Scottish Football’s Failed Wonderkid XI

By Keiran Fleming

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We all have that player where we think “What could have been”. Plenty of them have been Scottish, Keiran Fleming runs through his XI made up of them.

Goalkeeper- Craig Gordon

After impressing on loan at Cowdenbeath Gordon was recalled to the Hearts side. He became the first choice keeper for the Jambos at the beginning of 2003-04 season, he was just 20 years old. At the end of his first season in the top flight he was nominated for the Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year award.

By 2005 Gordon was now a regular starter for the Scotland national team. The 2005-06 season was tumultuous off the pitch for Hearts but very successful on the pitch. The side finished second and won the Scottish Cup with Gordon saving Derek Townsley’s penalty to win the game. The keeper was voted the Scottish Writers’ Association Player of the Year the first Hearts player since 1986 to win the award. Early into the the 2006-07 season Gordon was named captain after Pressley left the Club. For much of the next year he was linked with a move away with teams such as Rangers, Aston Villa, Manchester United and Arsenal.

During the Summer of 2007 Gordon was sold to Sunderland for £9 million which was the highest fee paid for a keeper in Britain at the time. His time at the Stadium of Light was an Injury laden one. After a relatively successful first year, midway through his second season he suffered a serious knee injury that would sideline the player for months. The next season he would break his arm and miss another 3 months of action. Gordon would miss the start of the 2010-11 season after he fractured his arm during a training session. After a knee tendon injury and an anterior cruciate ligament injury would see the keeper be released from Sunderland in 2012.

The Scotland International would have a 2 year hiatus where he would coach at Dumbarton as he considered retirement. Gordon would resurrect his career at Celtic winning the League and League Cup double in his first season. He would play a key role in the hoops achieving the treble treble. Gordon is now the back up to Fraser Forster at Celtic and he currently has not made an appearance this season.


Right Back- Callum Paterson

Paterson also came through the Hearts academy and broke into the first team at the age of 17 and played 27 games in his first year as part of the senior squad in 2012. In the 2013-14 season although Hearts would eventually go down the right back continued his impressive form with 11 goals in 42 games. He was very versatile for Hearts playing at right back and as a striker. After being relegated Paterson still put up really good numbers scoring 7 in 32 games. After being promoted he continued to be a mainstay in the Hearts squad for another 2 seasons. The right back continued his rise as a young Scottish prodigy scoring 7 goals helping the Jambos finish third. During the Summer of 2016 he was strongly linked with multiple clubs in the English Championship, 2 bids were rejected from Wigan Athletic.

Paterson would spend one more season as a Hearts player and although he would miss half the year with a serious knee injury, Paterson was able to score 9 goals in 21 games. Despite being out for 6 months he was still voted the club’s young player of the year. In the Summer of 2017 the Scottish international was finally on the move. He signed a 3 year contract with Championship side Cardiff City at the end of the 2016-17 season. He missed the first couple months of his first season as a bluebird due to his knee injury. Once he became part of the first team squad he became a Centre Midfielder due to Neil Warnock’s belief that Paterson wasn’t capable of defending. He would be the top goalscorer for the club with 10 goals which was vital for Cardiff’s promotion push. Paterson was so impressive that he was voted the Club’s Young Player of the Year.

The Scotsman’s debut in the English Premier League proved to be more of a challenge. Another position change was in store this time he would move further up the pitch and play as a Centre Forward. Paterson was only able to score 4 and after one season in the top flight they were relegated. The former Jambo is still turning out for Cardiff City and playing in the middle of the park. At the age of 25 Paterson will be reaching his peak as a player in the next couple of years and he more than likely has a lot more to give.

Centre Back- Harry Souttar

Although he is still only 21 the youngster has had quite the career. Whilst part of the Dundee United academy he was considered much better than his brother John, who has made over 250 appearances in the Scottish top flight. Souttar would only play 3 times for the Terrors and he impressed on each occasion. He would score his first senior goal in his second appearance for the Tannadice side.

At the end of the 2015-16 season he would attract the interest of Premier League club Stoke who would eventually pay an initial £200,000 for the defender. Souttar would spend 2 years as part of the developmental squad before being loaned out to Ross County in the Scottish Premiership for half a season. Although he was a mainstay during his 5 months as a Staggie Souttar was unable to stop County from being relegated. A year later he would be on loan again this time at Fleetwood Town in English League one although the club finished in the middle of the table Souttar really impressed.

