Stoke boss Michael O’Neill has revealed he plans to raid Scotland’s cash-strapped clubs as soon as the transfer market opens for business.
The former Northern Ireland boss has already begun drawing up a summer wish list of some of the SPFL’s top young talent from his Edinburgh home and believes he can attract them to the Potteries by cashing
in on the strained financial climate.
And O’Neill has told his club’s fans not to turn their noses up at his targets just because they play north of the border.
He said: “The problem people have with Scottish football is that they probably watch it on TV and at times it doesn’t look like a great spectacle because at certain games the stadium is a little bit empty, while the other thing is you see games on artificial pitches.
“It’s about assessing the level of play and then try to benchmark whether those players could step up and play in the Championship.
“There’s players that have clearly done that – John McGinn at Aston Villa and Kenny Mclean who went to Norwich. Both of them got promoted with their teams and were very important players to their teams.
“So it’s about trying to find that level of player.”
O’Neill says his spree is likely to focus on the best young emerging talent in the Scottish Premiership.
He said: “Players from Scotland going down to England see it as a massive opportunity. It’s a much bigger league and financially it’s far more rewarding.
“Typically, you’ll get a player with a good attitude who’s hungry to succeed.
“The other thing about the Scottish league is that there's a lot of young players. You can come up here and find 21 year-olds who’ve played a hundred games and that’s quite hard to find in English football, certainly in the Championship and Premier League level.
“As a result of the financial struggle, clubs have to develop their own players and that means at every club,
typically, there’s young players getting the opportunity to play first-team football.
“Those are the ones worth monitoring and keeping an eye on. We wouldn’t typically look at players who’ve been in Scottish football for a long time as we don’t see them as having the right profile.
“But certainly the younger ones are worth considering.”
And O’Neill also plans possible swoops to mop up some of our game’s best foreign imports.
He said: “Scottish clubs can be a first stop for a player who comes into British football, look at the likes of Virgil van Dijk coming into Celtic.
“So there’s players who maybe come into Hearts, Hibs or Aberdeen and it’s a case of keeping an eye on the situation.”