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Borland is proof that young players need a better deal
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Borland is proof that young players need a better dealThe Herald 12/05/2000
SCOTTISH football is strewn with broken dreams. The window of opportunity has been reduced to a peephole as a consequence of the Bosman ruling, which has resulted in a flood of foreign goods arriving on these shores, often finding shelter at the expense of our own products.
All import and no export does not make good economic sense in any business, and while the obvious solution is to improve our own stock, the Scottish Premier League, be it in the form of a 10 or a 12, is not the most accommodating to latent talent.
There have been signs, however, that the worrying trend is gradually being reversed, with most clubs in the top flight giving their young players the opportunity to find their feet as the season has drawn to a close.
Celtic, ravaged by injury to such an extent that interim head coach Kenny Dalglish said recently that he had a full team "plus subs" in the treatment room, have led the way in recent weeks, with Simon Lynch, son of former Parkhead captain Andy, John Kennedy, at 16 the youngest player to appear in the Celtic first team for many a year, Colin Healy, and Stephen Crainey, a confident looking full-back, all given the opportunity to play in a team that has fallen well behind their arch rivals and champions, Rangers.
For every one player to emerge on the scene, however, there are several who have discovered that there is not always a pot of gold to be found at the end of a rainbow.
Paul Borland would be forgiven for feeling a sense of injustice. He had spent four years at Celtic and had successfully made his way through the youth ranks and into the under-21s, the reserves in its new SPL-friendly guise. Under Kenny McDowall, he was a regular, making more appearances than any other wannabe and was ready for the final push towards first-team recognition.
However, with the blessing of the then head coach, Dr Jozef Venglos, McDowall cleared the decks at under-21 level to harvest a new crop of younger players and, having become accustomed to travelling to Parkhead every day for work since leaving school, Borland was left to contemplate life without Celtic.
A trial with Torquay United failed to yield a long-term contract, but John McCormick came calling with an invitation to rebuild his confidence and career at Queen's Park. The psychological wounds of rejection have healed during the the Spiders' climb to the top of the third division, but doubtless he must wonder what might have been had Venglos shown the same faith in youth as Dalglish, especially considering that he was ahead of Crainey, now earning plaudits for his performances in the first team, during their days together in the under-21s.
"Yes, I played in front of him but I don't really bother about that any more," said the 20-year-old. "I have had my time at Celtic and, to be honest, we had a fair idea what was happening because of the different managers coming in and out. In the end, I was pleased to get away from it all. I am enjoying my football again with Queen's Park and am proud to be part of a team that won promotion for the first time in 20 years. It makes you feel special and you will always be remembered by the fans."
Borland has found difficulty in adapting to amateur status and from his own experience at Parkhead, he believes the authorities should put a greater emphasis on education during the formative years of a professional career.
"It's something I didn't really think about because I went straight from school and playing football was all I ever wanted to do, but I think it would be a good idea because you don't know what will happen in the game.
"I really miss the day-to-day training and, obviously, the money and I have recently started work with a construction company because I was bored sitting about the house."
Borland is expected to return to full-time football soon, with McCormack acknowledging he is far too talented to be playing in the lower divisions, but the defender is grateful for being given the chance to prove his worth.
"I have so much respect for him. He is probably the best coach I have worked under and, while I would love to be back playing full-time, I am looking forward to next season with Queen's Park."
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