Written for Pure Fitbaw by Lewis McKenzie
As we say goodbye to the glitz and glamour of the World Cup, we remind ourselves that our beloved league football is just days away. The Scottish Premiership and the highs, lows and downright amusing stories that come with it returns on August 4th. As such, it’s time to profile some of the impressive transfer activity that has taken place across the league this summer.
Chequebooks have been cracked open to bring in big names and we have also seen the return of some familiar faces in clever transfer negotiations. Here are our top 10 transfers of the summer so far.
Falkrik to Livingston – Free transfer
Livingston make a return to the Scottish Premiership after a 12 year absence, and in doing so, wasted no time in recruiting some top talent to equip the Lions for their new journey. Livi’s first signing of the summer came in the form of Falkirk talisman Craig Sibbald. At just 23 years old, Sibbald had racked up over 250 appearances for his boyhood club after breaking in to the first team at just 16. Highly rated in his teenage years, Sibbald was expected to make the jump in the top flight in the summers previous, however a mixture of compensation issues and injury concerns meant that a big move never materialised.
As the new season approaches, Falkirk’s loss is Livingston’s gain. The midfielder will be a welcomed addition in West Lothian, with Sibbald bringing creativity and an eye for goal to a Livingston team that were often criticised for their one-dimensional style throughout their promotion campaign. New gaffer Kenny Miller is yet to settle on his preferred shape for his new side, with the Lions switching between a 3-4-2-1 and a 4-3-2-1 in their games against Airdrie and Hamilton respectively. However, Sibbald will be seen as a good fit in the supporting role behind the forward. These roles so far have been occupied by Nicky Cadden and the manager himself, but how many games the latter will participate it still remains to be seen. An interesting season for Livingston kicks off away to champions Celtic in just over fortnight, and the inclusion of Craig Sibbald can be widely recognised as a coup for the Amondvale club.
Rangers to Livingston – Loan
Despite running on the league’s lowest budget, Livingston’s business has been stellar so far this window, with arguably their best business seen as securing another season from fans’ favourite Ryan Hardie. The Rangers academy product arrived at the Tony Macaroni Arena in January and was in red-hot form before a knee injury cruelly cut his season short. Eight goals in fifteen appearances helped fire the Lions in to the promotion places, and despite playing no part in the play-offs; Hardie’s contribution to the promotion push should not be underestimated.
This is the fifth separate loan move of Hardie’s career, but will prove to be the most interesting yet. Albeit he has already endeared himself to the Livi fans, there is likely to be scrutiny from the Rangers hierarchy as the club keep a close eye on his development. Hardie will aim to nail down a consistent place in a Premiership side for the first time. The striker is regarded as one of the most promising youth products to develop from Auchenhowie in recent years, and carrying his goal-scoring form in to the top flight could allow him to work his way in to Steven Gerrard’s long term plans.
St Johnstone – Free agent
It may come as a surprise that Tony Watt would be regarded as one of the signings of the summer, as the 24 year-old arrives at his tenth club in a turbulent career. The Coatbridge born striker’s ability has never been in doubt, but concerns over his attitude and work-rate have often held the forward back in developing further. Watt will long be remembered for his iconic winner over Barcelona in the Champions League, but failed spells in Belgium and at Hearts have seen the striker labelled as ‘damaged goods’ since his most recent release from OH Leuven in January. His arrival at McDiarmid Park on a one-year deal may be seen as Watt’s last chance at fulfilling his promising potential, but the deal offers value for both player and club.
If there is one manager to ensure Watt is kept in order, it’s Tommy Wright. The Northern Irishman is a well-respected coach, and in his fifth season as St Johnstone manager, Wright will not be carrying any passengers in the forthcoming campaign. The Perth club have consistently over-achieved in recent years but often struggled to find a cutting-edge throughout last season. In Wright’s successful season s as St Johnstone manager, he has often relied on goals from particular individuals such as Stevie May and Danny Swanson, who have since moved on. If Wright can make Watt the main man in his system, there is every chance that the striker could lift the Saints back in to the top six. With Watt penning a one-year contract and the club recognised as one of the lowest spenders in the league; this season allows Watt the chance to impress larger suitors as much as it does the club to cut ties, if the striker fails to settle at his tenth club. A low risk with high reward, but an interesting transfer regardless.
