The Scottish game is often harshly criticised English football fans, who describe our league as a ‘tinpot league’, but over the last few years, we’ve seen a rise in the number of clubs recruiting some of the Scottish Premiership’s best talent.
One club that springs to mind is League One side Burton Albion.
Since 2015, the Brewers have looked north of the border for new recruits on numerous occasions, breaking their transfer record not once but twice for two Ross County stars.
And it’s fair to say it’s been a happy hunting ground for the English side.
Names such as Jackson Irvine, Liam Boyce, Scott Fraser, and Jamie Murphy spring to mind, all developing well at Albion, some moving onto bigger and better things.
Nigel Clough has instilled a fantastic brand of football at the Pirelli Stadium, making it a much easier choice for players to join the Brewers and after the clubs most successful boss stood down from his role during the coronavirus pandemic, new gaffer Jake Buxton will be looking to continue the fine work in the coming season and will be aiming for a play-off run.
This summer, the Brewers turned to Scotland once again, picking up Kane Hemmings on a free transfer from Dundee and one of the standout players outside the Old Firm last season, Steven Lawless.
The midfielder is hoping to have as much success as recent players at Burton and is looking forward to playing in front of new faces after spending all of his professional career in Scotland following his exit from Livingston.
“I felt like I had a good season at Livingston last season and I knew there was interest in me from north and south of the border. I really wanted to try something different as I’ve played seven years in the Scottish Premiership and playing against the same teams constantly gets a little repetitive. As soon as the fixtures came out, I was looking at the big clubs and stadiums I’d be playing at.
“The closest team I was close to signing with in Scotland was Motherwell and it would have been an ideal move had I wanted to stay here, but I made it clear that I wanted to wait and see what happened elsewhere as I really wanted a fresh challenge.
“Burton do seem to come to Scotland for players and that was at the forefront of my thinking and they seem to have a connection with Scotland now. They trust the lads to come down and make an impact and do well here and they have a track record in doing that.”
Last season, the 29-year old had one of the best seasons of his career and his importance to the remarkable success that Livingston had was clear to see. Lawless scored 11 goals, provided 9 assists, and had a 34% participation in all goals scored by the Lions last term, excelling under Gary Holt.
“It was definitely my favourite season of my career so far although I’m sure I hit similar numbers for (Partick) Thistle in the Championship. Playing in right-midfield is my natural position and I feel as if I can always get these numbers if I play there regularly. I felt like I had something to prove as I played out of position during my first year at Livingston.
“The target at the beginning of last season was to honestly just stay up and try to finish higher than the season before, but after a few games we quickly realised that we had something special and had a good style of play. I personally believe that had the season been played to a close, we had every chance of finishing even higher as we had a very good record against the sides in the top six.
“The mentality, attitude and determination on the park is second to none and that is what makes Livingston so hard to beat.”
Lawless was the provider on several occasions for the new man on the move, Lyndon Dykes- who recently earned a £2million move to English Championship side Queens Park Rangers, as well as being called into Stevie Clarke’s Scotland side.
And the winger was delighted for his former team mate.
“The recruitment at Livingston is very, very good and Lyndon was another fabulous pick up for them. If you look at his record before joining Livi, you’d have never thought he’d have taken to the Premiership as well as he did, it was quite remarkable how he just took to it instantly.
“It’s excellent money as well for Livingston especially only having him for a year after bringing him in on a free transfer.
“During my time, I’ve played with some good strikers but I’ve never played with one like Lyndon, he has everything and is an absolute nightmare to defend against. I’ve honestly never seen a striker who’s caused the Old Firm centre-backs as much grief as Lyndon did.”
Lawless will always go down as a Jags legend, making 228 appearances over a six-year spell, being part of the memorable Championship winning squad and the side that finished sixth in the Scottish Premiership.
And the winger is hoping that he will be able to reunite with the club in the future.
“We won the Championship the first season I joined. I didn’t really know much about the standard of the league as I had just joined from Motherwell but after we played a couple of friendlies and league games, we built a lot of confidence and that continued for the rest of the season even though there were a couple of bumps and bruises along the way. It was an excellent squad to be a part of.”
“I don’t think it was right the way that they were relegated last season and teams have obviously done what’s best for them instead of the country as a whole. The leagues are quite stagnant in Scotland and I think reconstruction would have been a breath of fresh air to Scottish football.
“It’s disappointing to see them where they are. I’ve got a lot of friends still there who have been hard done by but Partick Thistle are a massive club and I’m sure they will get back to where they belong.
“Thistle are the club that gave me a chance and they’ll always have a place in my heart. I hope it’s not the last time I’m at the club”
Lawless has hit the ground running in Stoke-On-Trent, scoring on his debut against Peterborough in the EFL Trophy and will undoubtedly be looking to kick on and hit the heights of last year.