Scottish football never fails to disappoint in its high drama and entertainment – and this season’s Scottish Premiership hasn’t came short in meeting expectations.
Although the title race between Celtic and Rangers looks to be all over, Hibernian and Aberdeen are battling for a third placed finish with outsiders Livingston punching well above their weight and aiming for Europa League qualification themselves.
At the other end of the table, we have a relegation dogfight of the ages which sees a familiar character in Scottish football John ‘Yogi’ Hughes return in the form of Ross County boss looking to fight it out against a fallen from grace Kilmarnock, the Steelmen of Motherwell and survivors Hamilton Academical to stay in the top flight.
This January transfer window wouldn’t be the same as ones before it due to the financial implications on all football clubs during the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected all areas of the sport worldwide. None-the-less, there were still loan signings to be made by clubs and reinforcements to be brought in by the premiership sides to kick on for the next few months of what the 2020/21 season still has to offer. Let’s have a look at five players that have been signed this mid-season window which ought to be watched out for.
1. Brandon Pierrick – Kilmarnock
Starting off the list is 19 year-old English winger Brandon Pierrick who signed for Kilmarnock last month on loan from Crystal Palace.
A Brixton native, Pierrick is a product of the Crystal Palace youth academy. Making his debut last season in the Premier League for the Eagles, he became Crystal Palace’s second-youngest ever debutant. He later that season made another appearance coming off the bench against Norwich City at Carrow Road, where he started a move that lead to Palace getting an equaliser making the full-time result that day 1-1.
Apart from a handful of appearances in cup competitions, Pierrick hasn’t had a sustained run in the senior squad which has seen him move out on loan to find experience in first team football.
Branded as an “exciting talent” by his club’s academy chiefs, he is a forward player who has been described as “direct, quick and powerful”. He also has a track record of creating and scoring goals in the Palace youth levels.
Killie have needed a player like that for a while and have missed having a fast and direct wideman at their disposal since Northern Ireland international Jordan Jones was on their books. If Pierrick can replicate that and carry on his great development over from what he already has shown with Crystal Palace Under-23s, this could be a great signing for Kilmarnock.
He’s also been joined by fellow academy star and Scottish youth prospect Scott Banks who moved from Crystal Palace to Dunfermline Athletic on loan in the Scottish Championship.
2. Jonjoe Kenny – Celtic
On deadline day, the nine-in-a-row Scottish champions left transfer business late in bringing Everton right-back Jonjoe Kenny to the club. The departure of Jeremie Frimpong to Bayer Leverkusen left a space open for Celtic to bring in a full-back with Hatem Abd Elhamed absent and Kristoffer Ajer occupying the position in the meantime. Jonjoe Kenny was soon then brought in as that replacement.
Kenny is a player that people might be aware of outside of Scottish football. He garnered rave reviews playing as a youth international for England and has been viewed by the Everton faithful as a long-term successor to Irish international and club captain Séamus Coleman.
Following successful loan spells at Oxford United and Wigan Athletic, he got opportunities to play for the Toffees’ first team in both left and right-back positions via injuries and suspensions. Impressive performances earned him a loan move to the Bundesliga with Schalke 04 in the 2019/20 season. Although playing in a struggling side, he became a fan favourite of the Schalke support with great displays over his time in Germany.
This season Kenny’s chances in the Everton first team have been limited to 8 appearances in all competitions. A side that are cruising in the Premier League under Carlo Ancelotti, Séamus Coleman and Mason Holgate have been the starting picks ahead of Jonjoe Kenny which has seen him move on loan to Celtic to find first team action elsewhere.
A strong and athletic defender, Kenny should be the answer to Celtic’s right-back woes. As much as Frimpong was exceptional at going forward and initiating attacks, defensively he was weaker and caught out more often than not by how far he would play up the pitch. Those problems can be corrected with Jonjoe Kenny as he’s a more traditional right-back who isn’t afraid to put a strong challenge in as we seen at his time with Schalke but can also bomb forward and put crosses into the box.
An adequate and well renowned full-back of Kenny’s ilk can help restore a bit of pride for Celtic in what has been a horrowshow campaign for the hoops.
3. Liam Kelly – Motherwell
This January has seen former Livingston & Rangers keeper Liam Kelly returning to the Scottish Premiership with Motherwell on loan from Queens Park Rangers.
Liam Kelly first came through the ranks at Rangers through their academy and then went on to play for both East Fife and Livingston on two separate loan spells. After leaving Rangers, he then went on to make over 80 appearances for Livingston. After earning great plaudits for a golden season in the top flight with Livi, he moved to the English Championship to join London-based outfit Queens Park Rangers.
