10 Players Whose Careers Were Hindered By Joining The Old Firm
News broke a few days ago that 21-year-old Rangers winger Jake Hastie would be returning to Motherwell on loan for the 2020/21 season. This signing hasn't exactly gone down to well with fans of the Fir Park side, with the club announcement being met with messages of resentment towards Hastie due to the way he left for the Glasgow side. There are many reasons why players join either of the Old Firm, with the lure of playing for one of the world's biggest clubs being hard to pass on, as well as the financial rewards and challenging to win trophies. However, in terms of football, the decision to join either Celtic or Rangers doesn't quite work out, again, for a number of different reasons and does harm their playing career. In light of Hastie's return to Motherwell, here are 10 players whose playing careers were hindered by joining one of Scotland's premier clubs.
10. Jake Hastie: Motherwell to Rangers
There's no better place to start off this list with than the most recent example of harm being done to a young career. Jake Hastie burst onto the scene in 2019, playing the second half of the season with a great run of form. A fist league start against Hibs saw him gain an assist, before going on to score in successive games against Livingston, St Mirren and Hearts, an explosive impact as he truly hit the ground running. Hastie's form earned him a PFA Young Player of the Year nomination despite only really playing for half a season, scoring 8 goals in 15 games from the wing.
Hastie was emerging as one of Scotland's brightest young talents and this caught the eye of Rangers, who promptly acted, signing him up on a four-year contract with a development fee of around £350,000. This came as quite a surprise, simply due to the quickness of his emergence and then being snapped up immediately by Rangers and with this questions were already being asked. The main one being; would he play at all at Ibrox? It didn't take long for this to become clear as Hastie made two appearances - an 11-minute cameo in the League Cup and a start against St Joseph's in the Europa League - before being shifted out to Rotherham. This spell didn't go as planned, with Hastie returning in January, making no further appearances for the Gers.
In hindsight, another season at Motherwell looks as if it would have been much more beneficial for Hastie, as the Well had a great season finishing third. The uncertainty and constant changes of environment for such a young player and lack of game-time will have done more harm than good. Even if he had been sent on loan back to Motherwell last season, it would be a set up he was familiar with and could continue to progress under Stephen Robinson. Another season at Fir Park with 30+ games would've done wonders for Hastie and would lead him to still be raved as one of Scotland's best talents, and Rangers would have a much better player on their way. Luckily, Hastie is still young and this progression may only be halted by a single year and has plenty of time to turn around his fortunes at Ibrox. Time will tell but all will be forgiven if Hastie replicates a similar standard of form as Motherwell look to build upon a strong season.
9. Mark Brown: Inverness Caledonian Thistle to Celtic
Coming through the Rangers Academy (5 appearances), Brown had a single season at Motherwell under his belt before heading to Inverness due to the club's financial difficulties. It was at Inverness though where Brown would soon become a consistent performer at the club, earning call-ups to the Scotland B squad. Brown was a valuable member of the Caley Thistle squad who seen them progress to the top flight in 2004 whilst producing solid performances, including a clean sheet as Thistle knocked Celtic out the Scottish Cup. Come 2007, Brown's contract was coming to an end in the Highlands and had a number of offers, coming from the likes of Hibernian and Falkirk but in the end, Celtic paid for the goalkeeper's services.
At the time of Brown's arrival, Celtic's current number 1 goalkeeper was the enigmatic Polish international Artur Boruc, a tremendously talented, although mad, goalkeeper in his own right. With this, Brown would be coming in as a backup keeper, and with an assumed wage increase at a club challenging in domestic cups and still in the Champions League, you couldn't really fault Brown for taking this chance. Within a few months of his arrival, he would be on the bench in the San Siro, as Celtic narrowly lost out against AC Milan with a prime Kaka scoring in extra time. Despite not participating, these experiences are hard to turn down and would end up getting a taste of the Champions League the following season.
