Clubs in Scotland and England are clamouring to sign former Livingston midfielder Stefan Scougall as a free agent.
The 24-year-old from Edinburgh has been released by Sheffield United and is understandably not short of interest having played 110 times south of the Border.
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright wants to bring the player back to Scotland as a replacement for Danny Swanson, who left to join Hibs.
Wright faces stiff competition, though. At least two other Premiership teams have declared an interest, whilst several of England’s League One and League Two clubs are also in the mix.
“There have been three or four clubs in Scotland, a couple of English League Two teams and three in League One,” said Scougall, speaking exclusively to the Evening News.
“Some teams have been waiting to see what division they’re going to be in so I just need to weigh up my options over the next couple of weeks. Then I’ll need to decide where is right for me to go.
“I don’t think I’ll be short of options because of the level of contact.
“It’s a matter of looking at what’s on offer, getting contracts on the table and deciding where I’m going to play my football next season.
“I wouldn’t rule out a return to Scotland. A lot of guys in the Premiership are right good players who have been linked with moves to the English Championship and Premiership. The standard in Scotland has risen a little bit from when I was playing there four years ago. I wouldn’t be against a move back home.”
Scougall’s priority is to choose a destination where he will play regularly for the foreseeable future.
The last two seasons have left him frustrated at Bramall Lane as successive managers Nigel Adkins and Chris Wilder used him only sparingly – and sometimes not at all.
He was sent on loan to Fleetwood Town last year and wasn’t offered a new contract when his deal expired recently. He left Livingston in January 2014 with a steadfast belief he could succeed in England, and that notion hasn’t left him.
“I want to go somewhere where I can play week in and week out, whether that’s down south or back in Scotland,” he explained.
“I want to get back playing football, enjoying every week of training to play a game on a Saturday. For me, that’s your real wage as a footballer.
“I’ve been training well in England every week and not really getting a sniff, so it’s been quite hard.
“My only aim is to train Monday to Friday and then get the rewards by playing on a Saturday.”
All offers will be considered. St Johnstone clearly holds a certain appeal given Scougall was at McDiarmid Park to take in their 1-0 league win over Partick Thistle earlier this month. He isn’t quite ready to commit and may still feel he has unfinished business in England.
“I can’t rule anything out at the moment. I want to play football, whether that’s in League One or League Two in England, or back in Scotland. I just have to wait and see what the options are,” he said. “There has been a lot of interest from both sides of the Border so it’s just trying to weigh up the right move.”
Moving from his home in Yorkshire wouldn’t faze him either.
He is at a stage in his career where the next step is vital if he is to progress and reach his potential over the next two to three seasons.
“I don’t mind moving. My girlfriend might have to find a new job and we’d have to move all the stuff out of our house but I just need to play football. If that means moving back to Scotland, further down south or somewhere else in England, I don’t really mind.”
Scougall left Livingston three-and-a-half years ago as a notably slight and dainty midfielder.
He remains in the diminutive category at 5ft 7ins tall, but English football has taught him the value of upper body strength and proper physical conditioning.
“It’s more consistent and there are a lot more games down in England. You need to do more gym work to prevent injury,” he said.
“I’ve only missed one game through injury this season. You do need to work more on your prehab and rehab.
“I’ve played over 100 games in England now so I’ve picked up decent experience. The level of consistency is slightly better than Scotland. A lot of boys I played with at Livingston I felt could have played down in League One in England but you do need to work hard at your game.”
Although he ultimately fell out of the picture at Sheffield United, he is still a popular figure with supporters. Scoring in the 2014 FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against Hull City gained the little midfielder from Scotland instant popularity in Sheffield.
“I enjoyed my time down at Sheffield United and I’ll always remember the highs and the lows.
“It’s a big club with fantastic fans and I want to thank them for their support.”
Whoever lands Scougall next season will get a young, creative midfielder with bags of experience and no little desire to make the most of his undoubted talents.