Scottish Football Free Agents: Who Each Premiership Club Should Be Looking At
The 2020/21 Scottish Premiership season has come to an end with Dundee the last of the 12 clubs to confirm their spot in the top flight next season. With this, teams are already looking to next season in terms of rebuilding their squads with new recruits, as usual in Scotland, largely on free transfers. We've already seen a couple of pre-contract agreements, most notably Scott Brown and Declan Gallagher heading to Aberdeen, with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas also signing for the Dons with striker Bruce Anderson heading in the opposite direction to Livingston.
With many Scottish clubs unable to offer substantial money for players, free transfers make up a large portion of our sides transfer business and to great effect. Last season saw the likes of Ross Callachan, Alan Forrest, Shaun Rooney and Devante Cole all have good seasons after arriving on free transfers, scoring an incredible 38 goals between them in all competitions. The correct free transfer can make all the difference in a season, as seen by Jordan White's arrival at Ross County, with each team hoping to scoop up their next star player for a bargain. With that in mind, here is who each of the 12 Scottish Premiership sides should be targeting to improve their squad next season.
Aberdeen - Leigh Griffiths
As was made abundantly clear last season, Aberdeen really struggled for goals, especially from their forward players. Sam Cosgrove found the back of the net 3 times before his move to Birmingham City whilst Curtis Main scored only twice before heading to Shrewsbury Town. The 5 goals would seem fairly prolific in comparison to their replacements, with Callum Hendry scoring twice for the Dons whilst Florian Kamberi and Fraser Hornby failing to score a single time. Goals shouldn't be too hard to improve on for Aberdeen as in all honesty, it can't get much worse for their forwards next season. Now, it is known that Leigh Griffiths isn't quite at the same standard as he was a couple of years ago for Celtic but Aberdeen could be the best possible destination to kick start his career. His exclusion from the Scotland squad may relight the fire within him to get back to his best as a move alongside former teammate and captain Scott Brown could be the best solution for the enigmatic striker. If Aberdeen could convince the forward to take a pay cut in order to revive his career, it could be a game-changing signing that puts Aberdeen back into 3rd, as well as challenging again in the domestic cups.
Celtic - Allan Campbell
I'm not 100% convinced that Allan Campbell should be signed by Celtic to immediately become a starter in the first team, but he is certainly a player worth taking a punt on in the hopes of developing him furthermore. The 22-year-old has plenty of experience in the top flight with 135 appearances in the Scottish Premiership and has never looked out of place. With the midfielder's contract expiring and a small development fee only necessary, Celtic can do much worse than bring in Campbell for less money than they will spend on someone coming from England or elsewhere in Europe. Campbell is reliable and will always give 100% regardless of the fixture or how much game time he gets, exactly the kind of player every squad needs. I can imagine there will be several members of the Celtic support who won't be too impressed at signing a young player from Motherwell but it didn't work out too bad the last time they did so with David Turnbull. There's not a lot of risk within this move as Celtic could easily move Campbell on if he is deemed not good enough and on the flip side has plenty of resale value, which would allow the club to recoup the development fee as well as make a potential profit.
Dundee - Liam Polworth
Liam Polworth has fallen completely out of favour at Motherwell under Graham Alexander, making only one appearance for the club after his sending off against Aberdeen back on the 23rd of January. Polworth had a great first season for Motherwell in the 2019/20 season, assisting 10 times in the league that season. Clearly, things have turned sour for him at Fir Park leading to his release from the club, with a couple of tweets showcasing that it hasn't been on the best of terms. He is still very much a Premiership standard player and will be looking to prove himself following a bitter end to his time at Motherwell and Dundee could be the right place for him to excel. Joining the likes of Charlie Adam and Shuan Byrne in midfield, Dundee could have a very solid core to their team that has good energy and an eye for a pass. Polworth would be an excellent addition to this Dundee side who will need to improve their squad if they want to do more than just avoid relegation this coming season with the former Motherwell man being a good free option for the club.