Injury to Boruc meant Brown would start the 2007/08 season in goal, helping Celtic gain a 1-1 draw away to Spartak Moscow, making a handful of good saves in the process. Boruc would immediately regain his spot in the team and opportunities came infrequently for Brown which is perhaps what hindered him the most. Having excelled due to a great run of games, Brown was unable to replicate his Thistle form in one-off games, with notable performances against his old side and St Mirren not doing him any favours. Again, in hindsight, a straight transfer to Hibs would've allowed Brown to continue to showcase his abilities but when a Champions League side come in for you, it's extremely hard to pass on. It didn't do his playing career much good but he would soon end up at Kilmarnock on loan, before joining Hibs permanently. His career would see him enjoy spells at Ross County and Dumbarton before retiring, apparently taking up a role in the police force.
8. Nadir Ciftci: Dundee United to Celtic
Nadir Ciftci at the time seemed like a good signing for Celtic. Perhaps not quite good enough to be an immediate starter but the Turkish forward possessed a lot of potential and showcased his abilities whilst at Dundee United. Ciftci was a part of that uber exciting Dundee United squad that featured the likes of Ryan Gauld, Stuart Armstrong, Gary Mackay-Steven and future Champions League winner Andrew Robertson. This side were great to watch with Ciftci leading the line with an aggressive style of play, sometimes a bit too much. Nonetheless, he was always a presence and threat on the pitch, causing great problems to many at the mere age of 21. A great first season saw Ciftci contribute to 28 goals in 40 games which would be followed up by another 25 contributions n 42 the next season even with the loss of all the aforementioned players over the course of the season. Ciftci had clearly settled very well and proved to have quality at such a young age, tempting Celtic to move forward with a £1.5 million bid.
Ciftci would sign for Celtic and take the iconic number 7, previously held by a large number of legends like Jimmy Johnstone, Kenny Dalglish, Henrik Larsson and Freddie Ljungberg. Ciftci would start the Hoops first four Champions League games but with no goals, he was dropped against Malmo. His contention as a starter was not helped as he missed the first six games of the league season due to a ban he earned whilst at Dundee United. This would open the door for a certain Leigh Griffiths to cement his place, scoring in seven of the eight first league games of the season. Opportunities would then come scarce for Ciftci, only gaining five starts out of seventeen, with only a further six appearances off the bench. In order to get some more much-needed game time, Ciftci was sent out on loan to Turkish side Eskisehirspor for the remainder of the season. With only half a season gone by, it seemed like quite a quick reaction to send Ciftci out on loan, preferring the services of Carlton Cole and Colin Kazim Richards as an alternate to the in-form Griffiths.
These loan spells would end up being much more frequent, with Ciftci going on loan to another three teams before leaving Celtic. He never really got a proper shot at Celtic but in fairness, his loan spells didn't fill you with hope, his spell at Polish club Pogon Szczecin in particular where he was publicly outed as being 'unfit' and needed drastic improvements. It seems as if Ciftci fell out of favour and lost some of that fire he showed at Dundee United and was unable to win over any of his new managers on the pitch or in training. The additions of the likes of Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair certainly didn't help his cause as he slipped further down the pecking order. At age 28, still plenty of football potentially ahead of him, Ciftci is back in Turkey at Gençlerbirliği where he is still weaving in and out of the starting eleven. Taking Ciftci on was always a chance but with the money paid and the amount of time played, both parties would have been better off apart. Perhaps unlucky to not get a look in but Ciftci never was able to get going at all at Celtic Park.
7. Cammy Bell: Kilmarnock to Rangers
From one goalkeeper to another, Cammy Bell arriving at Rangers was quite a strange transfer. Progressing through the ranks at Kilmarnock with subsequent loan spells at Montrose and Queen of the South, Bell established himself as the number 1 at Rugby Park. From 2009 to 2013, Bell would be the main choice for the Ayrshire club, amassing 131 appearances for the club over a 5 year period. He was building up a reputation of being a solid keeper, with impressive performances catching the eye of many. Bell would win Man of the Match as Kilmarnock downed Celtic 1-0 in the 2012 League Cup Final and replicated a similar performance as his Kilmarnock side became the first to win at Celtic Park since 1955 the following season. Bell even broke into the national team earning a single cap against the Faroe Islands and callups to the squads. All was looking good for Bell with plenty of years ahead of him.
