As teams look to recover from havoc already caused – and likely to still be felt – from the Coronavirus, we know that it’s unlikely many clubs, never mind those from Scotland, will be spending cash extravagantly. This could mean teams playing in Scotland might look more often to levels below them to find potential bargains. With many of those clubs struggling for money due to the pandemic, and only signing players on one or two year contracts at the best of times – it could be quite simple for clubs higher up the chain to pick away talent from smaller teams.
Today, we will be looking at players across the Highland/Lowland League, League Two and League One that clubs from those levels, and the Premiership & Championship, may look at as potential targets.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that some of these players may be able to help their current clubs progress up a level or two instead of moving.
Regan Hendry – Raith Rovers
Former Celtic youth team player Regan Hendry signed permanently for League One Raith Rovers last summer on a two-year-contract. The 22-year-old Hendry played almost 2000 minutes this season, a figure he’d certainly have surpassed had the campaign not come to a premature end. In that time he’s scored four times and grabbed six assists.
Hendry was awarded with the Supporter’s Player of the Year recently, with fans of Rovers overjoyed with the performances of their midfielder, with Hendry a key part of the team’s promotion to the Championship. If Hendry can take his achievements from League One and transition to similar output in the next league up he will certainly attract even more eyes.
Nicky Low – East Stirlingshire
There was some surprise last summer when former Aberdeen, Dundee and Derry City midfielder Nicky Low departed from Queen of the South after the expiry of his half-season contract, to sign for Lowland League East Stirlingshire. Low has since admitted, after winning the player of the year at his new club, that he had actually considered retiring around this time last year due to injuries. There is no doubt that on his day Low could be playing further up the pyramid than the Lowland League – with of course all due respect to the league, because as we know, many teams in the Lowland League and Highland League could compete further up.
At 28, it’s not beyond reasonable that Low might consider a move. Although, having adjusted to a Part-Time situation, managing to reduce his injuries by doing so, and clearly enjoying his football, it might be unlikely Low would move back to a full-time model. Nonetheless, he could certainly do a job from clubs in the Championship and if the temptation is there, sides would be silly not to investigate.
Cammy Ballantyne – Montrose
Right-back Ballantyne returned to Links Park this past summer after an unsuccessful spell with Dumbarton. He’s come back to play the majority of fixtures, reclaim his spot as a fan’s favourite and show just as, if not even more, impressive performances as he did in his first spell.
Still at just 23-years-old, it’s unlikely the difficult spell with Dumbarton will be enough to put off potential suitors in the future. The Montrose full-back was named in the ‘A View from the Terrace’ team of the season. He has consistently shown that he can offer what you’d expect from a modern full-back, not just a solid defensive output, but also a strong attacking attitude. At his age, and with Montrose generally impressing, there is a good chance Ballantyne could be offered the opportunity to go full-time, and if he wants to take up that chance, he will likely end up in the Championship at the very least.
Salim Kouider-Aissa – Queen’s Park
For a 24-year-old, Kouider-Aissa has moved clubs quite a bit in his short career. Starting with the youth side at Clyde, he’s since moved to Hearts and then Motherwell, joining Stenhousemuir’s youth team after being released, then moving around between a series of Junior’s clubs as well as Queen of the South and Stirling. Eventually he impressed last season for Kilsyth which earned him a move to Queen’s Park.
In his first season at the club the striker netted 17 goals, even more impressive considering the team sat fifth when the league season was called off. Kouider-Aissa scored more than a third of the Spiders League goals this season, and this has grabbed a lot of attention. Many have tipped the striker to make a step up, although Queen’s recent change to Part-time football and investment in the side might act as a bigger sway to keep Aissa with the team.
Robbie Mutch – Falkirk
This season has been the first year 21-year-old goalkeeper Robbie Mutch has had a proper run of games in his career. Despite starting the campaign as the back-up to Cammy Bell, by November Mutch had taken over in the Falkirk net from the veteran and hasn’t been shifted yet. Bairns fans have been big fans of the former Aberdeen youth player.
Goalkeepers are never easy to find at any level and it’s likely if Mutch continues to perform as he did this season he will attract attention. Falkirk obviously have the benefit of being a full-time side and with a fan base and funds that give them a good chance of a return to the Championship, and potentially challenging for a promotion to the top tier in the next few years, it could be harder to take Mutch from Falkirk than it might be to take players from other League One clubs. Mutch’s contract won’t expire for another two years, at which point he will be 23, so there is plenty time for him to attract clubs even at Premiership level should things not go as Falkirk hope as a team over the next two seasons.
Andrew Macrae – Brora Rangers
Brora Rangers will of course be frustrated they won’t have the chance to move into the SPFL this season. Striker Andrew Macrae joining the side last year was a big part in Brora winning the Highland League and that has been reflected in his Player of the Year award. After being released by Inverness as a youth team player, Macrae began rebuilding with Forres Mechanics and declined potential moves to the SPFL with Peterhead and Elgin City before eventually joining his current club.
Not moving to Elgin or Peterhead probably reflects that if Macrae is to move up a level, and into the SPFL, he’s committed to doing it with Brora, which is perfectly possible. But of course at 22 there is a lot of time for change and with the way he has been playing since entering the Highland League it’s unlikely he will be still there for much longer, the question is if he will take Brora up with him.
And what does Twitter think?…
Here are some of your shouts for players who can make the move up the leagues, let us know your opinion @NE98FT