, England could yet find themselves with a player worthy of wearing the ‘number 10’ and taking the teams play to a level on a par with Germany(Ozil), Spain(Xavi or Iniesta) and Holland(Sneijder).

Therefore, the UK game must adapt to introduce more creative players capable of playing this role, as only Wayne Rooney represents the embodiment of this position and number that goes with it.
It cannot be doubted however, that the ‘number 10’ is embedded in our footballing history, due to the success and level of performance achieved by those who have worn it.
Long live the number 10, long live football!

Kids will win everything!

Young, Smalling, Jones and Cleverley after Community Shield win.

Writing from a Scottish perspective, it is easy to attribute our domestic games devastating decline to lack of money. Looking at the money spinning sponsorship that the English game has had, as well as the Spanish League and German League, it could be said that Scotland has become such a poor footballing nation on all levels due to the lack of real funding in our game.

However, is it all about finances, or has the recent revelation in the quality of youth players at top European clubs, put our own country’s youth system into damning perspective?

Celtic and Rangers, who are equipped with state of the art training facilities and youth academies, have only 7 and 10 home-grown players in their squads respectively.

Of these players, only James Forrest for Celtic and Jamie Ness, John Fleck, Gregg Wylde, Andy Little and Allan McGregor have made over 10 appearances for their club and could be considered regulars. A damning statistic considering the evident lack of money in Scottish football, and also where there is a growing trend that the Old Firm have consistently bought Scottish players from sides such as Hearts, Hibs and Dundee United. This trend disproves the point that Scottish youth players just aren’t good enough, but more that, at the big clubs especially, youth players just aren’t getting a chance despite the real lack of quality in the first teams already.

Focusing on Celtic and Rangers may be seen as an easy option, but being the most dominant teams in Scottish football, both clubs represent the best chance for our youth players to be tested against high class opposition domestically and more significantly in Europe too.

So, are our players just not good enough? Or are the managers at top level in Scotland too scared to take risks when promoting youth players to their squad?

 

There could be a case for the latter, and the examples of Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal and most significantly Manchester Utd could provide examples of how it doesn’t always take money, to achieve the best results.

There was much made of the ‘you’ll never win anything with kids’ statement by Alan Hansen when describing the chances of Manchester United’s golden generation lifting the Premiership title in 1995, but contrary to much of what Alan Hansen says, he was proved wrong and the side went on to lift that title, along with many more in the next 10 years.
Not many people predicted a second coming of a United ‘golden generation’ but from the start of this season, it appears to have happened.

Sir Alex Ferguson, following winning the championship last year as well as reaching the Champions League, has managed to strengthen his side with youthful acquisitions and the emergence of top class players from the youth system. The sign of a good manager is not resting on his laurels and Ferguson has done this time and time again, reaching a consistently high standard every time.

Firstly, the capture of Ashley Young was possibly the best of the summer, with the England midfielder beginning the season with 2 goals and 3 assists in 5 games. Secondly, Ferguson was able to sign highly rated England Under 21 international Phil Jones from Blackburn and David De Gea from Atletico Madrid, two players who will most definitely spend the best years of their career in Manchester.

Most significantly for United this season, the emergence of Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Chris Smalling, although not directly from the youth system, has took the team’s game to a whole new level. Cleverley had managed to start all four of United’s Premier League games after his outstanding performance in the second half of the Community Shield, keeping Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher out the team and providing another creative spark in the last third for United. Sadly though, the midfielder was injured in the 5-0 United win at Bolton, an injury which he could have definitely done without.

Welbeck has also emerged from the shadows at Old Trafford, after a successful loan spell at Sunderland last year. Starting the first three games of United’s season before being injured, his electric pace, smart link up play and Cantona-esque composure in front of goal has led to two goals in three games, keeping Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov out the squad.

Both players have turned themselves in to Manchester United regulars, and the sooner they return from injury the stronger the team will get. However, one player who remains in the starting XI and a pivotal part of the squad is Chris Smalling.

Smalling, changing from centre back to right back, has took his game to a whole new level after a brilliant debut season with the champions and doesn’t look like stopping his outstanding form. Although signed from Fulham for £10million two summers ago, Ferguson has managed to trust Smalling on the biggest stage, and after an assured display, as well as a goal against Chelsea in the Community Shield, he has made the right back slot his own. This led to special praise from Ferguson and international manager Fabio Capello, who started the defender in his side’s latest qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales.

