By Lewis Michie
In the past few years it feels as though the interest from supporters into the business side of football has grown. One of the bigger interests comes in at the transfer strategy deployed by clubs. One particular interest is in the strategies used by the likes of Ajax and Brentford, who look to bring players through, be it on the cheap or via the academy – and then sell them on for profit.
In Scotland there are a lot of clubs who have the desire to at least try and operate in a similar fashion, Celtic have consistently done so, Hibernian and Hamilton have some success stories of selling players on and Aberdeen certainly seem to have a few assets that will net them some decent fees. Today we are looking at three players currently playing in Scotland that could be used to make their club a decent fee in the future. We’ve avoided the likes of Scott McKenna, Odsonne Edouard and Alfredo Morelos as everyone has heard plenty about them.
While we aren’t speaking about Scott McKenna, we will speak about his Pittodrie teammate, 19 year old former Hamilton Accies youth academy graduate Lewis Ferguson. Barry’s nephew actually fits in to two of the clubs already mentioned. He of course is already at Aberdeen and is most certainly one of their biggest sellable assets, but he also has already made Accies some money in compensation for his move north, and they’d be due even more if Ferguson does make a big money move.
Turning 20 next week, Ferguson fairly burst onto the scene two seasons ago, about the mid-way point as he made his debut for Hamilton. He impressed so much in that time that Derek Mcinnes opted to sign him on a free and the midfielder would go on to make 44 appearances across the season last term, finishing just shy of 4000 minutes in total – he became a real stalwart in the Aberdeen side.
The most notable thing about Ferguson’s debut season for the Dons was the often spectacular and even more commonly important goals he’d score. This included an overhead kick in the Europa League at Turf Moor against Burnley, a similar effort to help his side come from behind and win late on at Pittodrie against Livingston, a low driven free-kick, again late on, against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park and of course a towering header at a corner to beat Rangers at Hampden Park in the League Cup Semi-Final. Ferguson showed last season that he was a man for the big moments.
With Aberdeen often having what was described as a ‘dull attack’ last season it would be easy to assume that Ferguson was pretty much just nice looking goals and no more, but that would be fairly far from the truth. The midfielder hit eight goals and a further eight assists across his appearances, all while also offering just as much bite in the centre as Captain Graeme Shinnie and regularly being found collecting the ball from his centre-backs. He truly was performing as an all-round box-to-box midfielder.
The hope this season is that with the departure of Shinnie, but the arrival of Funso Ojo and Craig Bryson, that Ferguson might be given a bit more free reign to attack and get further forward. Despite Bryson not manging much game time thus far, this already appears to be the case. Ferguson has already picked up a goal and three assists across the Europa League qualifiers. The young midfielder also often opened up space against Hearts and HNK Rijeka in the fixtures at Pittodrie as his low centre of gravity and ability to roam around the pitch allowed him to drag his marker – and at times even a second player – right round the final third.
One negative that some supporters have pointed out about Ferguson is the amount of cards he accumulates. Of course you don’t get the bite and aggressive nature of Ferguson’s tackling ability without picking up some cards, but Ferguson picked up 14 yellow cards last season and will miss this weekend’s League Cup fixture against Dundee after being sent off against Celtic in last season’s Scottish Cup Semi-Final. Ferguson has made himself so important to Derek Mcinnes that the suspensions that come along with these cards can make games without him very difficult.
Ferguson has already been linked with clubs down south, it was Crystal Palace who were reportedly interested the same summer that Ferguson signed for Aberdeen. It would be no great shock if the London club have kept tabs on Ferguson since, and other English clubs of similar stature have likely joined those efforts.
Aberdeen have had issues in the past, and continue to have issues with players leaving for free due to the expiry of their contract. Ferguson’s deal however, runs until the summer of 2024, and chances are if he continues to play the way he has, clubs will be itching to sign him well before then – so they’ll need to pay a fee, and Aberdeen have proven this summer they can be tricky customer when it comes to negotiating a price.