On a handful of occasions, Bell's contract status was heavily publicised, especially in 2013 as his last deal was running out. Amidst reports of a potential move to Ipswich, Bell would sign with Rangers, who were currently operating in League 1, meaning the keeper would be dropping down two divisions. Due to a transfer embargo, Bell had to play as a trialist at first before signing permanently. As expected, he was completely fine in League 1 as Rangers easily won the league with Bell keeping 19 clean sheets in 31 league games. The following season would be the most troubling for Bell, as a severe shoulder injury saw the keeper miss out on around 7 months of action, returning just in time for the end of the season. A run of fifteen games would see Bell keep only 3 clean sheets, with performance against Motherwell gaining much notoriety.
A blunder in which a bizarre moment saw a decision to punch a looping ball fumble into the net gave Motherwell the lead in the second leg of the Premiership Playoff, putting them 4-1 ahead on aggregate and sealing their status in the top flight. The game finished 3-0, 6-1 on aggregate, with Rangers and Bell suffering a high level of embarrassment. This game and the reaction afterwards definitely seemed to massively hinder Bell's confidence, as the pressure of playing for the Ibrox club was on show. His luck would get worse as another injury would see him ruled out of squads as Mark Warburton brought in Wes Foderingham who impressed and took command of the number 1 jersey. It's a sad state of affairs as Bell was a real quality keeper at Killie and definitely does have talent. Unfortunately, some rotten luck has taken the toll of his career, stemming from his decision to drop down a few leagues. This ultimately cost him further Scotland caps and freak injuries have seen his career totally spiral. Now at Queens Park under Ray MacKinnon, hopefully, Bell can get back to normal and remain injury-free and expand his career by another 5 years or so.
6. David Fernandez: Livingston to Celtic
This one absolutely hurts me the most. I love David Fernandez and adore him to my core. He is - in my opinion - my club Livingston's greatest ever player and one of the first players I grew up idolising. Arriving in Scotland to play under Steve Archibald at Airdrieonians as part of a Spanish revolution, impressing greatly as the club entered financial difficulties. With this, he would end up at Livingston, where he would have the best spell of his career. In his own and the clubs first season in the top flight, Fernandez was a standout for Livi as they remarkably finished 3rd, only behind the Old Firm. Fernandez showcased great flair over the course of the season and proved to be a great attacking threat.
After a great season, Fernandez was snapped up by Martin O'Neil's Celtic for £1 million, the record fee Livingston has received for a player that stands to this day. This is big money even in Scottish Football today so was a bright sign for the Spaniard as the Glasgow clubs showcased their desire for him to sign for the Hoops. However, the signing would prove to be questionable as Fernandez did not suit O'Neil's direct approach in the slightest which would see him struggle for game time. Fernandez was more of a player who liked the ball on the deck and at his feet, with other Celtic midfielders being much more suited to O'Neil's approach and tactics. Perhaps under a different manager, he would have succeeded, would love to imagine him in their current side. However, you can't argue with O'Neil, who managed to get the club to reach the UEFA Cup final, narrowly losing out to Jose Mourinho's Porto.
Fernandez ended up losing a few years of his career before returning to Livingston on loan and having a great influence on the club again, playing a vital role in the Lions 2004 CIS Cup win. It didn't work out for the Spaniard who eventually left at the end of his contract and could never get back to the standard shown at Livingston, with a lack of game time and injuries ending up taking its toll as he grew older. It has to go down as an example of the Old Firm taking a player off a team in the same league with no real attention of playing them, which is sad to see for a player of Fernandez standard. Now as a scout reporting to Pep Guardiola at Man City, Fernandez still has a presence in football and will always be cherished in West Lothian.
5. Lewis Morgan: St Mirren to Celtic
Celtic's signing of Lewis Morgan was extremely peculiar. Playing in the Scottish Championship, Morgan emerged as a bright talent in the 2016/17 and in the first half of the 2017/18 season for St Mirren. There's no doubt that Morgan was a good player for the Buddies, evident from the 23 goals he scored in that time period. A clever and tricky winger, Morgan helped the Paisley side shoot up the table in the latter season as they chased promotion back to the top flight. His performances caught the eye of Celtic who in January pulled the trigger on Morgan.
