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Cosgrove: January has been bleak for Jambos.

Byline: Stuart Cosgrove

THE January sales bring with them the prospect of a great bargain or the anxiety that even more money has been wasted. It seems the transfer window works according to the same basic rules.

After a horrendous first half to the season,Dundee United fans will feel their dash to the sales was rewarding.Although they had to shell out the best part of 800 grand,they surprisingly snatched Stevie Crawford from the grip of Hearts.

Crawford is not only a proven success in the SPL,he has the adventurous will to win that has been in short supply at Tannadice.

We will never know if it was money alone that tipped the balance in United's favour.

Crawford mouthed the usual platitudes about being impressed with the club's ambitions,despite the fact their ambition recently has been to crawl from the bottom of the league.

It was a bleak visit to the sales for Jambos,as they were hustled out of every bargain. Quite apart from losing Crawford,Hearts lost out in almost every sense of the word.

They had Mark de Vries and Alan Maybury stolen from under their noses by former boss Craig Levein at Leicester.

And even if all three are replaced,there is little guarantee that this year's sales will unearth a bargain like de Vries.He has been one of Hearts' greatest signings ever.

But when all seemed spent at Tynecastle,Santa arrived late.

The club's Lithuanian suitor Vladimir Romanov has reputedly paid for a squad of Eastern Europeans to train in Scotland and try their luck with Hearts.

Jambos called it a unique experiment - - a cheap labour camp might have been more accurate. At a time when Hibs are blazing a trail with their own youth system Hearts look set to raid the dustbins of the east.

Rangers lost out at the sales,too.The departure of Jean-Alain Boumsong to Newcastle has at least provided anpounds 8million windfall and will dent the club's debt.But he will bea real loss on the pitch.

If their limp-wristed performance at Tannadice over the festive season was a compass then McLeish's men looka directionless lot.It is just as well Stefan Klos was not attracted by Dick Advocaat's offer of a contract at Borussia Moenchengladbach or fury would have raged at Ibrox.

The German keeper is their last remaining gem. Quite apart from his consistent performances as the last line of defence,and his role as captain, it was Klos' never-say-die presence in the box at Tannadice that turned certain defeat into a face-saving draw.

Rangers can point to the little-known attacking midfielder Thomas Buffel as new blood but it is hardly a signing designed to lift the spirits.

If anything it looks a lightweight buy and Buffel has inadvertently brought surreal humour to his arrival, jokingly implying that if Bert Konterman can be a big hit at Ibrox then anyone can.

Woefulness Many a disappointment has been cast in jest and the very last thing Rangers fans need is another 'so-what' signing so Buffel will be expected to hit the ground running.

His gag may come back to haunt him - using Konterman as his benchmark may yet backfire.

The transfer window has come at the right time for Alex McLeish.

Flurries in the market have distracted attention from the woefulness of Rangers' performance at Tannadice.Those who saw it live rate it as one of their worst showings in recent years.

But while Klos' daredevil lunge to save the game ended in a scrappy goal for Hamed Namouchi, it also cast Rangers in a mould of desperation.

The sight of a goalie running the length of the pitch to snatch something from the jaws of defeat hasa touch of romance in a big European match but in the league against the bottom team it's humiliating.

CAPTION(S):

GOOD BUY: Crawford was a shock addition for United
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 6, 2005
Words:653
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