Ferguson will likely see links starting to grow this season, but Mcinnes will want to hold on well into at least next season, and with how versatile Ferguson has shown himself to be, it would be no great surprise to see fees offered for the midfielder similar to that rumoured at the moment for his teammate Scott McKenna – and a Scotland call-up, which will be tough to come by considering his position, but not out of the question, will only raise his value.
Greg Docherty has some big fans amongst the Rangers support, and rightfully so after the way he performed on loan to Shrewsbury last season. However, having already been out on loan and now falling further down the pecking order with the arrival of Andy King – nothing is guaranteed for Docherty at Ibrox.
Steven Gerrard clearly wants plenty of depth in his squad, and he’s got the funds to provide that, he also wants players fighting for places, so Docherty might just be part of a number of midfielders that the manager plans to rotate. With that said though, after such an impressive season on loan to England’s League One last season, Rangers will be well aware that a future offer from England could give them the potential to make profit on the previous near quarter million pounds they paid to Hamilton Accies.
Docherty played 50 times across all competitions last season, scoring 10 goals and assisting 11 and at 22 he will feel that after a season like that he won’t want to go from playing nearly 4000 minutes in a season to struggling to put together even half of that.
Docherty looked to have a promising season ahead of him when he returned north of the border this summer, he played in Europa League qualifiers and even assisted three goals. However, there are three midfield spots to fight for with Ryan Jack, Glen Kamara, Joe Aribo, Steven Davis and now Andy King all fighting for those spots and the likes of Scott Arfield and Andy Halliday who often play elsewhere on the pitch are also capable of filling those roles.
If Rangers were tempted to make some profit on Docherty, you’d imagine it wouldn’t take much for them to at the very least sell the midfielder for double what they paid for him. After such an exciting season in England’s League One at a still fairly young age, you’d imagine a Championship club could see the value in bringing Docherty back down South.
Sean Clare arrived for free to Tynecastle from Sheffield Wednesday with a decent bit of hype last season, the word going round was that many clubs in England, including those in the Premier League were interested in his services, but Craig Levein beat them to it.
In just under two and a half thousand minutes last season Clare managed six goals and three assists and at times did show the quality that must have been attracting other clubs, but he hasn’t totally set Scotland on fire yet.
At just 22 there is plenty of time, but seeing as he turns 23 next month, similarly to Docherty, Clare will need to start showing what he is capable of on a regular basis to avoid being one of those ‘What could have been’ stories.
One issue for Hearts last season was clearly trying to work out which position Clare is actually best in. He played on either wing, he was used as a wing-back, he played as the striker, off the striker and finally as a central midfielder – which he has continued to do into this season.
Clare possess a lot of skills that Hearts fans would certainly want to see in their team, he’s got a decent engine, some pace, a bit of trickery and at least seems to have better composure – as shown with his decent penalty record – than some of the other forward options at Tynecastle.
Of course Clare is also very clearly versatile and useful in multiple positions, but so far that seems to have been more of a curse rather than a helping hand for Clare.
Unlike many other 22 year olds – like Docherty – minutes shouldn’t be the issue for the Englishman this season, he appears to be one of the first names on Craig Levein’s team sheet. That said, he needs to find his best position and be given a run of games in that area, allowing him to find a bit of consistency, rhythm and form.
This seems to be the feeling we’ve gathered from Hearts fans as well, there is clearly a player in there, but just like many of the players at the moment, they are not being used to the best of their potential under the clubs management which for many Jambos lacks a real focus on one system or any system for that matter.
From viewings of Clare in the past it would appear that the deeper he plays prevents him from adding to the attack – as you’d expect – and that would be taking away his main assets. He is useful in the ‘8’ position for example because of his ability to cover a large amount of ground, his tenacity and his dribbling skills – but that nullifies his threat further forward.
Clare will obviously be needing to do the business for Hearts on a more regular basis before he can even think of a move. However, when you look at that Hearts team he would appear to be one that could be on the verge of a breakout – especially considering his age and the fact clubs down south are already rather aware of him. Having signed him for free however, Hearts might be tempted to cash in on Clare if he does have a successful season.
Which player in the Scottish Premiership do you feel could attract big fees from their performances this season?