It's unusual for Celtic to take a jump on a player from a lower league in Scotland, perhaps with them missing out on John McGinn the previous season enforced their decision to do so. He was immediately sent back to St Mirren to ensure his playing time before the next season. Quite like Hastie, it was obvious that Morgan would not be breaking into the Celtic team any time soon, with James Forrest and Scott Sinclair enjoying good form, whilst Jonny Hayes, Mikey Johnstone and Ryan Christie being preferred in attacking areas. Morgan wasted half a season sitting on the bench or in the stands before being loaned out to Sunderland in a disappointing campaign. The following season would see him gain more opportunities at Celtic Park but as a makeshift striker in high profile matches. Morgan is certainly not a striker and was found out in the Betfred Cup final where Celtic struggled to offer much going forward before the introduction of Odsonne Edouard. He did, however, notch against Rennes in the Europa League whilst filling in for the Frenchmen. This would be his last notable contribution for the club before being shipped out to the MLS to play for David Beckham's Inter Miami.
The decision to let go of Morgan so quickly is quite surprising. Brought in as a prospect, chucked in at the deep end in high-pressure situations and then sold is quite an unusual turn of events, in a spell that may have boosted Morgan's reputation but didn't progress him much as a player. The fact he's ended up in America is quite mad as well but with the Miami lifestyle and the lure of playing for a team owned by Beckham may have been too hard to turn down, especially if he didn't see a future at Celtic Park. There's certainly still time for Morgan to reach that potential and recover his reputation, just like Jake Hastie.
4. Jack Hendry: Dundee to Celtic
Jack Hendry is a prime example of how the pressures of playing for one of these massive teams and supporters influence can have an effect on a players career. After a busy spell of three years where Hendry signed for Partick Thistle, Wigan Athletic and Dundee, alongside loan spells at Shrewsbury Town and MK Dons, Hendry signed for Celtic in 2018. Hendry's spell at Dundee saw him become a key part of their defence for the first half of the season which would help the club stay clear of relegation.
Hendry joined as a fairly young centre-half to be rotated into the squad when needed but was called into action a lot due to a number of reasons. Jozo Simunovic suffered suspensions, Dedryck Boyata basically went on strike to force a move and I'm not sure if Marvin Compper actually existed. This thrust Hendry right into the limelight and had him carry a lot of pressure as he was expected to be the finished article straight away. It can be quite unforgiving at teams with such ardent support, with players often targeted as scapegoats for everything that goes wrong. Unfortunately for Jack Hendry, he very clearly fell victim to this.
A narrative began to form around Hendry and that his presence caused Celtic to underperform as some sort of curse. A tweet began circulating highlighting Hendry's record for Celtic and the lack of wins when he is on the pitch. Now Hendry wasn't exactly amazing in these games and did make mistakes at times but to label a single player as the root of all problems is ridiculous. An eight-game spell was highlighted where Hendry started and from this, Celtic only won two. Two wins, three draws and three losses were the record but the most telling thing was the number of goals Celtic scored in these games, a shockingly low four. In comparison, Celtic only conceded five, amassing four clean sheets in this run. How can Hendry possibly be faulted for the attacking output which was clearly the downfall in each and every one of these games. Little things like this were attached to Hendry's name and every little thing was heavily scrutinised. Hendry isn't perfect, he does try to play out far too much in situations where it isn't needed but that happens so often in this modern way of playing football. That doesn't excuse it but I'm certain he's not the only culprit of doing so.
Hendry was eventually pushed out the team by new signings such as Filip Benkovic and Christopher Jullien as well as the emergence of Kristoffer Ajer - another player who can leave a lot to be desired but doesn't suffer as much scrutiny. Hendry would be shipped off to Australia for the second half of the 2019/20 season before a major injury cut it short. Perhaps with a foreign name and having come from an unknown European team, Hendry wouldn't be so heavily criticised but unfortunately, he's felt the wrath of many supporters.
