Barry Douglas takes a step into the unknown, but why do so few want to follow?

One of the less heralded transfer stories of the close season so far, has come from Tannadice and Dundee United, where out of contract left back Barry Douglas has left the club.

Nothing strange in that, you would think, and you would be correct apart from the fact Douglas has gone on to sign for Polish Ekstraklasa side Lech Poznan, becoming one of only a handful of British and Irish players currently plying their trade in a foreign league. 

Douglas should be commended in not choosing the easy option, and for wanting to experience life in a different culture, a different language and a different way of learning his profession. It will be hard, and there is no guarantee that it will work out for him, but it will be an entry on his CV which will always draw interest for future employers.  

With Lech Poznan lying second in the table, there is a realistic chance of Champions League football during his time there. Poznan last qualified for it in the 2010-11 season, and Europa League football is a virtual certainty. Again, experiences which were less likely at the Terrors, despite their all too brief soiree against Dinamo Moscow last season. 

The lack of players who want to follow Douglas’s example though is something which has never been totally understood. Obviously, at present there is a lot of money in the top divisions in England, which is why there has been such an influx of foreign stars into our game. 

British players going the opposite direction and trying their hand abroad has been no where near on the same scale, and those that have done, have not had the same success. 

Gary Lineker, Mark Hughes, Steve McManaman, David Beckham and Michael Owen have all given it a shot, with various degrees of success with Barcelona and Real Madrid and Chris Waddle and Glenn Hoddle had spells in France, as did Beckham and Joey Barton this season. 

David Platt and Paul Gascoigne tried their luck in Italy and Paul Lambert memorably won the European Cup with Borussia Dortmund. After this list, it takes a bit more thought to see if any players, not winding down their careers have made any impact as a Brit abroad. 

Currently Buraspor in the Turkish Super Liga can boast Scott Carson and Anton Ferdinand in their ranks, finishing fourth and qualifying for the Europa League.

Also in the Super Liga, Allan McGregor left the turmoil at Rangers behind to join Besiktas and will also play in the Europa League next year, while fellow Scottish international Allan Hutton is currently on loan at Mallorca, but is likely to return to Aston Villa in the close season. 

Michael Mancienne, the former Chelsea starlet made his loan switch to Hamburg permanent in 2011 and whilst not having masses of success, is carving himself out a good career at the Imtach Arena, showing no signs of wanting to return to England whilst the Bundesliga grows from strength to strength. 

The only other player of any note is Irish international Aiden McGeady who has been braving the cold of Moscow while performing admirably for Spartak. It does appear that he will be heading back to these shores though, as Premier league clubs are once again looking at him. 

There isn’t much more than that. A few players are winding down their careers in the sun of America, Australia and Greece, and David James, always one to be a little different is currently Player Coach at Icelandic club IBV where he is getting coaching experience assisting Hermann Hreidarsson at the windswept island club. 

Will this situation change? Will we get star players moving abroad in the future? Will Gareth Bale go to Madrid, or will Wayne Rooney indulge PSG? Should some of the out of contract players try and follow the example of Barry Douglas and take the plunge abroad.

There should be no reason why they shouldn’t, but players like their home comforts and don’t want the upheaval, and for this reason the trend will sadly show no sign of reversing


image: © el-milligano

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