Morning all. A couple of Hearts-related news items to chew over, the most prominent of those being Jordan McGhee and the resurrection of his loan move to Middlesbrough which had originally broken down during last season’s January transfer window.
When the news first broke back in January, I couldn’t comprehend how any of the relevant parties would benefit from such an arrangement and, truth be told, my perplexity hadn’t changed much when the story re-emerged on Sunday. Having pondered it for longer, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that (for the two clubs at least) it’s a relatively low-risk piece of business. Certainly from Middlesbrough’s point of view, they acquire a young prospect with undoubted development potential. If McGhee shows enough promise as part of their U21 side over the course of this season, they have first option to sign him; if not, they send him back without suffering any kind of loss.
Given what Robbie Neilson has said about McGhee in the past, I am convinced he would have wanted the youngster to stay and fight for a first team place, though with Alim Ozturk, John Souttar and Igor Rossi ahead of him in the pecking order, this would have required the kind of patience that McGhee appeared to have run out of. Whether of his own accord or with the help of an agent massaging his ego, it’s become pretty clear over the past two seasons that the boy has grown disillusioned with life at Tynecastle and sees his future elsewhere. From Hearts’ point of view, therefore, this loan deal prevents the situation from escalating and having an adverse effect on the rest of the squad. As Robbie Neilson said yesterday:
“We didn’t feel it was right to keep a player here who didn’t want to be here. He has been desperate to go down to England for the last couple of years. Middlesbrough came in for him in January and the deal fell through, so he has had his heart set on it for the last little period.”
It’s a U-turn (albeit not an entirely unexpected one) from Neilson on the matter, when you consider that this time last year he was talking about his reasons for knocking back a £250,000 bid from Ipswich for the same player, stating not only that it was nowhere near meeting the club’s valuation, but also the need for players like McGhee to gain appropriate experience before making such moves. It’s a mantra that appears to have resonated with the likes of Callum Paterson and Jamie Walker, both of whom have registered well over 100 first team starts and appear to have been well-advised to stay put and develop their games in Scotland. For McGhee, however, not a lot has changed since that Ipswich bid was rejected, with the young defender having only played a handful more games in the Premiership (many of which were substitute appearances). The only party I believe to be at risk in this Boro switch, therefore, is McGhee himself.
Of course, there is always the possibility that he impresses during his loan spell, wins a permanent deal and goes onto enjoy a long, prosperous career at a higher level than Scottish football. Unfortunately, there have been many players in McGhee’s position before who still bear the scars of premature career moves gone wrong. In recent years, the likes of Danny Wilson, Scott Allan and Fraser Fyvie have all struggled to make the grade south of the border, having been lured away as starry-eyed teenagers with relatively little first team experience behind them. The fact that all three returned to Scotland before their 23rd birthdays speaks volumes and suggests they may have flown too close to the sun too early in their careers. Even the so-called “Scottish Messi” Ryan Gauld (whose £3m move to Sporting Lisbon was widely celebrated as a step in the right direction for the development of young Scottish talent) has seen his career stall somewhat as he continues to flounder in the Portuguese giants’ B team. Taking the above into account, history does not appear to be on McGhee’s side.
One young player who is more than happy to be at Tynecastle, however, is our new Bulgarian striker Nikolay Todorov. Speaking ahead of tonight’s Europa League second leg against FC Infonet in Tallinn, the 19-old expressed his delight with the start to his Hearts career, which included an unexpected place on the bench for last week’s home leg.
“It was an amazing experience to be on the bench in the Europa League last week. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. It was very good to see the crowd and be part of such a big tournament. It was very pleasing that we won. We need to be positive after last Thursday and go and try and win the game in Estonia. It’s up to the manager if I play against Infonet, but I’m working hard and, if the coaches feel I can help, I’ll be ready.”
With Juanma and Conor Sammon still in the early days of their strike partnership, it’s highly unlikely Todorov will start the game. Even from the bench, while the Estonian national stadium may not exactly be the proverbial lions’ den, this tie is currently on such a knife-edge that I believe it would take a pretty comfortable score-line in our favour for Robbie Neilson to contemplate giving Todorov his debut. It may simply have been the naivety of youth clouding his perception of Tynecastle last week, but the Bulgarian has clearly still to experience just how volatile the Hearts support can be when a striker doesn’t instantly show signs of scoring 25 goals a season like…like…no…wait, I can’t recall any Hearts player doing that in the past 20 years either…
Nevertheless, as impressive as his determination is, a European tie where we desperately require a goal may not be the ideal starting point for a relatively inexperienced front man so early on in his Hearts career (just ask Jamie Mole).
Anyway, that’s all for today. If you’re in Tallinn for the game tonight, enjoy your night and have a safe journey home.
Originally published at maroonspecs.wordpress.com on July 6, 2016.