3. David Templeton: Hearts to Rangers
How many players can go from scoring an equaliser at a packed Anfield in the Europa League and then three days later drop down three divisions to join a club? Incredibly so, this is the tale of David Templeton. Templeton was a real bright spark for Hearts, showcasing great skill and an end product in Gorgie. The 2010/11 season saw Templeton contribute to 16 goals for the Tynecastle side as fresh-faced 21-year-old, with a mazy run and finish against local rivals Hibs making him a firm fans favourite. He won Hearts Fans Player of the Year that season and would be nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award. The following season would see Templeton's numbers drop, with a recurring groin strain plaguing the winger who still contributed a decent 11 goals in a weaker season. Templeton was well on his way to building an impressive CV and would gain his most notable achievement, a goal at Anfield against Liverpool, despite a howler from Pepe Reina.
Three days after the extreme high of netting against one of the world's top clubs, Templeton would complete a move to Rangers. Due to financial reasons, Rangers were in the third division, meaning Templeton was trading the top flight for the bottom. For someone on the verge of breaking into the national team and was a key player at one of the divisions better teams, this was an extremely questionable move, with money being the factor labelled as to why he joined the club. Templeton would have a great first season as expected playing against part-timers, notching 16 goals and 11 assists in the bottom division. The following season would see Templeton start to get less game time, playing 1,000 fewer minutes in League 1 as his productivity fell to 3 goals and 6 assists. The season in the Championship would showcase a similar return for Templeton who was no longer showcasing the same calibre of performances whilst at Hearts whilst at a much lower level. The 2015/16 season would be the final nail in the coffin, with Templeton making three appearances over the whole season. Templeton was completely cast into the wilderness in this season, not even making the bench on most occasions. A run-in with manager of Stuart McCall over an interview seemed to seal Templeton's fate who would be completely shunned out at Ibrox. With this and a few lacklustre seasons, it was clear Templeton's move for his playing career was the wrong decision.
To many, the decision to drop down so many levels was baffling but for a Rangers fan - his name David Cooper surely not a coincidence - to be offered what you dreamt of so much as a child would be very hard to turn down. Templeton would also state that former Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov forced the move, stating Templeton would never play for Hearts again if he chose to stay. There definitely seems to be a number of factors that contributed to Templeton's decision but looking back, it seems like a wasted career. Dropping down wasted four years of his career, stunting his progress massively which Templeton would sadly never recover from. The disappointment of what happened at Rangers combined with injuries would plague Templeton but he at least would've achieved some personal goals due to his affinity for the club. It's great to see Templeton back fit and healthy, playing well for Hamilton in the top flight.
2. Lee Wallace: Hearts to Rangers
At the time, Lee Wallace to Rangers was absolutely the correct career move but what hindered Wallace was a much different reason to all these other entrants. Lee Wallace enjoyed a good spell at Hearts where his performances would see him called up for Scotland and gain interest from a number of clubs. Seven years at Hearts saw Wallace turn into a solid left-back and prompted Rangers to splash £1.5 million to make him their starting left-back. Wallace would enjoy a good first season at Ibrox, making 34 appearances in his debut campaign, cementing his place in the Rangers squad and verging on the Scotland squad too.
What would happen next was unprecedented, as Rangers would enter administration and be demoted to the third division, the bottom tier of Scottish football. With these financial difficulties, Rangers would be forced to part ways with many players, in order to make funds available or the players not being interested in playing third division football. The thing that hindered Lee Wallace's career the most was his loyalty to Rangers.
Wallace would have been welcome at many teams as a 24-year-old who was constantly progressing each season. His decision to stick by the club was commendable but not exactly the best for his playing aspirations, as his efforts would go underlooked due to the league he was playing in and fairly so in all honesty. Lee Wallace only has ten caps to his name as a left-back, these taking place years before we were spoiled with the choices of Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney in that position. Wallace would be losing out on caps to the likes of Danny Fox, Paul Dixon and Stephen Crainey as Scotland went a few years without a settled left-back. Had Wallace not stuck by the Gers and continued playing at a higher level, he would have surely gained a lot more caps as at the time he was the best option. However, it was hard to justify choosing a player to play against European nations who was playing weekly against teams like Queens Park, Montrose and East Stirlingshire.
