28 May 2013

Remember remember, the 1st of September

by Peter Ewart | Contributor

Image from @GersQuotes
For those looking for signings it’s been a good week. And we certainly have got hold of very talented players in Nickys Law and Clark. 

For those with one eye on the money, they seem very good signings but further additions to an over-inflated wage bill.

A while ago our Assignments Editor, Alan Clark, discussed the potential ins and out for Division 2. There’s a lot of sense in what he says, and it is not the intention to cover that ground again. 

We are putting together the makings of a very strong looking squad. And one that looks far too strong for SFL2 only.

There are two possible explanations for that. 

First of all, the longer the reconstruction debacle continues without resolution, the more suspicions rise about the looming prospect of an SPL2 and the potential for Rangers to be invited or involved. Of all the things that have been leaked in Scottish football this year, the mystery surrounding the details of the Sky TV deal remains watertight and whether or not it demands Rangers in the second tier this year. In the absence of any facts, conspiracy theories are abound. 

Whether or not an SPL2 with Rangers in it happens remains to be seen, but there is no doubt it would be (another) divisive issue for the fans. It would however explain the significant squad strengthening. Directors, whoever they may be at that point, would be likely to go for an SPL2 option if it was presented, but they would also do well to consider that it may take a hit to season tickets and other revenue with disgruntled fans. If they thought that would have a significant effect they could well have safe enough grounds to proceed with SFL2, whilst meeting their duty to shareholders.

Secondly, and perhaps more implausibly, there may actually be a medium to long term plan being put in place. We are signing very good players, preparing for SFL2 but we have one eye on a couple of seasons’ time back in the top tier in Scotland and we are rebuilding our decimated playing squad accordingly. Far-fetched? A little perhaps, but I’m not ruling it out.

I know there won’t be sell-on value but Jon Daly is certainly one signing I can live with. When we were losing our way in performances last year the team was crying out for leaders. Daly brings that to the table and will help bring the younger players on, in a way we saw when the likes of Chris Hegarty played alongside Jig at the back last year. But as signings of 30 and over go, Daly should be the start and end of the story. No Novo, no Miller – there’s absolutely no need.

So why have we seen ins and yet no outs?

Nicky Law and Nicky Clark were much in demand, out of contract and it was in effect a race to get them signed up. If press reports are to be believed they had decent offers from down south.

That there are no outs yet can’t be a surprise yet either. Not many of the playing squad set the heather alight in SFL3 so the offers may not have been flooding in the door. For those that did excel (Little and MacLeod spring to mind) I sincerely hope the club keep them and continue to keep them at the centre of our plans.

The other reason is of course that new signings cannot be registered or play until September 1st. If we take the period to September 1st last season, that would cover up to seven games. Three league games, but perhaps more importantly potentially four cup games. Two Ramsden's Cup games and two League Cup games. Those will have to be negotiated with the squad that ended last season less whoever may leave before the games are played. We’ll be in the South West section of the Ramsden’s this year, as opposed to the North East where we took Dundee’s place last year, so a Morton or a Hamilton is a possibility in the first round.

The League Cup will most likely be seeded again, so chances are we’ll play a First Division side again. None of these teams should pose anything that we shouldn’t be able to cope with, but is it a possible reason that players may be kept on and released later rather than sooner. The team in August could bear little resemblance to the team in September.

I wouldn’t count on trialists being a way through either – on the face of it two trialists could play in the first round of the Ramsden Cup and in league games, up to three games per trialist. I suspect there will be a discussion around such rules with the SFA, so clarity on the issue may be a way off.

How many different players will have started in the team by the middle of September? The mind boggles. There will have to be a trimming down of the squad, the finances demand it, those players who may be left on the fringes at 1 September should want away and the management too should demand it.

The timing will be the key to it and will be a mix of players wanting away when the right deal comes up with the management having to keep an eye on the first five weeks of the season whilst being able to move on the players no longer in their plans. By the time Bell, Clark, Law and Daly etc become fully available, the club will want to have ensured progress in both cups as well as getting a good start to the league.

But that will all be part of the plan, right?