Dundee United - Regan Hendry
I believe we still have a lot to see from Dundee United, especially on an attacking front as the likes of Lawrence Shankland and Marc McNulty didn't quite have the seasons that many were expecting them to have. United gained more plaudits for being stubborn and hard to break down at times rather than for their attacking prowess which will be the main thing they'll look to improve on this season. United don't have a great amount of creativity in midfield and need someone who can carry the ball and supply those forwards with chances. Raith Rovers' Regan Hendry would be the perfect signing as an attacking midfielder following a season that earned him a place in the Championship Team of the Year and nomination for Championship Player of the Year. 3 goals and 4 assists in the league doesn't tell the whole story as Hendry was crucial in getting Raith up the park and punishing teams, leading to John McGlynn's side finishing in a tremendous 3rd place position. With Hendry's contract expiring on May 31st, Dundee United would have a great deal on their hands if they could convince Hendry to ply his trade at Tannadice next season.
Heart of Midlothian - Kyle Lafferty
Hearts are a strange team to predict for next season as although they won the Championship by a considerable margin, it wasn't all positive as the performances didn't reflect a side who had one of the biggest budgets in the country. On paper, the Hearts team should be good enough to challenge for the top 6 next season, with the likes of Craig Gordon, John Souttar, Gary Mackay-Steven and Liam Boyce on the books. Something was missing from Hearts last season as they lacked a spark that led to fan protests over the running and management of the club, despite their title success. An easy way to solve some of the unrest is to make a marquee signing and for Hearts, that should be Kyle Lafferty. Lafferty was phenomenal in his first spell at Tynecastle and his recent spell with Kilmarnock shows he is still more than capable of creating plenty of magic. Although his 13 goals in 13 games weren't enough to keep Killie up, you can't argue that Lafferty is still a top-class player and would definitely put Hearts in pole position to secure a top 6 finish in their first season back. Hearts already have the aforementioned Boyce, captain Steven Naismith and Armand Gnanduillet as their striking options but Lafferty is too good a player to pass on and would give the whole club a massive boost going into the season.
Hibernian - Devante Cole
Hibs are going to have a battle on their hands to keep a hold of star player Kevin Nisbet this summer, will clubs down south already showing interest from the January transfer window. Hibs would command quite the fee for the Scotland striker should he move but they could get a good replacement on a free transfer this summer, allowing them to spend some money in strengthening other areas. Devante Cole has been a standout in what has been a poor season for Motherwell with his 11 goals and 5 assists in the league this season, the same amount of goal contributions as Nisbet (14G and 2A) in a team that didn't have as much attacking threat this season. Aged 26, Cole would be a great option for Hibs on a free transfer, even if Nisbet were to leave or not. Cole would absolutely bolster Jack Ross' squad and provide great competition for places, keeping the aforementioned Nisbet and Christian Doidge on their toes as there is a hungry striker more than willing to take their starting role away from them.
Livingston - Tommie Hoban
Since coming back up to the top flight, Livingston have been known for being a team that is hard to break down with solid defence. Last season, however, showed that it is no longer the case, at least not at the same capability. The loss of key defenders such as Declan Gallagher, Craig Halkett and Ciaron Brown over the years finally looks to be taking its toll with Livi conceding 54 goals, their worst defensive tally in the 3 seasons back in the Premiership. This summer will see Efe Ambrose and Alan Lithgow leave on frees as well as star player Jon Guthrie leaving due to personal reasons, meaning the Lions need to bring in strong replacements. Tommie Hoban was a surprise omission from the Aberdeen squad with the club opting not to renew his contract despite featuring 43 times for the Dons last season. Hoban is a solid enough defender making a lot of defensive actions through blocks and clearances and looks to be out of favour due to Glass looking for his defenders to play out from the back. With this in mind, he seems ideal to suit the system at Livingston, where he will simply be told to attack and clear the ball from his own box. A player with experience in the top flight, Livi could have quite the find with Hoban should he opt to stay in Scotland.
Motherwell - Michael Devlin
With Declan Gallagher heading to Aberdeen and Tyler Magloire heading back to his parent club Blackburn Rovers, Motherwell are in desperate need of some centre backs. Michael Devlin has had an injury-plagued 2020/21 season leading to reports that he has only been offered a 6-month deal to resign with the Dons. At 27, Devlin may be looking for something a bit more concrete despite his injury issues, opening the door for a team to swoop in with a better offer that may appeal to the centre half. A former Scotland international who hails from Motherwell, it could be the ideal place for Devlin to get his career back on the right path, should he remain injury-free. A competent player at this level, Motherwell could capitalise on the uncertainty that Aberdeen have given Devlin which in the end could be quite the scoop on a free transfer. Of course, Motherwell will still need other defensive options to bolster their squad but moving for Devlin could be a real savvy bit of business from the Steelmen.
