SPFL ones to watch: Charlie Telfer (Dundee United)
For the last decade we’ve constantly heard Scottish teams talk about downsizing, shrinking budgets and making the best of what they have. One of the few positives predicted to come from this austerity would be that young Scottish players may be given a chance to develop in a competitive environment. Perhaps I expected too much from clubs, but up until last season I had been pretty disappointed with the progress of youngsters in our professional leagues. Yes, they were getting game time, but it appeared the quality just wasn’t there. Or rather, the potential was there but before we had a chance to see the quality, a mid sized English Championship or League One team would snap them up and another prospect would fade into obscurity.
Last season gave me cause for hope. In my opinion we saw the finest crop of Scottish youngsters to progress collectively in a generation. Few things give a fan greater satisfaction than seeing a home grown talent prosper. 2014 saw an increase in crowds for a number of clubs, in no small part down to the positivity that comes from young players excelling. Not only did we see these players making a positive influence on matches, we also saw an increased level of technical ability – Gauld, Armstrong, Robertson, May, Pawlett & Henderson to name but a few.
So with this renewed optimism, I’ve set myself the challenge of shining the spotlight on the next set of youngsters who will hopefully make a positive contribution to our game throughout this season.
First, a few ground rules. This is not a transfer column. My mantra is that regular football is the best way a player can progress, regardless of which team they play for. If the player is getting game time at their current club – let them continue to flourish. Our leagues will only get stronger if teams are allowed to maintain and build on talent. I want stronger Scottish Leagues which result in a wider pull of resources available to the national squad.
Secondly, I’ll do my best to avoid overhyping players by referring to them as ‘the new McStay’ or conversely ‘the new Riordan’ etc. Life’s hard enough without the burden of being compared to a player that’s had an outstanding/tragic career elsewhere. Can you imagine if we had that in our own jobs:
“I hear Friel’s the next Michael Brown.” (You probably don’t know Michael, but trust me he knows his way around a spreadsheet!)
Everyone has their own circumstances and rates of development, let’s just stick to indentifying potential and wishing youngsters all the best with their careers.
Finally, at the end of each article, I’ll have a ‘Where Are They Now‘ section – a look at some of the potential that has passed through our leagues in recent years. Some will have flourished, others may not, but hopefully it will add a little perspective on how a player’s career can develop.
Charlie Telfer: An eye on first team action
Let’s get started.
Given Dundee United led the way with youth progression last season, it seems a natural place to start indentifying a prospect for this season. A player that has caught the eye during the Arabs early pre-season has been Charlie Telfer, an attack minded midfielder pinched from Murray Park earlier this summer.
The Scotland under-19 cap was considered the poster boy for ‘Rangers Football in the Community’ scheme, however in June 2014, Telfer decided the best step for his career progression would be to move to a team that has earned a pedigree in youth development.
On signing for United, he was quoted “I have watched how the young players at United ar allowed to develop in the first team and that has been a big reason in my decision to join the club.“
This was undoubtedly a blow for the Ibrox side as both Ally McCoist and Mark Wotte (SFA performance director) have stated their admiration for the young playmaker. However, McCoist’s continued reliance on dipping into the over 30’s second-hand basket suggests promotion to the top flight ranks far higher than youth development on the Ibrox priority list. A short sighted approach, but understandable given the complete lack of accountability shown in the Ibrox boardroom.
In an interview with the Dundee Courier during July, Telfer summarised his ambitions for the season. “My personal aim is to try and impress the manager and show him I deserve to be in his plans for the first competitive match of the season.”
Telfer’s upright running style portrays a player confident with the ball at his feet, looking to make things happen in the opposition half. This quality is a good fit for the counter attack style Jackie McNamara has built at Tannadice. In addition to awareness, McNamara highlights the youngster’s set piece delivery as a further benefit to the squad.
As Telfer no longer qualifies for under 19 duty (must be born in 1996 or later for this season’s Euro qualifiers), he’ll need to make a positive impression at United in order to continue international progress with the under 21s. Like Gauld, Telfer has a slight frame and as such, it may take a few months for him to find a level of consistency. Having said that, the Premiership isn’t nearly as physical as it was a decade ago, despite the presence of Keith Lasley still hoofing around.
My hope for the beginning of this season is that the media spend more time talking about Telfer’s performances on the park than the fallout over his development fee. Whilst I am firmly in Steven Thompson’s camp in terms of the impending transfer tribunal, in the grand scheme of things it’s an unwanted distraction for the youngster.
Where are they now? – Scott Arfield
This might surprise you, but Scott Arfield made over 100 appearances for Falkirk’s first team before he moved to Huddersfield in 2010 at the age of 21. During this time he also racked up 17 Scotland under 21 caps. I was a big fan of Arfield and was pleased to see Falkirk showing determination to keep him in Scotland for as long as possible. Ultimately, Falkirk slipping down the league made it an impossible feat to keep hold of the talented midfielder and he moved for a reported £400,000-£600,000 – not a sum to be sniffed at.
Arfield’s first two seasons at the Terrier’s could be considered a success, making 38 appearances during the 2011/2012 season that resulted in promotion to the Championship via the playoffs. However, 2012/2013 was a low point as appearances became few and far between and the young man from Livingston was released at the end of the season.
This has proved an all too common occurrence for young Scotsman down south in the last decade, but, there’s a positive twist in this story. Arfield earned a contract at Burnley in July 2013 and made an immediate contribution. His 9 goals in 49 competitive appearances played a significant part in the Claret’s promotion to the Premier League. This contribution was rewarded in the summer with a 2 year extension on his contract up to 2017. On signing the extension, Arfield expressed his delight at his change in fortune.
“We had a great year last season and this is a club is going in the right direction so I’m made up to be a part of that,” he told Burnley’s official website. “I felt like I was getting back to my best last season and a massive factor behind that was because I was enjoying my football and I felt I could go out and express myself.”
Personally, I’m really looking forward to Scott having a shot at the Premier League as I believe it’s well deserved. Arfield’s a great example to youngsters who have been released from a contract, as he’s proven it’s possible to pick yourself up from disappointment and continue to build momentum in a career. Fingers crossed he starts the season well. If so, it’s only a matter of time before Strachan considers him worthy of a senior international call up.
Best of luck to both Charlie & Scott this season.