Ready to pounce – Stoke City boss reveals why he likes this corner of the transfer market



Michael O’Neill is ready to plunder the Scottish transfer market if the right player is available at the right price.

The Stoke boss admits he’s a big fan of the game in Scotland and believes there are gems, some hidden better than others, which can prove an asset to Championship clubs.

Stoke were linked with Aberdeen striker Sam Cosgrove and Dundee United goal getter Lawrence Shankland in January, while more recently there was a report saying he liked the look of Hamilton left back Scott McMann.

Speaking from his family home north of the border, O’Neill told StokeonTrentLive: “The problem people have with Scottish football is that they probably watch it on television 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 there that have clearly done that, the likes of John McGinn (Aston Villa) and Kenny McClean who went to Norwich, and 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.”

He says younger Scottish players would cross the border with an appetite he finds tasty.

“The attraction of the market is that players from Scotland going down to England see it as a massive opportunity.” he continued.

“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.

“We wouldn’t typically be looking at players who’ve been in Scottish football for a long time because we don’t see them as having the right profile for the kind of player we’d like. 

“But certainly the younger ones are worth considering.”

And he says there are overseas signings worth a punt after they have dipped their toe in Scotland first.

“Scottish clubs can be a first stop for a player who comes into British football and you look at the likes of (Virgil) van Dijk coming into Celtic.

“I remember watching both players when they came in.

“So there’s players who maybe come into Hearts, Hibs or Aberdeen and it’s a case of keeping an eye on the situation.

“And it’s an easy market to keep control of because it’s a small league and I have staff from Northern Ireland who are based here in Scotland.

“So we have a strong handle on the players who are up here and who are potentially a player worth keeping an eye on.”





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