The Gauld Alliance - 'Part Deux'
Updated: May 9
This is a short follow-up to our more in-depth A\M feature from last May, regarding Gauld's then-incredible, now-normalised, string of performances. You can read this here.
I wanted to call this 'Part Deux', referencing the Hots Shots! sequel of the mid-90s, which was a spoof of every 'Nam movie ever made - especially Rambo and Apocalypse Now. I have no idea of the readership age of A\M, but I'm guessing this might've already alienated a few - since I'm here, however, telling you why, I might as well stick with it and post part of what became a well-worn videotape in our house.
"Ryan Stiles! Part Deux", this is not. So - what has this to do with Gauld? Well, he's had an absolutely superb couple of seasons where he has been the outstanding creative player for a promoted Farense side, picking up the Segunda Division's Player of the Year and more Man of the Match awards in the Primeira Liga than anyone else en route.
Still, remarkably, unbelievably, and well, somewhat unforgivably, some still think of him as being second-rate; 'not the real deal'. Spoof-like, if you will - what Charlie Sheen's Topper Harley is to his Dad's Captain Willard.
However, Willard isn't the only Captain in this analogy, for as Willard hopefully led his team upriver to find Marlon Brando, so Gauld is leading his team out of a relegation fight and performing as one of the top players in the division whilst he does it. What I'm trying to say is, Peter (below) - you had Gauld pigeon-holed as the wrong Sheen.
To confirm, this isn't an extension of said 'calling out' here. What we are (hopefully) saying, is that the research we mined over a long period last year, revealed a young man who had such a steely and unnerving ambition, such drive, that any inaccuracies of his period abroad were more than just ignorant - they were potentially damaging.
This is a time when broadcasters who should know better dismiss his talent with cumbersome slinging of vague inaccuracies. We're better than this, and in a social media age, it's not hard to be better than this. For more, please see the ever-reliable and industrious independent journalists; Byron Hutchison (Footballfromafar.com) and John Walker (Scots Abroad Pod), amongst others, who never fail to report on Gauld's progress.
Yes, this really was all in one game. This has been his level of performance, consistently. Mind-blowing.
Besides inaccuracies, let's also not forget what this young man has had to overcome in his time abroad. This is a player, a human, who had been genuinely and petulantly mistreated by Sporting's then-Director - recalled from a successful loan spell and cast into the B-team for having the temerity to dump the A-team out the cup whilst at Rio Aves.
Such nonsense should be illegal, but you would at least have been forgiven for thinking he might call it quits and return to Scotland, even if it did legitimise those 'spoof-like' claims from ignoramuses who valued his entire being on an injury-laden stint at Hibs.
In the first piece we stated, "he's no 'mini-Messi'", but then, he's not Topper Harley or Captain Willard either. He's Ryan Gauld, and he's one of the best players in the Primeira Liga, who still harbours ambitions for the Scottish National Team. This is something we'd do well to notice, as the Portuguese media never fail to in our absence.
"Ryan Gauld is increasingly leading among those who offer more shots to colleagues in the #LigaNOS 20/21"
Some more stats for you now: Gauld is in the top 10 in the division in the following areas; Goals 8 (9th), Assists 7 (3rd), Goals + Assists 15 (6th), Penalty Kicks Made 4 (2nd), Shots Total 71 (5th), Crosses 181 (2nd). Notably, as you can see above, he made 4 key passes and laid on 2 big chances in one game alone, against one of the big boys in the division. This type of thing is typical for Gauld in big games, with two more assists coming against Sporting. (courtesy of FBref.com)
This made all the more impressive when you consider that he is carrying this Farense team on his back - as captain. If he seems disgruntled (above) upon receiving yet another MOTM award (his 8th of the season), that's because he is, as the top tweet points out - a teammate first and foremost; a teammate who creates more than finishes (although he is also Farense's top scorer).
I've watched a lot of him this season, and it is genuinely astounding how poor the finishing has been at times - I'd be similarly grumpy. For, if playing for a better side, he'd be topping these charts, but more importantly to him - his team would be handsomely clear of relegation.
Nevertheless, this reveals something else to Gauld's game. Something that 'folks back home' might not necessarily pick up on, but something that I think is the key ingredient to his form and that, I believe, is why we have to find a place for him in the Scotland team: his leadership.
How does he lead? Well, as a forward-thinking, creative midfielder, he also harries better than anyone. For instance, in the two games against Braga this season, Gauld made 4 interceptions in each game - to go with his creation. To put this into some context - remember Ngolo Kante's recent semi-final superhuman performances against Real Madrid? Remember how he was everywhere and 'did the job of two men'? Well, he made 7 interceptions across those two games, as a player whose job it is to do that. Gauld made 8.
Now - allowing for obvious differences in levels - I'm just highlighting that 8 across two games, from a player who is predominantly attacking in nature, shows a steely determination and 'grit', that is not always attributed to a 'number 10' - a job he is also performing amongst the league's best.
All this is to say - he's the type of player who inspires his teammates. They look at him, their best player and best chance of a goal, see the work he is putting in, and think to themselves; 'I need to do the same'. This is never-say-die attitude is something Scotland need. He is a perfect fit.
Ryan being a young player and having to adjust to the Portuguese game, was always put on the side and he just wasn’t given the chances he deserved... I believe if it was today, Ryan would be playing in Sporting Lisbon’s first 11 and a reference point of the team. He can be one of the best players in Primeira Liga next season.
Sergio Vieira, Gauld's old manager at Farense, May 2020
Nostradamus would've been proud, Sergio. Whilst Vieira might no longer be there, it goes to show that his assertions were more than hot air. The facts are now there to back him up no matter what way you now look at it; Gauld is one of the best players in the sixth-best league in Europe, whilst playing for one of the weaker sides.
I think the question of 'Aye, but could he do it at Hibs?', is made to look a bit foolish here, but let's answer it anyway (with all respect to Hibs and the SPFL). Gauld was ripping up our top division in 2013-14. He's now grown into a leader, a captain, a talisman, a top scorer, a top assist-maker and a free agent come the Summer. Using facts, in fact, it's easy to see he's carrying Farense the way Gerrard did Liverpool in 2004-'05, or the way his teammate and best mate, Andy Robertson, stood out in a relegated Hull City side before becoming one of the top 3 left-backs in world football.
This is where we take off our non-partisan hats in closing.
It's getting to the stage where, frankly, we're running out of excuses here. Gauld needs to be in the Scotland team. He brings quality, zeal, intelligence, and an ability that I honestly think is unlike any other player we possess, including Turnbull - who we also love.
I similarly love Steve Clarke, and anyone familiar with A\M will know that we have been alongside him every step of the way, predicting some, and affirming all, of his changes to our setup.
This, however, is where it gets murky because I am a Scotland fan first and foremost, and Steve and I might have a wee one-sided fallout soon, because if Gauld is omitted from our pre-tournament and tournament squads; I feel it'll be to our detriment.
He is that good.
Let's not wait for him to move to one of Portugal's big 3 in the Summer before we all sit up and take notice. The tournament has passed by then. Let's do it now. He's no spoof. He's the real deal.