Norwich City report card: McLean made big impact in spite of difficult start
PUBLISHED: 12:00 22 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:59 31 May 2019
Hear ye, hear ye! Please be upstanding for the man who played a pivotal role in the promotion of the Canaries, the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Kenny McLean...
How quickly life in Norfolk has changed for the Scotland international midfielder. From the disappointment of early-season injury and watching on from the sidelines, to adulation on the balcony of Norwich City Hall with a Championship winners' medal around his neck.
It's been quite the journey for a player who has had to show a great deal of patience, ever since news of his switch from Aberdeen broke in January 2018, only to swiftly return to Scotland on loan.
Seven goals in 16 games for the Dons after a deal reportedly worth around just £150,000 was confirmed, due to his contract coming towards its end, caught the attention of Norwich fans.
The former St Mirren man looked ready to make a real impact for the Canaries but had to settle for a place on the bench on the opening day of the season, coming on for Tom Trybull midway through the second half and eventually having to fill in at left-back, helping City fight back twice to draw 2-2 at Birmingham.
That earned a midfield start in the next game, playing 75 minutes of a chaotic 4-3 home loss to West Brom, before disaster struck in the League Cup first round.
Coming on for the injured Trybull at half-time, McLean was caught late in a tackle during a stodgy 3-1 win over League Two side Stevenage, but played on and put in the corner which fortunately deflected in off Christoph Zimmermann to give the hosts the lead.
Ankle ligament damage robbed Daniel Farke of a summer arrival and, after surgery, it wasn't until December that the Scot was able to get back to action with a couple of appearances for the under-23s.
An opportunity to press for a return to frontline action arrived in the FA Cup third round at the start of January, banking 90 minutes as a disjointed City lost 1-0 to League One promotion hopefuls leaders Portsmouth at Carrow Road.
It was another forgettable chapter in McLean's season - but there was much more to come.
Coming off the bench at West Brom a week later saw that trusty left foot come to the fore again, setting up a late Jordan Rhodes equaliser in a vital 1-1 draw.
After little involvement in the next five matches his big chance came at crisis club Bolton, days after a tired City had lost 3-1 at Preston, and an assist in a 4-0 win finally brought the breakthrough he craved - even though it did include becoming the latest to suffer from the Canaries' penalty jinx, as he saw his effort saved.
A dipping half-volley at Carrow Road in the next game proved the big moment though, sealing a brace in a 3-2 win over Bristol City as a well balanced central midfield partnership alongside Trybull was formed.
In fact, that pairing were pivotal to a 14-match unbeaten run which brought the Championship title and those memorable promotion celebrations at City Hall, with McLean racking up three goals and five assists, also reclaiming his Scotland place along the way.
The Scot declared himself the new mayor of Norwich while wearing the town crier's hat during the end-of-season partying, with Stiepermann ringing a ball to add to the ceremonial pomp.
McLean is likely to find his position on the pitch under threat from Moritz Leitner once Premier League battle begins but the influential role he played in securing City's return to the top flight looks likely to be enough to ensure he remains an integral part of this City squad though.
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