Kelly has seen himself be the first choice keeper at QPR in his first season with the club but has since been dropped and reinstated numerous times. The following campaign has seen him dropped in favour of former Dundee goalie Seny Dieng.
Motherwell with their own goalkeeping issues, sought to bring one in last month after releasing Jordan Archer and Aaron Chapman’s crisp packet hand displays between the sticks. They have now got their man in Kelly through a smart loan deal which will please all parties involved.
If Liam Kelly can replicate the form he had in his breakout season in the Scottish Premiership by keeping cleansheets for the Steelmen and make important saves then it should prove to be a tremendous acquisition for the Lanarkshire side and could help them keep away from talk of relegation battles.
On a personal level for him and his career, it could also open the opportunity for him to be included in Scotland’s squad for EURO 2020.
4. Jackson Irvine – Hibernian
A long with Liam Kelly – Australian international Jackson Irvine is also back in Scottish football. Hailing from Melbourne, Irvine is a product of the Celtic youth academy and even made a senior appearance for the Bhoys (funnily enough, he made his senior debut in a 2-2 draw at Celtic Park against Hibernian).
Having had spells at both Kilmarnock and Ross County, the latter was where he found a permanent home and kicked on as an influential player for the Staggies. His biggest triumph during his time in Dingwall was being part of the Ross County side that won the Scottish League Cup in 2016. Again freakishly, that honour was also won against Hibs in a 2-1 result in favour of the highland side.
After that, he went on to try his hand in the English game with both Burton Albion and Hull City. After making over 100 appearances for the Tigers in both the Championship and League One, he was released by the Yorkshire club and has been now snapped up by Hibernian on a deal until the end of the season.
This looks like very good business from Hibs. Although his contract was terminated by a lacklustre Hull side, he is a proven Premiership-level player and has shown what he can do while he was up here. With 36 caps for Australia, he is also proven international which will bode well in a Hibs squad that has quite a few internationals in it – including fellow Australian international Martin Boyle.
He is a box-to-box midfielder that is a positive player on the ball. Always looking to make something whether it’s setting another teammate up or being a goal threat.
Having said all of that, Irvine has already managed to achieve a unique accolade during his short time as a Hibernian player. His tattoo of Moe Szyslak from cult-classic animated show the Simpsons caused a lot of attention on social media after it was spotted by a Hibernian fan on twitter. This caught the eye of Tim Long, one of the show’s long-time writers who then hailed Jackson Irvine as his favourite footballer and Hibernian as his newly found club. Irvine has joked that he also hopes to lure David Lynch into becoming a Hibee with a Twin Peaks inspired tat on his back.
Safe to say that if he’s as prolific on the pitch as he is at converting celebrities and notable people to the green half of Edinburgh then he should prove to be a popular figure at Easter Road.
5. Fraser Hornby – Aberdeen
Yet another deadline day signing with an Everton background, Fraser Hornby is a noteworthy and exciting addition to the Scottish premiership. After the departure of mercurial goalscorer Sam Cosgrove to Birmingham City and Curtis Main after contract termination, Aberdeen managed to recruit three strikers on the last day of the window as replacements. None of them are arguably more anticipated than of the man they have given the number 7 jersey though, Fraser Hornby.
A starman for the Scotland Under-21s, he recently broke the record as the all-time top goalscorer for Scotland at that level and has been prolific every time he has worn the dark blue. Born in Northampton, Hornby was regarded as an emerging talent going through the youth ranks at Everton. Despite this, he was limited to only one senior appearance for Everton against Cypriot side Apollon Limassol in the Europa League. He was loaned out by the Toffees to play for Kortrijk in Belgium where he scored 3 goals in 12 matches.
Making a big step in his career by moving to France with Stade de Reims, he has made three appearances this season for the Ligue 1 club. One of these appearances came against Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes. At the age of 21 and ideally looking for regular game time, he has chosen to go on a 6-month loan move to the North East of Scotland with Aberdeen.
With a view of making a name for himself, Hornby has made a great decision to move to Scotland and has picked the right club at the right time for him to show us all what he can offer. It will be one where he will be desperate to impress in the absence of their usual main targetman Cosgrove and one that Aberdeen will have to depend on to make sure they can get third place by the end of the season.
Hornby guaranteed goals galore for the Under-21 side but has yet to fully establish himself in the men’s game. If he can be a reliable striker for the Dons and a success in the Premiership then it would be good news for the development of young Scottish talent and can help integrate himself into the senior Scotland set-up and possibly even Steve Clarke’s plans for EURO 2020. At the age he is and with the potential he has, he could be a good option for the Scotland national team for many years to come.
Raymond Christie, is a member of the YCL’s Glasgow branch