After his Impressive display last season as part of the Fishermen, Fleetwood decided to extend his loan for the entirety of this season. Unlike his older brother John, who looks as though he is set to become a first choice centre back for Scotland, Harry has chosen to represent his Mother’s native country Australia. He got his first 2 caps for the Socceroos in October in which he scored 4 goals. Souttar should be looking to break into the Stoke first team in the next couple of years, if not then who knows what’s next for this 21 year old.

Centre Back- Danny Wilson

The Rangers youth product was highly touted at the club, being compared to legendary Scottish centre back Alan Hansen. Wilson made his debut against Dundee in the league cup at the age of 17. A week later he would become Rangers youngest ever Champions league player at the age of 17 years, 312 days. After an exciting debut season he was voted the Football Writers’ Association Young Player of the Season and the Players’ Football Association Young Player of the Season.

While negotiating a new contract with Rangers, Wilson was linked with a move to Premier League clubs Liverpool and Aston Villa. Contract talks would eventually breakdown and the youngster would now be on the move. Liverpool would pay an initial £2 million for the centre back with the potential price rising to £5 million. Wilson would make 8 appearances during his first season at Anfield but would only make 1 more appearance over the next 2 seasons for the Reds. The youngster would be shipped out on loan to the English Championship for the next 2 seasons but he would fail to impress. The defender would make the trip back to Scotland with a loan spell at Hearts. This was a much more fruitful spell for Wilson he quickly became a mainstay in the first team. After his successful loan the centre back chose to stay at the club permanently, where he would be named captain at the age of 21. The Scottish international would continue his good form with the Jambos scoring 5 goals in 37 games. However, his high quality performances were not enough to stop Hearts from getting relegated. In his final season at Tynecastle he would captain the side to the Championship and automatic promotion back to the top flight.

Wilson would return to his boyhood club Rangers on a 3 year contract. In his first season he would help the Gers make their long awaited return to the top flight. He would gradually appear less for Rangers for the next 2 seasons. The 27 year old is currently playing in the MLS  for the Colorado Rapids. Wilson is about to enter the final year of his contract in America and he is probably due for a return to Scottish football.

Left back- Craig Thomson

The full back burst onto the scene at the age of 18 against Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League. During his 2 full seasons as a Jambo Thomson really impressed and looked as though he had bags of potential after 47 appearances for the club. However, the fullback was about to make the biggest mistake of his life. In June 2011 Thomson was found guilty of two counts of indecent behaviour. The charges were related to “sexual conversations” he had with 2 underage girls age 12 and 14. He admitted to showing them male genitalia, asking the older one for sex and engaging  them in sexual chat. The defender was fined £4,000 and put on the sex offenders register. Thomson would be arrested and charged again in November 2011 for grooming a 12 year old however, the charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence.

He would be loaned out to Lithuanian side FBK Kaunas while Hearts what they would do with the player after his conviction. Thomson would spend a second season on loan in Lithuania this time with FK Suduva. On his return to Tynecastle Thomson would be released from his contract. A move to Cypriot side AEP Paphos brokedown after the club found out about his previous convictions. After almost a year out Thomson would join Junior side Arniston Rangers in March 2014. A move to Newtongrange Star came 4 months later, he spent 2 years at the club then he moved to Kelty Hearts.

Although Thomson only played with the club for 1 year they did win the SJFA East Superleague in 2017. The defender would return to the Scottish Football League System after he was picked up by Edinburgh City in 2017 and he currently captains the side. Considering what Thomson was convicted of the 28 year old should consider himself extremely lucky that he got a second chance at playing at any level in Scotland.

Centre Midfielder- Fraser Fyvie

Fyvie became the youngest ever player for Aberdeen when he made his debut against Hamilton Academical aged 16. He would go on to make 26 appearances that season. After spending 3 seasons with the Dons the midfielder decided he wanted to move down south with both Wigan and Fulham interested. Wigan Athletic bought Fyvie for £500,000 in the summer of 2013. He would appear 8 times for the club but his time at Wigan was a disaster. The Scotsman was shipped out on loan to Yeovil Town and he would only play twice for the club. Another unsuccessful loan to Shrewsbury Town followed, when he returned to Wigan he was released from the club. He would face some sort of a career revival with Hibernian as they tried to get promoted into Scotland’s top flight. It would take 3 seasons for Hibs to get promoted.