Wallace would become a fans favourite at Rangers due to his commitment and love for the club and would eventually become club captain in 2015. He would win the Third Division, Second Division, Championship and Challenge Cup as he helped Rangers return to their rightful place in the top flight. Wallace clearly cared for the club and wanted what was best for them rather than himself, even butting heads with officials at the club when he felt things were not heading in the right direction. There's a lot of nobility around Wallace's time at Rangers who would end up surplus to requirements under Steven Gerrard, with a series of injuries scuppering his chances late in his career at Ibrox. It was a sad ending for a player who absolutely sacrificed his own career for a club and one I hope is held in the highest regards at the club. Now at QPR in the English Championship, Wallace is still playing and getting a final few years under his belt before his career starts to wind down.
1. Scott Allan: Hibernian to Celtic
It is sometimes speculated that the Old Firm will sign players simply for the reason that it means they're weakening a rival or ensuring they don't play against them. There's probably no better example for this than Celtic's signing of Scott Allan. Allan has had a questionable career, gaining notice after breaking into the Dundee United first team and apparently requesting a contract that would make him one of the club's highest earners, after only a handful of appearances as a 19-year-old. He would end up at West Brom where he'd fail to make an appearance and had a couple of loans before heading back up the road with the move not working out. Allan's progression had already been halted for a few years but signing with Hibs allowed a more mature Allan to develop his craft. Allan would showcase great creativity in his first season at Easter Road, creating an incredible 15 assists and winning PFA Player of the Year for the Championship. Allan gained loads of plaudits and rightfully so for an excellent campaign.
Allan was soon on the radar of a number of clubs, mainly Rotherham and league rivals Rangers. Allan made it very clear that he wanted to leave, handing in a transfer request as speculation between him and Rangers only grew and grew. It would have been understandable for the attacking midfielder to make the switch to Rangers, slotting into a position the club didn't have great options in with staying in a league he excelled in. It seemed to be inevitable before a shocking turn of events saw Celtic swoop in and steal him ahead of their Glasgow rivals. With Allan already making the mistake of joining West Brom and halting his progress, it seemed like he was making the exact same mistake by joining Celtic which would soon prove to be correct. Celtic's attacking midfield options featured Kris Commons, Tom Rogic and Stuart Armstrong in the number 10 position, with plenty of other attacking options making it clear Allan would not feature much. Allan would go onto appear 17 times in his first season, with only two starts meaning a lot of his ventures were brief cameos. It was an extremely puzzling signing that seemed more like Celtic sabotaging their rivals, rather than being genuinely interested in the player. This, of course, made Allan a public enemy at Ibrox, more so than many usual Celtic players.
After the 2015/16 season, Allan would remain a Celtic player until 2019, not making a single appearance for the club in those three years, with loan spells at Rotherham and Dundee being extremely poor. Allan would end up at Hibs on loan before signing permanently for the Easter Road side where he remains to this day. Allan wasted valuable time in his career doing nothing at Celtic, halting his progress completely when it was at its brightest. The motives of Allan have been questioned a couple of times in his career but as for other players in this list, it is hard to turn down a good offer from a great club. Nonetheless, Allan could have been a much better player with a much better career had he not made some absurd choices. The move to Celtic did nothing for his progression and now at 28 is entering his prime years. The hopes of Allan breaking into the national team are basically gone which is a shame for a player who showcased such great promise.
The lure of playing for Celtic and Rangers is a very powerful thing as the pair are genuinely two of the biggest clubs in the world. For any player in Scotland playing for either side is massive, with more exposure, a big payday and challenging for trophies being hard things to turn down. In many ways, you can't blame players for taking that jump and in hindsight, it isn't necessarily the best decision and damages careers to where it can't be recovered, again for a number of different reasons. For every Scott Brown, Kris Boyd and Nacho Novo who succeed and make it at these clubs, there are many who don't have such a legacy. But that's the thing with football, nothing is certain and it's a short career. If you turn down Celtic or Rangers in your early 20's, you may never get another chance and will surely spend moments pondering what could have been. The two clubs could do better in terms of the development of players as well as the players themselves doing more for their careers. A lot of factors can contribute to a downfall in what is an unforgiving sport in a high-pressure environment that doesn't give the fairy tale ending for everyone.