Celtic Newboy Gary Mackay-Steven Needs To Look At Neil McCann As His Inspiration


Some players develop at different rates than others. It’s a plain and simple fact with footballers.

Scottish stars can always have their heads turned by the bright lights and wads of cash offered to them by clubs in the English Premier League (EPL). Some like Andrew Robertson can take to it like a duck to water, others, say Steven Naismith, can take their time to settle down before preforming well in England’s top league. Whereas others like David Goodwillie for example fail to make an impression. Even talismanic Tartan Army favourite James McFadden didn’t really do anything of note in the EPL.

Scots going to the Championship don’t have a guarantee that they’ll succeed there either, just ask David Clarkson, Chris Maguire and Mark Reynolds. Join the wrong club and you can get lost in that league.

There used to be a well trodden path that would allow up and coming talents the chance to join a bigger club but remain in Scotland. That of course meant joining one of the Old Firm.

Now we have many reasons for the decline in Scottish players leaving the league rather than join one of Glasgow’s big two.

Here are a few of them…

  • Obviously Rangers are no longer a strong force in Scotland’s top league meaning that there is only one destination bigger than the rest in the Scottish Premiership. If they don’t want you then you’ll have to leave Scotland for more cash or greater exposure. So chances are limited.
  • Scottish clubs like Dundee United, Hearts, Hibs and Hamilton are more canny when selling players. They will want lots of ad ons, more money up front and a bigger transfer fee. Those kind of deals can put Celtic off.
  • The cash and exposure of England will always be attractive to Scots players and Celtic can’t always compete with them in terms of wages. Player will always believe in their own abilities and will want to become the new James McArthur or Stevie Naismith.
  • Celtic can’t sign every decent Scottish player that becomes available.

Thankfully for Gary Mackay-Steven he seems to be bucking the trend and trying his hand with Scottish champions Celtic after he agreed to sign a pre-contract with the Glasgow giants.

Mackay-Steven has put in some terrific performances with Dundee United in the past few seasons. His skills and ability had attracted interest with various English sides outside of the Premier League.

I think the twenty-four year old has made the best decision possible by staying in Scotland.

He’s too talented for League One football, not consistent enough for an EPL move and could have become disoriented with life in the Championship.

At Celtic he’ll make a step up playing European football, earn a higher wage and constantly vying for titles and trophies. Should he shine at Celtic park then he will be in Gordon Strachan’s Scotland thoughts and should add to his one cap.

But Gary has to hit the ground running when he finally completes his move.

So in that vein he should try and get a hold of Rangers DVDs looking at Dick Advocaat’s early years at Ibrox. Now I know some Celtic fans might snigger and ridicule this idea but let me explain my reasoning.

There was one player from Advocaat’s early era that should inspire Mackay-Steven and that is Neil McCann.

Like Gary, Neil joined one of the Old Firm from one of Scotland’s stronger sides at the time (Hearts) and was at the beginning of his international career.

He walked into that Rangers team and for a year and a half was a revelation. The winger would get fans off of their seats as he ran at defences and provided the sides with goals or assists galore. He was probably the closest thing the Gers support had in finding a replacement for Brain Laudrup.

McCann showed no fear and would torment defences in Scotland, his performance against Celtic in May 1999 is one of the best from a Rangers player in an Old Firm game during that era.

Neil could have been even better if that pesky Dick Advocaat hadn’t insisted on the winger tracking back and using more defensive discipline. In my opinion, Advocaat ruined McCann and deprived Scotland of a tremendous winger that could have gone on and become a great.

Now, Mackay-Steven has to join the ‘Hoops’ and show that same no fear attitude and grab his chance with both hands.

Celtic fans love a great wide-man but haven’t had the best of track records in that department as of late. James Forrest can be fantastic but he’s too injury prone and now frustrates the life out of many Celtic fans. Is Derk Boerrigter still at Celtic? Call me if you see him. While Dylan McGeouch is at Hibs on a loan deal.

Celtic’s best wide play seems to be coming from their full-backs and before that they had to use makeshift wingers like Georgios Samaras and Joe Ledley.

So the fans will be on board straight away with Mackay-Steven as long as he can entertain them with his box of tricks, score goals and provide assists. At Tannadice so far this season Steven has got himself four assists and five goals. Most of those have come in January, probably buoyed by Celtic’s interest. At this stage Forrest only has one goal and two assists. Actually Mackay-Stevens stats often outperform Forrest’s during their careers.

The player may have become stale at United as he has seen Johnny Russell, Andrew Robertson and Ryan Gauld leave for bigger and better things. But now he can see his move in sight and looks to be performing well again.

Will he join before the summer?

Ultimately that will be down to the two clubs. Celtic boss Ronniy Deila has made no secret that he’d want the winger to join sooner. But for that to happen Celtic will need to offer Dundee Utd a fee. United want £250k for the winger, and Celtic’s board will feel that they can wait until the summer rather than buy at that price. That’s not to say that Peter Lawwell want call up United’s Stephen Thompson in the last days of the window and make a bid in the region of £125k to bring in fresh blood that could excite the fans. It would be interesting to see what Thompson would do in that situation. £125k is better than nothing but the Dundee Utd chairman doesn’t bow down to the Old Firm lightly and he wont want to see them strength at his teams expense this term. Plus he’ll want to finish in second spot and may be of the opinion that Gary can help them achieve that goal.

But even if Gary Mackay-Steven does have to wait until the summer before joining Celtic he needs to prepare for the expectation that lies before him and hope that like Neil McCann has done before him that he can make an instant, impressive impact!

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