Scratching Below The Surface

Posted on by P Band

Dundee United have led the way in recent years, having a reputation of pulling good players from the depths of Scottish football.

Danny Swanson, Morgaro Gomis, Barry Douglas, Craig Conway and new arrivals Mark Millar & Michael Gardyne have all been plucked from the lower leagues in Scotland.

Now Dundee United are an established top 6 SPL team consistently competing for European places. They have no money to spend, and have the same financial constraints of much of the Scottish clubs. They have relied heavily on their youth system, and free transfers. The quality of players they have managed to bring in sets them aside.

I remember sitting inside Starks Park in 2007 wondering who David Goodwillie was. He now looks set to become a big player for Scotland over the next 10 years. Likewise with Johnny Russell, United have been able to consistently produce players of such quality.

In January, youngster Scott Allan was snapped up by West Bromwich Albion after impressing for United at the start of the season. Admittedly, the SPL lost one of it’s hottest prospects, but Dundee United will have made a tidy profit on the transfer.

The quality of scouts to spot a player and a bargain are even more crucial now than ever before For example, how many of us had actually heard of Danny Swanson of Berwick Rangers when he signed for United? Now signed for Peterborough this summer, he has been one of the success stories of Scottish football.

There are still plenty prospects in the SFL at the moment waiting for their break in the top flight.

John Baird has recently moved to Dundee from Raith Rovers. He has played in the SPL with St Mirren before, but has came on leaps and bounds since his last stint. Obviously Dundee have ambitions to secure SPL football by the end of next season, but why hasn’t a premier league club snapped up Baird before Dundee did?

Falkirk are another team that support the SFL gold mine. It’s no secret that there is no money in Scotland, this has forced lower league teams especially to field younger players. From 17 first team players, 10 have come from the Falkirk academy. Craig Sibbald has massive potential after making his debut at 16 this season. He has held his own at such a high level and scored 2 goals in the league last season. Future Scotland international? Most likely.

From Reece Donaldson of Raith to Lee Kilday of Hamilton, most clubs have 2-3 players who can potentially play in the SPL or down England. This to me, suggests progress.

Dundee United have taken advantage of such good players at a low price. Notable transfers include:

Danny Swanson – Berwick Rangers
Morgaro Gomis – Cowdenbeath
Barry Douglas – Queen’s Park
Craig Conway – Ayr United

Conway, Gomis & Swanson now play in the championship. Douglas seems to have Paul Dixon ahead of him in the pecking order, but has played a considerable amount of games and has proved he can play at this level.
Other teams must now follow United and take advantage of the quality of young players coming through the ranks.

It still seems that teams see trust in youth as too much of a risk, although it has proved to be the way forward.

In times of financial deprivation, Scottish clubs can still progress. Such moves will also benefit the national team in the long term.

Maybe then, we can qualify for a major tournament.

Originally posted on


P Band

A lifelong Celtic fan, enjoys playing, watching football and expanding on knowledge.