5 players since the turn of the century to have tasted success following the cross-border transfer from the SPL to the EPL
Over the years since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, we have seen players from England move north of the border to the Scottish Premiership with varying degrees of success.
Focussing on things since the turn of the century, the Scottish top-flight has become an escape route for players in England who fail to make the grade or want to resurrect their career by drifting away from the intense level of competition.
Yet, there have been instances when the sheer reputation and pulling power of Celtic and Rangers have prompted established Premier League players like Neil Lennon, John Hartson, Chris Sutton and Tore Andre Flo to fly north of the border with the hope of pursuing a successful career.
However, it is worth mentioning here that the likes of Celtic and Rangers often struggle to keep hold of some top-quality young talents when the Premier League clubs come knocking on the door with big-money offers.
We all know that money doesn’t flow in the Scottish Premiership as easily as it does in the Premier League, meaning that Celtic and Rangers, despite being massive clubs with a lot of history, cannot compete financially with the English clubs.
While a lot of players from English football, even the aged ones, move north of the border with a lot of success, not too many players manage to do the same the other way round.
Now, it doesn’t require a rocket scientist to figure out as to why this happens. Barring the obvious difference in the quality of football between the two leagues in question, the level of competition in English football is also quite high as compared to the Scottish top-flight.
Interestingly, there have been some marked instances since the turn of the century when players from Celtic or Rangers have actually made a cross-border transfer with a lot of success.
The most recent of those has to be Southampton’s acquisition of Stuart Armstrong from Celtic last summer and while the Scottish playmaker only chipped in with 3 goals and 2 assists in the Premier League this past season, it would be fair to say that he did reasonably well for an underperforming unit in his debut season in England.
Without any further delay, let us look at some of the success stories of players to have moved south of the border from the SPL to the EPL.
Only players who have moved from Scotland to England without any previous experience in any division of English football have been considered for discussion, which eliminates someone like Fraser Forster.
1. Virgil van Dijk
The towering Dutch centre-back has to be at the top of the list simply because he is the greatest cross-border success story ever. Van Dijk is very much a household name in Europe nowadays but he was a completely unknown commodity when Celtic purchased him from Dutch club Groningen in the summer of 2013.
The Dutchman has hardly looked back since then and established himself as one of the mainstays of Celtic’s backline over the course of his successful two years at Parkhead, guiding the Hoops to back-to-back Scottish league titles and the Scottish League Cup in the 2014-15 season.
As a matter of fact, van Dijk made it to the Scottish Premiership Team of the Year in each of his two seasons at Celtic.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman was the man responsible for bringing him to the Premier League and the Saints splashed £13million to secure his services in 2015 and what followed is known to all.
Van Dijk established himself as one of the most consistent centre-backs in the entire division and outgrew his humble surroundings at St.Mary’s before earning a £75million move to Liverpool in January 2018, which made him the most expensive centre-back in the world.
His stay at Anfield has proven to be a resounding success, with the Dutchman playing a key role in Liverpool’s 2nd-place finish in the 2018-19 Premier League season and guiding them to their first UEFA Champions League triumph since 2005.
He has already played in two European finals and Jurgen Klopp will be hoping that there is a lot more to come from van Dijk in the upcoming campaigns.
2. Stiliyan Petrov
Stiliyan Petrov was hardly a superstar when Celtic brought him in from Bulgarian outfit CSKA Sofia back in 1999 but seven seasons of resounding success at Parkhead, which included four Scottish league titles, transformed him into a household name in Europe.
As a matter of fact, Petrov was a key figure in Celtic’s march to the UEFA Cup final back in 2002-03.
His consistently impressive performances didn’t go unnoticed from the teams south of the border and former Hoops manager Martin O’Neill was the man responsible for bringing the combative Bulgarian midfield enforcer to Aston Villa in the summer of 2006.
Petrov hardly had any problems dealing with the competitive nature of the Premier League and went on to establish himself as a cult hero at Villa Park, racking up a staggering 219 appearances for the Lions in all competitions over the course of six fruitful seasons before his career ended prematurely due to leukaemia.