Luton Town to Hearts – Free transfer
Frequently recognised as the son of former England international Rob Lee, Scottish football fans will be forgiven for not hearing the name of the former Luton Town midfielder before this summer. Despite this, Olly Lee’s singing is a massive plus for Hearts in a summer that has seen another overhaul at Tynecastle. Throughout large parts of last season, Hearts relied on young talents such as Harry Cochrane and Anthony MacDonald to fill in the vacant midfield positions as Craig Levein’s side sorely lacked squad depth. With the arrival of eleven new signings to date, Olly Lee can be highlighted as one with real potential of success.
Lee was an integral part of Luton’s promotion push, as he chipped in with all-sorts of goals across the League Two campaign. Hearts’ fans can find footage of long ranged efforts as far as the half way line online, and were treated to two superb strikes in the clubs pre-season fixture last week as well as a debut goal last night vs Cove Rangers. Goals from midfield are something largely desired from the Gorgie faithful since the exit of Jamie Walker to Wigan Athletic in January. With manager Craig Levein citing that he plans to play a 3-5-2 shape in the forthcoming season, Lee will be one of the first choice midfielders for Hearts as the club aim to push for the European places at the end of this season. With AFCON winner Arnaud Djoum still recovering from a torn Achilles and young Harry Cochrane not expected to feature as consistently as the previous campaign, Lee is anticipated to be a signing that will bring more creativity to a side that struggled to create many open-play opportunities last season.
Brighton & Hove Albion to Rangers – £2 million
If there was one thing that cost Rangers any potential title challenge last season, it was their defensive frailties. The Ibrox club had two of the league’s most effective attackers last season in Alfredo Morerlos and Josh Windass, but a leaky defence meant that the club failed to capitalise on the teams around them in a generally disappointing season. Fast forward just a couple of months and the mood has totally changed around Govan. With the arrival of one of the biggest names in world football in the form of Steven Gerrard as manager, the club has wasted no time in restructuring the squad. One of Rangers’ most interesting purchases so far has been that of Brighton defender Connor Goldson.
The 25 year-old defender was brought in from the south coast to shore up the teams erratic defence, and could be seen as a potential bargain at £2 million. Highly regarded by Brighton fans, Goldson brings a level of composure and athleticism to a back four that conceded double the amount of goals than their Old Firm rivals in the 17/18 season. With Goldson’s pace and power, as well as his ability to bring the ball out from the back, Rangers will intend to start the campaign with a level of intensity to match fans expectation. The defender is likely to partner another new arrival Nikola Katic when Rangers travel to Pittodrie on August 4th.
Barnsley to Hibernian – £200,000
It was always going to be a difficult summer for Hibs; the club was dealt with the blow that Player of the Year Dylan McGeouch had turned down a new deal in order to venture down sotuh, whilst the board continue to stand their ground in offers for Scotland International John McGinn. Despite this, the club have managed to secure the signing of highly-rated midfielder Stevie Mallan as the Hibees start their European campaign. The Scottish U21 international moved south of the border to Championship club Barnsley last summer but struggled to feature throughout the season as the Yorkshire club were relegated to League One. Often excused for his lack of physicality, Mallan returns to Scotland with fresh hopes of nailing down a place in one of the league’s highest rated midfields.
The ex-St Mirren star is not a like-for-like for either McGeouch, Allan or McGinn (if he goes) but his slaloming runs and dead ball specialities are likely to have the Easter Road faithful on their feet. Mallan was a standout during St Mirren’s Championship struggles, notching 25 goals across two seasons. Despite failing to break in to the Barnsley team after his £115,000 move, Hibs have picked up a player with real potential. Mallan got his Hibs career off to a good start with two goals on his debut last week, and is likely to be a key fixture of Neil Lennon’s fluid and progressive system.
Burnley to Rangers – Free transfer
The arrival of Scott Arfield at Ibrox is one of the most surprising moves of the summer, but one of the most exciting nonetheless. A significant part in Burnley’s impressive Premier League campaign, Arfield was expected to have plenty suitors in the English Premier League, but a move to Glasgow was high on his priorities.
