Now that the dust has settled, Craig Fowler looks at the potential pros and cons of Scott Allan’s move to Celtic.
Where it could go right
It’s too much of a stretch to suggest Celtic have bought themselves a bench-warmer or, even worse, have used the player as a tool in a game of one-upsmanship over old rivals Rangers. If either of these things were true they would not have given him a four-year deal. With the speed in which this deal went through, it’s fair to suggest Allan was keen for this move to happen, and Celtic could have been far more restrictive in their contract length. Had they offered a two-year deal Allan would still have jumped at the chance and theorists who believe this was all about trolling Rangers would have had some ammunition. But they didn’t and he isn’t just a pawn. He’s someone Celtic and Ronny Deila believe they can turn into a great player.
Scott Allan could be the next Scott Brown. Ridiculous? Yes, perhaps at present, but only if you assume Allan can’t grow as a player and as a person. Right now he’s nowhere near Brown defensively. Andy Halliday’s stunning bar-and-in strike against Hibs was just one in a long line of examples where Allan switches off when his side are not in possession.
Brown, on the other hand, is the one midfielder more than any other in Scotland who you want in your side when the other team have the ball. He’s relentless. Either he gets the ball back or he fouls the opponent, often doing so in a manner that isn’t strong or blatant enough to merit a yellow card, allowing him to repeat the action later in the game. That’s not an insult. It’s in-game intelligence. Allan has displayed great vision and creativity with the football, an aspect of his game that’s already better than Brown’s, but he needs to become an all-round player.
In order to do so he’ll need game time. Having spent so much of his young career farmed out on loan, there have rightly been a few questions regarding the timing of this move. After all, he’s joining a team where’s he’ll, most likely, not be the starter when everyone is fit. At this point in his career it would have been more favourable for him to play every week. While there is legitimacy in this reservation, it would have been greater, more wide-spread, where it not for the justifiable opinion that, had this deal been concluded a fortnight ago, Allan would have started both of Celtic’s league matches against Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock. Deila’s not afraid to move players around in his midfield, as evidenced by Stefan Johansen. The reigning Player of the Year has spent time as part of the double pivot at the base of midfield, as the No.10 supporting the striker, and floating about in one of the wide positions in Celtic’s supporting triumvirate. These are all positions Allan can and will play under Deila, who’ll want to shift the player about to aid the tutoring process.
The main reason this will work is that Allan is, simply, a fantastic footballer. Technique, skill, passing range, vision and an underrated burst of pace that enables him to tear through gaps and run at opponents when teams slack off him and try to anticipate where he wants to go with a pass.
More importantly, he is someone with the unwavering confidence to run a game. He doesn’t do it as consistently, as he can disappear from games on occasion, but there’s enough evidence from his time at Hibs which demonstrates he has a hunger to dominate to the extent that a single player can in a 11 v 11 match. Brown does a similar role at Celtic, but if he blossoms to reach his true potential, Allan can do it even better.
Where it could go wrong
Scott Allan is 23 years old and he’s played less than 100 first team games in his professional career, per Soccerbase. Almost half of all the games he’s ever played came in the Scottish Championship. These facts have to give Celtic and their supporters at least a modicum of concern that this player isn’t quite as good as advertised.
True, his stand-outs moments came in the bigger matches. Everyone remembers his performances against Hearts in the final three Edinburgh derbies of last season, his incredible second half display against Falkirk in the Scottish Cup semi-final, and his awe-inspiring four “assist” game against Rangers at Easter Road. So, he’s shown he’s not just a flat-track bully. However, it’s going to take a great mental adjustment for him to continue this sort of form at Celtic. At Hibs he was the big man on campus and when he went into these matches against Hearts and Rangers, his confidence could not have been higher having strolled through encounters with some of the weaker sides in the league. Will the swagger still be there for a crunch match against Aberdeen when he’s been poor in consecutive games against Dundee and St Johnstone, for example, in the two fixtures prior? He does seem the confident type, but isn’t that another worry? That he’s too cocky and self-assured and won’t be ready for the knocks when they inevitably come?
Speaking of potential pitfalls, they’re going to drop so much deeper now that he’s a Celtic player and all the hoopla that comes with it. Last season he was the media darling. They didn’t see his poorer games, or if they did those displays were ignored; it wasn’t part of the narrative. ‘Celtic signing, Rangers fan Scott Allan, struggles for new club’ is a tasty narrative for the media to get stuck into. The circus following him will die down, but it’ll never go back to the way it was before with Hibs. Some players, tremendously talented players, find that a tough thing to deal with.
Allan’s obviously a great player, which is why the potential negatives have been focused around the psychological. But there is one problem physically which could stop him reaching his potential at Celtic, and Ronny Deila’s Celtic in particular – diabetes. He’s done tremendously well throughout his life to keep the condition under control but, by his own admission and that of his former manager, it can be a tough balancing act. Hibs supporters have often remarked with a degree of sympathy late in matches that Allan appears to be tiring, attributing such fatigue to the condition. Nobody said the such things about Leigh Griffiths when he was at Easter Road. Like an Enegizer Bunny on meth, the guy seemed capable of playing until after everyone had gone home and the groundsman flicked the lights off. And yet when Deila first arrived at Celtic he made it clear that Griffiths needed to improve his fitness.
The extra funding Celtic have to spend on sports scientists and doctors should mean it’ll be ok to take him to the next level, and better athletes than Allan have been able to reach world class fitness, but it is something to look out for. If he can’t join in the Celtic pack, hunting down opponents with high energy pressing, will Deila still want him?
Written by Craig Fowler (@craigfowler86)
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