Why it makes sense
For the club
While we like writing these transfer blogs – their quick, easy and get people reading – we don’t always feel the need to force them out if we don’t know enough about the player coming in. This guideline was ignored when we were still able to form a coherent article about Blackpool youngster Jake Caprice’s move to St Mirren earlier in the season. It was just so obvious; the boy had pace, was a natural wide player and St Mirren badly needed both.
Fast forward five months, and one month after Caprice scuttled out the back door and back down to Blackpool, St Mirren are still looking for someone they can trust with the ability to stretch opposing teams. In the wide positions they have been forced to turn to John McGinn on the left and Connor Newton on the other side. It is to the credit of those two young midfielders that they were both able to star out of position, and to Danny Lennon that he was able to turn their form around despite failing to fill the team’s glaring need for pace. Now that Kenny McLean has been forced out with an injury, McGinn has been shuffled inside and Danny Grainger has been posted out wide. And though the former Hearts defender has not been terrible, St Mirren’s have struggled in recent weeks. The previous system seems that it only worked with the full strength side, and now they need a plan B.
So, in the worst case scenario, St Mirren have acquired themselves a squad bolstering player in Gregg Wylde. He may not be good enough to earn a starting place over McGinn or cause Lennon to drop either McLean or Paul McGowan to the bench, but he should be an improvement on Grainger, at least at left-midfield, and offer them a different way of playing.
The best case scenario is that he recaptures the form of his Rangers days and becomes one of the league’s best wide-men. His pace is electrifying and will add another dimension to the St Mirren attack that they’ve lacked all season. Without it they have still managed to stay competitive in this league but have become a little more direct and centred around Steven Thompson. The threat of Wylde should push opposing defences back more and bring St Mirren’s average player positioning higher up the park.
It also gives Danny Lennon the option of going with a 4-3-3/4-5-1 style should the situation call for it. Adam Campbell and Wylde would play off Thompson, two of McGowan, McGinn and McLean would operate in the centre and Jim Goodwin would protect in front of the back four. That sounds like a fairly strong team to us.
For the player
For the first time since he left Ibrox the winger is moving into a situation where there is not a whole lot of competition for the left-midfield role. When at Rangers he managed to win a first-team place from Vladimir Weiss – considering the direction their respective careers have gone since that seems an implausible occurrence now. At Bolton he never got the chance to make such an impression on the park and when he arrived at Aberdeen he might not have realised that not only was he expected to outplay Johnny Hayes but also Niall McGinn as well. He probably assumed the latter would play up front, but McGinn has mainly featured on the left of the Dons 4-1-4-1 system, with Hayes either on the other side or, as he has done in recent weeks, filling in at left-back. Wylde never looked like overhauling either of those two, but then he never really got much opportunity. Four starts is all he’s made this season. Aberdeen fans will argue that the 10 appearances he made overall is plenty to judge a player on, but not when he’s barely played first-team football in over a year. Plus, he showed in a cameo role at Easter Road that there is still undoubted potential in there, helping Aberdeen to win the match after being frustrated by the hosts prior to his involvement.
He needs a run of games first and foremost; to be allowed to make mistakes and remain confident enough that he will be given time to learn from them. Looking at the other prospective buyers in the bottom six it seems like Paisley is his best bet to find that: Hearts can’t sign anyone, Ross County have deficiencies elsewhere but are set at left-midfield with Graham Carey, Kilmarnock have Chris Johnston and Thistle are happy with Kallum Higginbotham. St Mirren is his best bet for regular playing time.
Why it doesn’t
For the player
You can’t help but think there has been some off the field tension between Wylde and the Aberdeen management team. Otherwise, it’s a strange move from his former club to just cancel the contract six months into a three year deal. At just 22, there are plenty of years ahead of him to improve as a footballer and one day be good enough to start on the wing for a club with European aspirations, which is the mindset he should have been adopting. Having just moved to Aberdeen it would be more commendable for him to push for a loan, improve his game and then come back determined in the summer to win his job. Or up his focus and determination in training and try to impress Derek McInnes that way.
The rumours are that Aberdeen wanted him off the wage bill so they could throw some of that money in Blackburn’s direction to try and take David Goodwillie on loan for the remainder of the campaign. If true, our perception of Wylde has been a little unsettled that he’s given in so easily and jumped ship. Then again, we’re not privy to any conversation that may have taken place between the player and his boss behind closed doors.
For the club
We alluded to it earlier: his career has been in free-fall since leaving Rangers in March 2011. Sure Danny Lennon and St Mirren need a wide-man, but what they don’t need is another Caprice or Stephane Bahoken; needlessly taking up space in the first-team and a portion of the slim wage budget.
Looking across St Mirren’s midfield – McGinn, McGowan, McLean, Newton and even Grainger – they are all technically good footballers. The Buddies aren’t one of the leagues best but their identity revolves around these types of players getting the ball and keeping it. Does Wylde fit into that? Even Rangers fans with a positive memory of his time at the club – not tarnished by the perceived disloyalty of leaving the club during administration – remember him as a bit of a one-trick pony. He’s got incredible speed and energy, but little else to his game. His crossing can be good but is too inconsistent right now, his touch can often be wayward and he doesn’t have the skills required to routinely beat a defender with anything other than pace.
Lennon should also be concerned by the comments made today by McInnes. The Aberdeen boss didn’t directly accuse Wylde of not trying enough, but did hint at a lack of commitment with regards to proving to the management that he was worthy of a place in training. Wylde feels he should be starting, but he’s done nothing since leaving Ibrox to prove that. If Lennon follows the direction made by his other bosses and pushes the player to prove his worth then he may be frustrated by his efforts.
If you’ve enjoyed the blogs then be sure to listen to the podcast. The latest episode recapped the Scottish Premiership weekend, debated the “Underwhelming XI” from the 2013-14 season so far and listed Tony’s many drunken encounters with football stars. It can be listened to here.