De Gea, Smalling and Jones will provide stability for United for many years to come and have already shown they can be relied upon in the absence of Ferdinand, Vidic and the retirement of Van Der Sar. Young, Cleverley, Welbeck as well as Hernandez and Rooney will be relied upon to create the attacking verve and flamboyancy that has always been attributed with Ferguson sides.

The most devastating thing for the rest of the Premier League though, is that this side is filled with relatively experienced young players such as Rooney, Anderson, Fletcher, Nani and Young, but with Cleverley, Welbeck, Jones, De Gea and Smalling added to the squad, the kids have every chance of dominating domestically as well as in Europe for years to come.

The emerging youthful side Ferguson has built has also managed to achieve United’s best start to a season under his tenure, a statistic which begs the question can they still move up a level? If so, Ferguson could find himself winning even more with his kids.

Success is most definitely now going to depend on producing high quality youth players, and teams such as Rangers and Celtic, with little money to spend, will have to follow the trend or see the terrible effect it will have on the quality of their play and success domestically and in Europe.

Past it already?

It is often presumed in the footballing world that when a player reaches 30 his best years are all of a sudden behind him. Between the ages of 25 to 30, many players play there football at such a level they are labelled as being in the prime of their career. However, in the case of Celtic and Scotland midfielder Scott Brown his career has taken a totally different path.

Signed from Hibernian in the 2007/2008 season by Celtic, Brown was undoubtedly the golden boy of a Hibs side filled with an array of talent and potential.

Having broken into the side in 2002, as an extremely raw midfielder cum striker, he immediately caught the eye with his fiery demeanour and snarling approach to his play. However, Brown was also a player who garnered praise for his high stamina, brave tackling and endeavour on the ball, shaping him into a box to box midfielder which sadly, Scotland did not possess at that time.

Making 110 appearances for Hibs, winning the Scottish League Cup and reaching Europe during his time there, Brown was in high demand from teams north and south of the border before he finally joined Celtic in his £4.4m move – a record fee between two Scottish clubs.

You would be forgiven then for thinking that Brown would have reached his potential as a 26 year old that was in his 5th year at the club, but it has been a completely different story.

Signed by Gordon Strachan who commented on Brown, ‘He can play at a really high level, that’s for sure.’, he was entrusted with retaining the SPL title for Celtic, as well as providing the catalyst for Gordon Strachan to build a free-flowing attacking team who would dominate the domestic game.

However, somewhere along the line, both men decided that Brown would not stick to what he did best, which was attacking opposition defenders in the last third, using his exceptional power and direct play.

Instead he was reverted into a sitting midfielder with the prime aim of passing the ball from side to side, bringing key wide men such as Aiden McGeady and Shunsuke Nakamura into the creative and damaging positions.

To the detriment of Brown’s game, this style of play did not suit, and it became apparent fairly early on that he would have to adapt a lot to produce high quality performances as he had done at Hibs.

The Fife born midfielder has never been a player blessed with a precise, accurate and assured weight of pass and through his early spell with the Edinburgh side, he was renowned for his power, agility and ability to play a high pressure game with his snarling character.

This begs the question then, did Gordon Strachan sign the wrong player?

His midfield partner for much of his Hibs career was Kevin Thomson, who moved to city rivals Rangers 6 months before Browns move, and his style of play was very much suited to the patient passing Strachan wanted.

 Strachan attempted to create a side which was solid from Goalkeeper through to his Central defenders and midfielders, allowing the full backs and wide men to provide the width, creativity and flamboyancy needed to balance the solidity provided by the core of the team.

However, Browns free roaming, raw style of play did not suit this, and from the point that Brown signed for Celtic, it was fairly apparent he would not fit into the side unless he adapted.

It is only now, in a Celtic side managed by Neil Lennon, Scott Brown is beginning to look like his old self.

Although not there yet, the now captain has put together assured performances in both a Celtic and Scotland shirt which lead us to believe that he is proving he belongs at the top level, something which has never been doubted in the mind of Brown himself.

It is testament to Browns character, that where a player with a weaker mentality may have caved due to the pressure the captain has been under, he has been able to continually make himself available despite never really hitting a sustained good run of form in a Celtic shirt.

In my own opinion, Neil Lennon see’s definite similarities between his own personality and that of Browns and due to this, he has remained the Celtic captain, and part of the team.

Also his move from central midfield to right midfield, has allowed him to play with more freedom of expression, something which was a cornerstone to his play when he first broke on the scene for Hibernian.

Brown may yet prove to be the exception to the case that players hit their peak later in their career, but he is steadily going about realising the potential that seemed lost, which begs the question ‘Will there be more to come?’.