Guest writer Alan Temple looks at why David Goodwillie and Kenny Miller must give serious thought to any offers from abroad which come their way this January.

 

There is a real temptation to file Kenny Miller’s link to Fiorentina/Marseille and David Goodwillie’s supposed interest from Kaiserslautern firmly under ‘B.S. for Bullsh*t Scotland’; a folder which, incidentally, is already looking obscenely rotund following the insertion of Scott Brown to Inter Milan, Kris Boyd to Lazio and Adam Rooney to Kuban Krasnodar in recent weeks.

However, if there proves to be substance behind these links then it would be foolhardy for the two players to cast aside moves which could potentially shape and enhance the rest of their playing days, and their potential coaching careers beyond that, simply because they could earn more money in the sickeningly wealthy Barclay’s Premier League.

The list of Scottish players who have chosen moves abroad in recent years (for the sake of brevity let’s call ‘recent times’ the last 25 years) ahead of moves down south or to the Old Firm is a fairly short, yet illustrious, roll-call of talent – and the experiences gained, the good habits picked up and the new football philosophies awakened in some of these players should serve as a lure for Kenny and David to shake of this island mentality and broaden their horizons.

Former Motherwell workhorse Paul Lambert headed to the Bundesliga after a couple of impressive seasons in the holding role with Motherwell. Lambert could have headed down south or to another Scottish club, but he took a risk and gained the most prolific of rewards.

Within a year ‘Lambo’ was a European Champion and was garnering praise from all quarters for marking Zinedine Zidane out of the 1997 Champions’ League Final. Paul would go on to have a glittering career with Celtic, captaining the Celts during a seven year time at the club – and displaying a technical proficiency, calmness and positional awareness which, funnily enough, was not quite so evident before he played in Germany.

John Collins is a wonderful example of a successful Scottish export. Already an established star with Hibs and Celtic, Collins left Scottish football to head to Monte Carlo in 2007. The 58-times capped midfielder spent two years with AS Monaco and became a fans’ favourite due to him sublime technique, passing range and habitual goal threat. Although he was already a very diligent worker, his time in France also helped Collins refine his fitness methods.

As a coach Collins has his detractors, but I firmly believe he implemented some superb methods of technical and fitness training at Easter Road which he partly gleaned from his time with AS Monaco. He led Hibs to their first trophy in 15 years, with their stunning 5-1 League Cup Final demolition of Kilmarnock in 2007. The fact Collins was forced out by player power after he had the audacity to try and get Michael Stewart fit is a sad indictment of the mentality in this country.

In between the spells with both sides of the Old Firm which made him such a west coast pariah Mo Johnston enjoyed two years with Nantes, racking up a cracking 1:3 goal ratio after more than 60 games in Pays de la Loire. Mo returned to Scotland a classier player, with much-improved link-up play, excellent stamina and superior technique to when he initially left Celtic.

Even the players who can hardly be called roaring successes abroad have good things to say about their experiences. Maurice Ross, now playing in China with Beijing Guoan after spells with Viking Stavanger in Norway and Kocaelispor in Turkey, described his time in Turkey as ‘an eye-opening experience’ and insisted ‘I would rather not play in Britain again’ (speaking in 2009).

The precociously talented Charlie Miller has described, in the past, how his time in Bergen with SK Brann taught him about fitness and nutrition and got him as fit as he had ever been. This was an aim he never managed to achieve during his time in Scotland, among the hangers-on, bad influences and distractions.

Scott Booth, who played for Borussia Dortmund as well as FC Utrecht in Holland, has also praised his time abroad, citing it as a huge learning curve in his career and life.

Now, tell me, do players who flop in the English Premier League or the Championship come back home with positive things to say about their failed attempt to crack “The Greatest League in the World” (© Sky Sports)? Very occasionally, and certainly not with nearly the same regularity that plays praise what they have learned and seen abroad.

David Goodwillie has all the time in the world to earn a fortune in his playing career. Fellow professionals speak very highly of the Stirling-born striker, and all suggestions are that he will go on to have a hugely successful career. Yet, he could be a far better player by the time he does, inevitably, go for the big bucks in England if he has the bravery and foresight to consider a spell in the Bundesliga with Kaiserslautern. He will learn different coaching methods, a different culture, other tactical frameworks and differing playing styles; there is simply no way that will not make you a more well-rounded player, and give you a huge advantage over other players who have confined themselves to Great Britain for 20 years.