Fyvie was offered a new contract but he took too long to respond so the offer was withdrawn. The midfielder would sign for Dundee United with the hopes of getting the Terrors promoted. However, after 2 seasons with the club he was released at the end of the 2018-19 season. The 26 year old now plays for Cove Rangers in League 2 with the hopes of finally getting a club promoted. The fact that the next couple years should be Fyvie’s athletic peak he should be hoping for a move back to the Championship or the top flight.

Centre Midfielder- Ryan Gauld

Once dubbed the “Scottish Messi” Gauld’s career hasn’t really gone to plan since leaving Scotland for Portugal. He became the youngest Dundee United player when he debuted at the age of 16 years and 99 days. The Manchester United manager at the time, David Moyes, would personally scout the midfielder once he had turned 17. After Gauld’s 18th birthday He would be linked with multiple huge clubs including Liverpool, Roma and Real Madrid. The attacking midfielder would play 38 times in his final season at Tannadice scoring 8 goals.  Gauld was set to follow in the footsteps of greats such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Figo after Sporting Lisbon bought him for £3 million. The youngster would sign a 6 year contract with a €60 million buy-out clause. He would play 5 times throughout the season scoring twice however he would not play again for the first team. Gauld would be more for the reserve side who play in the second tier of Portuguese football.

A loan move was on the cards, even though there was interest from England Gauld decided to stay in Portugal with Liga NOS side Vitoria de Setubal. This first loan spell would be the first of many unsuccessful loans. Gauld’s second loan was more successful with 23 games for Aves. His third spell away from the club was with Farense in the second tier for half of a season where he scored twice in 12 games. In the second half of the season he would move back to Scotland with a loan to Hibernian. Gauld suffered an injury which limited him to only 6 games at Easter Road. After returning back to Portugal the midfielder was released and was picked up on a permanent basis by Farense.  The midfielder signed a 2 year contract with €4 million release clause. At the age of 23, there is still hope for the starlet who was tipped to be the next big thing. He most likely won’t be the best player in the world however there is still hope that Gauld can make something of his career. 

Centre Midfielder- Scott Allan

Allan also came through the Dundee United academy joining the club when he was 10 years old.  He would go on an emergency loan to Forfar Athletic for 4 games in the Second division where he would score 1 goal. The next season he would play a bit part role at Tannadice playing 8 games. The midfielder would reject a new contract at the end of the season and move to English club West Bromwhich Albon in January 2012. Allan would be sent out on Loan to Portsmouth for 2 months where he would play 15 games and score once which was very positive.

After returning to West Brom he was sent back out on loan for a month to MK Dons which garnered very little success. The midfielder would rejoin Portsmouth on loan after they had been relegated to league one however it wasn’t as fruitful as his first spell with the club. Allan would spend his last season with West Brom would spent on loan to Birmingham where he would only play 5 times. When he returned to his parent club he would be let go and signed on a 2 year contract by Hibernian. His career would be revived at Easter Road after the midfielder solidified his role in the first team. After really impressing in his first season he was linked to Rangers and Rotherham United. However, Celtic would come in late with a cash plus player bid that would see Allan move to Parkhead.

He would help Celtic to another Title win with 17 appearances but the midfielder wouldn’t play for the hoops after his first season with the club. Allan would end up on loan at Rotherham United but he disappointed and was dropped from the squad. A loan move to Dundee was next however, this was short lived as he was recalled to Celtic and loaned to Hibs as part of a three-way swap deal.

Hibernian seems to be the right club for Allan as he impressed whilst on loan. His last season with Celtic saw him make no appearances for the clubs and he was released at the end of the year. Allan has revived his career again at Easter Road and he has really impressed in the centre of midfield for Hibs. At the age of 27 it is really disappointing to see such potential go to waste at both West Brom and Celtic. If only he had stayed a year long with the Terrors or at Hibs who knows how good Allan could have really been.