Rangers - Barry Douglas
By far the hardest free transfer to find, there isn't anybody in the Scottish leagues just now who realistically could go into this current Rangers set up on a free transfer. With this in mind, I've had to branch out whilst keeping it Scottish related and landed at left-back Barry Douglas. Of course, should he stay, Borna Barisic will be the club's first-choice left-back but as seen this season, Rangers could do with a couple of more bodies to deal with suspensions, injuries and the hectic schedule they are going to have yet again. Douglas is more than a competent enough defender who can step in on any given notice, especially in league games where Barisic may be rested following Europe or international duty. The full-backs deliveries from set-pieces and open play also mean that Rangers won't be missing an abundance of quality down the left-hand side, allowing Rangers to continue putting pressure on from both sides of the park. With plenty of experience, Douglas can also act as somewhat of a mentor for the likes of Nathan Patterson and Calvin Bassey whilst also having his best chance of picking up some more silverware.
Ross County - Scott Robinson
The 2020/21 season was quite a strange one for Scott Robinson. The versatile player started the season out of the Livingston team before appearing to be the club's best replacement for Lyndon Dykes and becoming an integral part of the side that would go 14 games unbeaten and reach the League Cup final. Robinson's reputation benefitted massively from this run with the former injury-plagued midfielder/forward making it clear that he was a Premiership standard starting player as talks of a new contract came about. However, things turned sour during a game against Rangers where Robinson was brought on and then substituted, with a temper tantrum ensuing and Robinson never returning to the club. Since then, he's been in the wilderness and only recently has been linked with teams, notably Partick Thistle and Raith Rovers in the Scottish Championship. Robinson showed last season that he is an asset in a Premiership side, occupying any of the forward or central midfield position and would be an ideal signing for Ross County. Robinson's tenacity and hard work saw him succeed in West Lothian and that could be replicated up in Dingwall. County will be on the look for plenty of hard-working players after letting go of Michael Gardyne, Iain Vigurs and Billy McKay and they could do much worse than taking a chance on Robinson next season.
St Johnstone - Jake Doyle-Hayes
It's hard to imagine right now that St Johnstone need anybody to come in and bolster their squad giving that they are the best team in the world at the moment. Kidding aside, it has been an incredible season for the Perth side who topped off finishing in a European spot with a cup double, unprecedented stuff for a team outwith the Old Firm. With this, the club looks a lot more lucrative to players and the club could use their recent success to draw some talent within their ranks. In midfield, Ali McCann continues to show his quality whilst being paired with the likes of Liam Craig or Murray Davidson, although the latter duo are heading towards the latter stages of their career. With an eye to the future as well as being a more than capable layer right now, St Johnstone should look to tempt St Mirren's Jake Doyle-Hayes, a 22-year-old midfielder who has shone under Jim Goodwin this season. The midfielder is exploring his options and the temptation of European football at a club that appears to be going from strength to strength could be very appealing to a player looking to take that next step in his career. A midfield duo of McCann and Doyle-Hayes looks incredibly promising on paper and is a pairing that could recoup the club a fair amount of money should they continue to progress at the same rate.
St Mirren - Nikolay Todorov
Nikolay Todorov had an excellent season for Inverness last year, contributing to 10 goals for the highland side in his 26 appearances last season. Todorov has been around the Championship for quite some time now with spells at Livingston, Queen of the South as well as Caley Thistle and looks to have developed into a fine forward. At only 24 years of age, Todorov has plenty of time to continue developing and now is the right time for him to try his luck in the top flight. St Mirren have let go of Jon Obika, Collin Quaner and Junior Morias so attacking recruits are needed to provide competition for the likes of Eamonn Brophy, Kristian Dennis and Lee Erwin. Obika was the club's top-scoring striker last season with 8 goals in all competitions whilst Brophy, Dennis and Erwin had injury issues that plagued them throughout the season. A free transfer for Todorov would definitely be worth a punt to provide strong competition for places up front, which should get the best out of their options. A decent contract for the Bulgarian could see St Mirren have Todorov and Brophy signed up for the next few seasons, something that could prove to be highly beneficial for the Paisley club.