A versatile midfielder who is comfortable on both the wing and centrally, Arfield will bring something new to a busy midfield department at Ibrox. The Livingston born midfielder returns to the Scottish Premiership after successful spells at both Huddersfield and then Burnley, helping the latter to a European spot in his final season. Arfield will bring a huge work-rate and valuable experience to a fractured Rangers midfielder that is aiming to be mended by new manager Gerrard.
Impressive in his younger years at Falkrik, Rangers domestic opponents will be well aware of what Arfield is capable of and his arrival in Glasgow demonstrates the power that his new gaffer has in attracting players from the Premier League to Scotland.
Norwich City to Hearts – Loan
The return of Steven Naismith cannot be underestimated for Hearts fans. His value both on the field and off it has massive significance for the Jambos, and another loan move for the Scotland international allows the club to bring in one of the league’s top talents for not a penny. Despite only scoring four goals in sixteen appearances in the tail-end of last season, Naismith brings a level of maturity and experience to the Hearts side which was largely missing for the best part of the campaign. The forward stated that a big part of his reason to return to Edinburgh was the role he had in influencing the younger generation of Hearts stars that broke in to the team during last season. Naismith makes no secret around his desire to help younger players such as Cochrane and MacDonald develop, as the former Rangers man reaches the twilight years of his career.
The announcement of Naismith’s return was met with huge relief in the Hearts support, as the forward looked better as each game passed towards the end of last season. After troubles with injury since his £8m to Norwich in 2016, Naismith is likely to benefit from an injury-free pre-season ahead of Hearts’ opener on August 4th. Jambos will be excited at the prospect of Lafferty and Naismith lining back up together in the 2018/19 season.
Grasshoppers to Hibernian – £100,000
After losing Anthony Stokes in January, Hibs fans will be forgiven for fearing the worst as their promising campaign threatened to stutter at the start of the year. However, Lennon’s side was galvanised after clever recruitment late in the window. The Leith side went on a twelve game unbeaten run as new strikers Jamie Maclaren and Florian Kamberi fired Hibs up the table in a campaign that gave the Hibees their highest ever points total. It was the latter that really impressed fans and media alike, with Swiss born striker Kamberi notching twelve goals in fifteen games as well as one of the best goals per 90 ratios in the entire country.
Hibs’ had fortunately inserted an option to buy clause in to Kamberi’s loan deal, which allowed the Easter Road side to secure the strikers return for as little as £100,000. The figure is made all the more impressive after Hibs agreed to sell back-up forward Simon Murray for 50% more in a move to South African club Bidvest Wits. Kamberi’s permanent signing is a massive bonus for Lennon, who bemoaned a lack of funds to keep their top talents in a typical post-match rant. At just 23, Kamberi brings pace, power as well as a level of physicality not matched by any other striker at the club. The Swiss’ ability to press high and chase balls in behind means that Hibs were one of the league’s highest scorers last season, and will be hoping to build on that further when they start against Motherwell in two weeks. With a hat-trick on his European debut, Kamberi looks like he’s ready to go again in 2018/19.
PSG to Celtic – £9 million
In June, Celtic broke a long-standing transfer record to secure the services of French striker Osdonne Edouard after an impressive season-long loan. A record which had been in place since Chris Sutton moved to Glasgow in 2000, Edouard’s £9m move demonstrates Brendan Rodger’s faith in the young French striker. Initially seen as a replacement for England-bound Moussa Dembele, Edouard returned to Celtic Park after winning over the Celtic fans in a campaign which included eight goals, three of which against Old Firm rivals Rangers. It is likely that Edouard will line up alongside his compatriot Dembele rather than replacing him, and their Celtic team-mates reckon it is the most fearsome strike partnership in the country.
Edouard forced his way in to the Celtic side in the New Year, after previously afforded little chances whilst Leigh Griffiths was fit and firing. Now it is Scotland’s number nine who is playing catch up, as Edouard is seen as the preferred option, starring in both of Celtic’s 3-0 wins over Alashkert.
Celtic ended last season in spectacular fashion, picking up a double-treble with Edouard at the heart of it. Nicknamed ‘French Eddy’ by the Hoops support, Celtic will be hoping for an eight consecutive title with the help of their 21 year-old striker. Edouard offers phenomenal dribbling ability, and his finishing prowess in the box is matched by his capability to shoot from distance. A striker who ‘has it all’ according to his manager, Edouard will be hoping to justify his large price tag with success on all four fronts for Celtic.