January is a window of opportunity - and dilemmas
Speculation surrounding the future of players, especially those who are the most talented or in rich veins of form, is omnipresent in football, but there is no doubt that the rumours and whispers grow more audible as the opening of the January transfer window approaches.
Despite the numerous possible moves that will be touted in the coming weeks, it would be fair to assume that the current financial hardship felt by most of Scottish football will in effect mean that there may not be significant movement.
For those managers who are in a position to strengthen their playing squad, their desire to do so will most likely be driven by the position they currently occupy. For those challenging for titles and promotion, or those staring at a battle for survival, the signing of the right player may just make the difference as the season progresses.
Of course, losing players through injury can also affect a manager's chosen transfer targets and, with budgets tight, it could be that the clubs who avoid requiring a player through necessity are far better equipped to take a chance on a more creative player or proven goalscorer who could help them achieve their target.
As I mentioned, the level of spending money available to managers will be minimal and it is probably accurate to say that the inclement weather and subsequent lack of revenue through gate receipts will impact even more upon these figures. As some consider the case for extending the season, perhaps this window should be delayed or extended until most Scottish clubs can generate some income!
From a player's perspective, the transfer window will pass without any impact for most in terms of being the subject of a bid. More significantly, the move into the month of January brings freedom to talk to other clubs with respect to the following season.
This is an area that probably causes more debate than the window itself in that how does a manager deal with a player he knows has committed his future elsewhere? And do players remain as focused on the job at their current club in the event of such a situation arising?
I think that both questions can almost be answered together, in that, in my experience, players will be completely committed and continue to try to produce their best performances for their team as there is a significant level of pride in performance felt by players that should never be underestimated.
Therefore, managers who know their players well and are aware of their professionalism, will be completely confident that anyone leaving at the end of season will continue to give everything in matches.
There are difficult situations that can arise from this, especially if a player is moving between clubs who are at that time challenging for the same prize. However, the agreement of a pre-contract agreement is accepted by most players and managers as being an unavoidable consequence of the Bosman Ruling.
In my own career, I actually agreed to move down south while still playing for Clyde and still chasing the First Division title. I can, without any doubt, say that it had no effect on my desire to win promotion to the Scottish Premier League and, indeed, it possibly helped me as I aimed to end my time at Clyde on a significant high while knowing I had a new challenge ahead.
The recent trend for clubs to offer one-year contracts to players will mean that this could be the highest number of players finding themselves in the position of being able to secure their futures early. I would expect that most of those will aim to do just that as they recognise the summer scramble for a club is becoming ever more frantic.
Finally, what about the dilemma a club faces when one of its star performers is subject to a bid from another club? If the player in question is entering the final months of his contract, how do clubs put a value on his worth to the team when comparing it to the actual money being offered?
During my time at Falkirk, such a difficult decision was made by the club in the respect of Alan Gow, who was moving to Rangers at the end of that season. They chose not to accept a fee in the January window, thus preferring to retain Alan's services for the rest of that season. Undoubtedly, Alan (pictured above now playing for Motherwell) was an asset to Falkirk at that time, especially as they looked to finish in the top six of the SPL, but it was still a bold decision made by the club not to enhance their bank account at that time.
Therefore, as the window creaks open, clubs and players may just be about to make some difficult but very important decisions!