What might have been? The story of Scott Allan.
As Hibernian ended their 114 year wait for Scottish Cup glory at the weekend one wonders what was going through the mind of one of Scottish football's forgotten men; Scott Allan. As Rangers paraded Joey Barton yesterday it is a clear signal of intent from the Ibrox club that they mean business and on this occasion, they managed to get their man. Cast our minds back to last summer and the story was somewhat different in the case of Scott Allan.
Upon coming into the Ibrox hotseat it did not take Mark Warburton long to realise that the club was in a mess and a radical overhaul of the playing squad was required. An inspirational early signing came in the form of Frank McParland to head up the recruitment arm of the club and his vast knowledge of the English game paid dividends, with unheralded players such as Martyn Waghorn and James Tavernier making a significant impact as the Gers strolled to promotion this term. McParland should take credit for his work with very few failures in terms of both the permanent and loan acquisitions made last summer. However, as they sought to bring in some creative flair to the midfield area, Scott Allan was identified as a prime target and despite a summer-long pursuit of the then Hibernian midfielder, Rangers were unable to bring him to Ibrox, with the Easter Road club stating categorically that they would not sell to a league rival. Adding insult to injury for the Ibrox club was Celtic's late swoop, with Allan being paraded at Parkhead having signed a 4 year contract with the Hoops.
Fast forward a few months. 5th April 2016 saw Rangers defeat Dumbarton 1-0 to seal a return to the top table of Scottish football. For Scott Allan, what might have been. 21st May 2016 saw Hibernian end their 114 year wait to lift the Scottish Cup and in an instant elevating the playing squad and management team to "legendary" status. For Scott Allan, what might have been.
In his reflective moments, Allan must consider what he has missed out on. Having been the stand-out performer for Hibs the previous year, he could have opted to distance himself from the speculation and remain with the Leith club to help challenge for promotion. As is often the case when the Old Firm show interest, heads are turned and players seem unable to resist their advances. But that is exactly what Allan should have done, following the "once bitten, twice shy" mantra. Whilst at Dundee United, Allan opted for a move to the bright lights of the English Premier League with West Brom. Despite many within the game feeling that the move was premature and that his development would be best served by learning his trade in the first team at Tannadice, Allan made the move and it is hard to blame him. In the perilous world of professional sport lucrative financial deals are difficult to decline. Without making any impact at West Brom and with a series of loan moves across England behind him, Allan returned north in July 2014, penning a 2 year deal with Hibs and during his debut season with the club, his undoubted quality shone through. Despite Hibs falling short in their quest for promotion, Allan displayed guile and creativity in the centre of midfield and a fine season for him on a personal level was capped with his crowning as Scottish Championship PFA Player of the season.
Unsurprisingly, eyes began to turn towards the talented Glaswegian and for the second time in his short career, he was being pursued by bigger clubs with bigger financial rewards. Yet Allan should have remained at Hibs. Playing for a manager in Alan Stubbs who trusted him and was clearly getting the best out of him, Allan should have looked to build upon his outstanding season and helped to lead the team back to the Scottish Premier League. Had he maintained his performance levels, a call-up to the Scotland squad would have been within reach and his career would be firmly back on track. He need only look back to his former home at Easter Road to see the case study of his replacement in the Hibs midfield, John McGinn, who can proudly say he has now represented his country. Instead Allan, a player of greater ability, has mustered up a meagre two league starts and eleven appearances from the bench, many of them fleeting, as Celtic stuttered to a 5th straight league title.
As he reflects on what might have been, Allan can only hope that the arrival of Brendan Rodgers will offer him a fresh start and the chance of regular first team football in a team that will suit his style. I for one hope that the next 12 months prove more fruitful for Allan, as it would be a crying shame to see the career of a player with his natural talent drifting aimlessly. It is now time for Scott Allan to deliver.