Right Forward- Islam Feruz

Although he was born in Somalia the Celtic youth product declared that he wanted to represent Scotland’s national team. Feruz joined the club when he was 10 years old and he immediately drew comparisons with Celtic legends Aiden Mcgeady and Charlie Nicholas. At the age of 14 the striker was being linked with a slew of Premier League clubs. Chelsea would win the signature of the potential Scottish superstar for £300,000 would impress for the reserve team but he would never make a competitive appearance for the first team.

Feruz would go on loan to Greek side OFI Crete which would be the first of several unsuccessful loan spells. He would only appear once throughout the whole season. A half season loan to Championship side Blackpool would be next. After playing twice for the club the striker would be sent back to Chelsea after criticising Blackpool’s performances online. Next up was a move back to Scotland with a spell at Hibs however he was unable to score in 6 games.  Feruz went on trial with a Kazahk side FC Aktobe but only lasted a day before being sent home.

The striker would move on loan to Excel Mouscron in Belgium but after another disappointing start he was sent back in January. The youngster was given one more chance to impress by being put on loan to Swindon Town but his poor form continued, only playing 4 and scoring none. The 24 year old forward is now a free agent and looking for a club. Feruz’s poor form and bad attitude may be the only thing that stood in the way of him becoming the player he could be.

Centre Forward- Tony Watt

Tony Watt is known for one thing and one thing only, his winner against Barcelona for Celtic in 2012, but he had bags of potential. The striker came through the Airdrie United academy and broke into the first team at 17 years old. After only one season he had caught the eye of multiple clubs such as Liverpool and Fulham. Celtic would pay £80,000 for the strikers services. Watt would score twice in 5 minutes during his debut for the Hoops. His second season at Parkhead would see him make 28 appearances and scored 6 goals. The once capped Scotsman would only have one more season with the title winners.

The striker would be loaned out Belgian side Lierse S.K. for the 2013-14 season. Although he struggled to become a starter Watt impressed with 9 goals in 15 games. Top Belgian side Standard Liege would £1.2 million to permanently take the striker away from Celtic. Watt would only be able to complete one year of his 5 year contract at the club due to his poor form that season. The forward would move to English side Charlton Athletic and made a quick impact. For his first  season at the club Watt was an important squad player but he was just a peripheral player the next couple of seasons. Watt was sent out on Loan to Cardiff City for 2 months. The bluebirds were hit with a transfer embargo that stopped them from signing the striker permanently.

At the beginning of 2016 he was shipped out on loan again, this time to Blackburn Rovers. After just 9 games he had to return to Charlton due to injury. A final season long loan north of the border was next. Watt would only play 17 games before the move was cut short in January. The striker would leave the club in the summer and move back to Belgium with second tier side OH Leuven. He would only last 6 month with the club before he moved back to Scotland. After training with Aberdeen he would sign for Saint Johnstone on a one year contract. Watt would play a key role for the Saints and be offered a contract extension at the end of the season but he would reject it.

The former Hoops striker now plays in Bulgaria for CSKA Sofia where he has started off pretty slow. Watt will always be a Celtic cult hero for scoring the winner against Barcelona but he peaked too early. At the age of 25 he put himself under heaps of pressure after scoring against Barca however he has never lived up to his potential.

Left Forward- Jack Harper

Harper could say that he was rubbing shoulders with the modern day football stars whilst he was part of the Real Madrid academy. Born in Malaga to Scottish parents the youngster would go on trial at Sevilla and Almeria before he signed for 10 time Champions League winners Real Madrid at the age of 13. The striker drew comparisons with the likes of Robin Van Persie and Zlatan Ibrahimovic whilst coming through the ranks at Los Blancos. The forward would spend 5 years at the club before  he asked to leave with 2 years left on his contract.

After Harper was released from the club he joined English side Brighton and Hove Albion. Sadly the 18 year old was injured for his first 6 months at the club and he would never make a first team appearance in the 2 years at the Seagulls. A return to his hometown club Malaga was next. The forward would play a key role in helping the reserve side promoted to the 3rd tier of Spanish football. Harper’s impressive performances for the club would catch the eye of Malaga’s first team. After another good season from the striker La Liga side Getafe decided to sign the forward. However, his first season with the club is being spent on loan to second tier side Alcoron. Harper is still young at only 23 but it looks highly unlikely that he will ever reach the heights that he was tipped for whilst training with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Who’d be in your Scottish wonderkid XI? Do you disagree with Keiran’s? Let us know @NE98FT on Social Media.

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