3. Victor Wanyama
Wanyama was plying his trade with Belgian club Beerschot in the Belgian top-flight when Celtic snapped him up in the summer of 2011. That marked the Kenyan’s metaphoric rise in football from a complete rookie to a Premier League star.
The tough-tackling midfielder went on to win back-to-back domestic titles with Celtic and earned plenty of plaudits for his daunting and fearless displays, most notably scoring a powerful header to help the Hoops stun Barcelona in the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League.
Southampton splashed £12.5million in the summer of 2013 to bring Wanyama to the Premier League and he became the first Kenyan international to play in the top-flight of English football.
Wanyama proved himself to be a tailor-made fit for the Premier League and reached great heights over the course of his three-season stay on the south coast, making 97 appearances in the process.
Having helped Southampton to an impressive 6th-place finish in the Premier League in the 2015-16 season, Wanyama completed a transfer to Tottenham for a fee of £11million to fulfil his dream of playing in the Champions League.
In his first season in North London, the Kenyan established himself as one of the key figures in the midfield and operated as a part of manager Mauricio Pochettino’s double pivot midfield.
Wanyama’s influence has gradually waned over the past couple of campaigns due to his struggles with injuries but his cross-border success story remains truly an inspiring one.
4. Mark Viduka
Mark Viduka made his move to Celtic Park in December 1998 with a lot of goals for Dinamo Zagreb under his belt, and the towering Socceroos centre-forward proved his credentials very soon.
He stayed at Parkhead only for a single full season but that was enough for him to get his name into the history books, as the Australian international racked up 25 goals in 28 league appearances in the 1999-00 season, also winning the Scottish League Cup in the process.
Viduka’s stocks were rocketing sky-high after his goalscoring heroics at Parkhead. Leeds United manager David O’Leary was the quickest to react, snapping up the striker in the summer of 2000.
Viduka went on to establish himself as a bona fide goalscorer in his first season at Elland Road and struck 22 goals in competitions, including all four in a memorable 4-3 victory over Liverpool at home.
The Australian also racked up 4 goals in Leeds’ march to the semi-finals of the Champions League in his first season, which is still the record for the most number of goals scored by an Australian player in the Champions League.
Viduka’s incredible strike rate at West Yorkshire saw him finish with 68 goals in 158 outings before he made his move to Middlesbrough in 2004 following the financial crisis at Elland Road.
Leeds’ stay in the top-flight came to an abrupt end but Viduka’s success story didn’t. He went on to register 41 goals in 98 appearances at Teesside before a final swansong at Newcastle United.
He didn’t have the pace to bother defences but he certainly won a lot of hearts with his natural finesse and razor-sharp reflexes in front of goal.
5. Shaun Maloney
The diminutive 5ft 7in playmaker broke on to the scene at Celtic in the 2000-01 season under Martin O’Neill but he found regular minutes hard to come by in the subsequent campaigns and was used largely on a rotational basis.
Nevertheless, he spent seven seasons in his first stint at Parkhead and won four domestic league titles before O’Neill, then in charge of Aston Villa, brought him to the Premier League in January 2007.
Maloney’s stint at Villa Park proved to be a mediocre one as the versatile playmaker netted 7 goals in 33 appearances for the Lions in all competitions. He headed back to Celtic but his second stint at Parkhead coincided with Rangers’ dominance in Scottish football.
Maloney did return to the Premier League, however, with Wigan Athletic willing to offer him a return to south of the border. Maloney moved to Wigan in 2011 and he proved his critics wrong under the guidance of Roberto Martinez, as the Scotsman went on to play a key role in the Latics FA Cup winning campaign in the 2012-13 season.
He even pledged his loyalty to the club following their relegation from the Premier League and plied his trade in the Championship.
Maloney switched boats to join Hull City in the Championship following a brief stint at Chicago Fire in the MLS and subsequently went on to represent the Tigers in the Premier League before hanging up his boots.
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