Plus, it’s not as if the lad will be living in poverty if he joins FCK. The Bundesliga is an exceedingly profitable top division, with superb attendance levels and excellent wages. I’m sure a couple of years living off a wage which is perhaps £3,000 or £4,000 per week less than he would earn in England would not hinder his eventual career earnings too much. Plus, he would grow immeasurably as a person too.

Kenny Miller, at 31, is, of course, a different case – but the argument for him to move to the continent are no less persuasive. Kenny talks a lot of sense in the flesh when it comes to football, and should he decide to pursue a coaching career he could learn a hell of a lot about the game abroad, as well as getting the chance to showcase his skills on a new stage.

For goodness sake, does he really want to go back to another relegation battle down south; how many times does this guy want to get relegated? He would have to be: A) daft, B) a masochist or C) has an unparalleled dislike for foreign cuisine to turn down Firenze or Marseille for a trip to Brum.

I have a horrible feeling my plea for these guys to flee abroad will fall on deaf ears. Money talks, and familiarity appeals to players from these shores – and it is sad because they are potentially passing up the chance to grow as players, coaches and people.

As well as writing fantastic articles like this, Alan can also be found on the wonderful Terrace Podcast, where they put the world of Scottish football to rights on a weekly basis. Make sure to tune in to their excellent show.

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10 comments

January 10th, 2011

With all the success stories that you mention, there are also bad experiences. Garry O’Connor didnt have the best of times in Moscow and i’m sure he was quoted as saying it was a lonely time. (apologies, but i cant find the interview despite some googling).

I think it really depends on what type of person you are, whether you have the bottle to do it. The easy solution is to move a few hours down the road to England.

January 10th, 2011

Undeniably, you have to have the willnigness to embrace a new culture and learn a new language. But, if you do I reckon the rewards are huge on every conceivable level.

Garry O’Connor was/is an idiot, and that move could have made him grow up. He made no effort so it didn’t.

David Goodwillie has displayed facets of the same personality traits, if he’d be willing to get off these shores it could turn him into a man, rather than a spoiled boy.

But, as you say, there are no guarentees.

gibfootball

January 10th, 2011

With regards to O’Connor I think it was James Appell the Russian Football expert that says he was mis-quoted about his time in Russia, apparently Garry actually really enjoyed it but it was his wife and kid that couldn’t settle and that’s why it went badly. Would need to find the quote to back that up though.

Again I think it has to be the right players, conditions, club support, a lot of factors need to be right for it to work.

Good article though :)

SMcCue83

January 10th, 2011

The best example of a Scot going abroad & reaping rewards for me has to be Craig Brewster.
After his spell in Greece, he came back to Scotland a far superior all-round player and indeed far fitter which saw him still making appearances and scoring goals in the SPL at the age of 40.

January 10th, 2011

Nice piece, something I totally agree with, in part thanks to the likes of Celtic men Lambert, Collins, Brian o’Neill and the others you mentioned.

People speak of the Scottish game being in trouble, and yes to some extent we need to keep our best players here.. but given recent money woes (best demonstrated in this ten team spl malarky) Scottish sides need to embrace the selling mentality. Guys like goodwillie templeton et al perhaps need to start thinkin about developing their game and not necessarily the fat pay checks and warm benches of England..

January 10th, 2011

Scott Mc:

Brewster was an absolute oversight on my part! If I was to draft again he would be in there. He returned from Greece with completely different ideas on fitness and trainng methods and extended his career in to the 40′s because of it. Great shout.

January 10th, 2011

I totally agree with you Alan, not enough British players never mind Scots try playing abroad.

Miller has won things in Scotland & played in the EPL. Why should he not try a new country especially when he is in peak form. I think with his pace & work rate he could do a decent job in Serie A but the only way we will find out is if he goes.

Very good Article.

gibfootball

January 10th, 2011

I’m now jealous that Alan’s piece has generated more discussion than anything I’ve ever done :( *goes to corner and sulks*

Might just take his name off it.

January 11th, 2011

This issue isn’t just isolated to football. British people in general tend to be less willing to experience some or all of their career abroad across all disciplines.

I would love to incorporate some overseas experience into my CV and if I were a footballer I would be no different.

January 25th, 2011

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