There are some rumours that won’t go away and Lawrence Shankland to Stoke City is proving to be very difficult to shift.
Shankland has been producing Roy of the Rovers-style scoring exploits for Ayr United and Dundee United, who this season he has fired to the top of the Scottish Championship while winning his first Scotland cap.
And like with any prolific striker – 29 goals in 35 appearances in 2019/20 – transfer gossip been quick to attach to the 24-year-old – not least links to Stoke, Celtic and Rangers.
Now The Daily Record reckons that Stoke’s Championship rivals Nottingham Forest have joined the queue of suitors.
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They report: “Lawrence Shankland is set to find himself at the centre of a tug of war between Stoke City and Nottingham Forest. Both clubs are reportedly keen on a summer swoop. Shankland was initially a target for Stoke and Forest in January and they are to renew that interest.
“United are in a strong position to negotiate a fee for Shankland as he signed a three-year contract when he joined the club last summer.”
So… what has already been said about Shankland and any possible exit?
Lawrence Shankland on the rumours
Shankland has always been diplomatic when quizzed on reports.
This month he told the Football Daft podcast : “It’s always the same – it’ll probably start again soon.
“If you’ve done well, people just automatically [think] any time there’s a scout at the game ‘they’re there to watch you’ – and they’re probably not, they’re there to watch somebody else.
“With Stoke, Rangers and Celtic that was the three strongest rumours and I hadn’t heard from any of them at all.”
Shankland’s goals have helped Dundee United reclaim their place in the top flight for the first time since 2016.
They were 14 points clear when play stopped in March and were handed the title when clubs voted to curtail the season.
Shankland previously said: “I am happy at Dundee United and I don’t see any reason to move just now.
“It is flattering knowing that there interest from big clubs in England and Scotland. It is great to hear and read but I genuinely believe that Dundee United is the best place for me at this stage in my career.
“United are a team on the up and why would I want to leave the club just now? I came here to get Dundee United back into the Premiership and that is what I plan to do. I know how desperate everybody is to get the club back in the Premiership and it would have been wrong for me to even think about leaving just now.
“The fans and everybody at the club have waited long enough to get back to the Premiership and I want to be part of a Dundee United squad that takes this club back where they belong.”
Will Stoke be looking for targets in Scotland?
Stoke boss Michael O’Neill has made three signings since taking charge in November – Jordan Thompson from Blackpool, Tashan Oakley-Boothe from Tottenham and James Chester on loan from Aston Villa.
But he has been linked with many more from north of the border and that is not a coincidence.
“The attraction of the market is that players from Scotland going down to England see it as a massive opportunity.” he said in an interesting interview with Martin Spinks.
“It’s a much bigger league and obviously 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 Premier 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.
“What’s happening up here, as a result of the financial struggle, is that 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 essentially are the players worth monitoring and keeping an eye on.”
Shankland’s teammates on the gossip
Liam Smith, who has played with Shankland at Ayr and Dundee United, has not been surprised by the column inches.
He told the Dundee Courier: “If he gets a big-money move away then it would be detrimental to the team but it would be great for Lawrence. We will need to see what happens.
“I’m pretty sure the club will do all they can to keep him at the club but his goalscoring record will attract interest from a lot of clubs.”
He added: “(But Dundee United) is an attractive place from top to bottom.
“Since the owner has come in he has steadied the ship and we are definitely club that is going in the right direction. It is a good place to play and even more so now we are back in the Premiership.
“The attraction of England is always there but I don’t see Lawrence being in a hurry to leave.”
Former Scotland forward Steven Thompson, who played with Shankland at St Mirren, would be amazed if he stayed.
“Lawrence was at St Mirren with me and he’s kicked on brilliantly,” he told The Courier.
“He’s always had the ability to be a really good finisher and that predatory instinct with both feet and his head.
“The one thing he didn’t always have when he was younger was the penny hadn’t dropped in terms of what it takes to be a top athlete. I’m not just talking about his body but mentally as well. I think now, certainly, his condition has improved.
“If you want to be a top footballer nowadays, you’ve got to devote yourself to it. I think he’s trying to make the best of his career now because when you’re young it’s difficult to get in that mindset.
“I’m delighted for him getting his Scotland caps and his goal record over the last few years is just incredible. I’ll be amazed if Dundee United hang onto him after the summer.
“I know they want to keep him but there’ll be bids coming in left, right and centre. It’s up to the club to block those bids. His contribution this season has been so good and, becoming an international, I don’t know if they can turn down the money for him.
“He’ll feel as though he wants to get that move to set him up a bit, too. Whether that’s going to the Old Firm or down south, every player wants that big break. He deserves that opportunity for what he’s done on a consistent basis.”
Dundee United manager on the speculation
Robbie Neilson has been weighing up how the transfer market will be affected by the crisis of 2020.
“I would like to sign Lawrence up on a longer contract but you have to be a realist as well,” he told The Courier.
He added: “Will the financial situation in football help us keep him? Possibly but nobody really knows at the moment. The game is going to take a hit everywhere but until it settles down we won’t know where people are financially.
“People will always want to buy goalscorers so there will be interest in him but it all depends on what level. It will depend on what happens down south because that’s where he will likely go.
“There will be interest in him but it all depends whether it’s from the right clubs or not.”
What have the board said?
Dundee United sporting director Tony Asghar has not given up hope of keeping his prized asset.
“We will be carrying out a recruitment process to get players of the calibre to play in the Premiership,” Ashgar told The Courier.
He added: “We hope to make a statement that we will not just come back down because United fans won’t accept us being a yo-yo club.
“I think since Lawrence has come here, there has been debate about what level he’s at.
“He hasn’t played in Premiership – I know he was a young player at Aberdeen – so this is his chance to show people he is one of the top strikers in Scotland without a doubt.
“Teams will always show an interest in players who have scored a lot of goals.
“We, though, would love to keep Lawrence here and would love for him to continue his journey with us in the Premiership.
“You never know what can happen in football and Lawrence would be pivotal to how we would return for pre-season.
“He has bought a house up in Dundee so maybe next season we will be talking about Lawrence scoring goals in the Premiership.”