Time to shine at Norwich City for the left foot 'that could open a tin of beans'
PUBLISHED: 06:30 26 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:54 26 February 2019
Kenny McLean certainly knows where the goal is - but the Scot had to wait a long time for the sweet feeling of scoring his first for Norwich City.
The midfielder was in fine form during the latter stages of his time with Aberdeen as well, so much so that McLean has five goals and five assists to his name from his last 14 league games.
That excellent return straddles four months out with ankle ligament damage which required surgery though – adding him to the Canaries’ promotion push like a new signing.
The Scotland international’s brace during Saturday’s vital 3-2 home win over Bristol City has launched him to the forefront of City fans’ considerations, after a rather low key emergence.
He was signed in January 2018 for a low fee reportedly in the region of £200,000 as his contract at Aberdeen entered its final six months, with Norwich sealing the deal by agreeing to allow McLean to remain with the Scottish Premiership side for the remainder of the campaign.
Signing terms with the Canaries until 2021 showed the belief that sporting director Stuart Webber had in the former St Mirren man but kept him largely out of mind for supporters.
Originally from the town of Rutherglen, on the southern outskirts of Glasgow, McLean played youth football for Aberdeen and Rangers but it was with St Mirren where he began his push for a professional career.
His senior debut came at the age of 17 when he joined Scottish third-tier side Arbroath on loan, eventually staying and helping earn a play-off final place, making 21 appearances. That spell earned McLean his chance at St Mirren during 2010-11, with his efforts bringing a three-year contract extension and a Scotland U19 cap.
A total of 23 appearances that season brought the first of eight U21 caps before the campaign was over, playing alongside players including Jordan Rhodes and Tom Cairney at that level.
Things really kicked up a gear the next season when, still aged 19, speculation linking Celtic and Burnley with strong interest led to then St Mirren boss Danny Lennon to tell Sky Sports: “Kenny has got a big, bright future in the game. His quality is always there to see.
“He’s a fit lad, he’s got a great engine and a great left foot that could open a tin of beans.
“He’s got a lot of developing still to do but, for me, he can go the full distance.”
Four goals in 33 games brought a nomination for the PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year award, alongside Celtic forward James Forrest, the eventual winner – despite missing over a month of the season with a fractured collarbone.
A flying start to 2012-13, scoring six goals in 18 matches, was interrupted by a month out due to minor knee surgery – with Nottingham Forest and Ipswich the latest clubs to be linked with the Buddies’ star midfielder.
That injury hampered progress for McLean and again 2013-14 was disrupted by over a month out because of knee surgery, but a total of seven goals and five assists in 34 games for the Premiership side meant the 22-year-old was a man in demand, with his contract expiring.
However, despite a host of clubs in England being linked, a new two-year contract was signed.
It was clear the youngster’s star was on the rise and after seven goals in 25 league games during the first half of 2014-15, Aberdeen made their move, forking out a reported £300,000 in February of that campaign – joining the team he had turned down in favour of joining Rangers as a teen.
McLean was soon a regular starter at Pittodrie and found himself playing in Europa League qualifiers in the summer of 2015, scoring three goals in five matches, including both legs of a highly disappointing 3-2 aggregate loss to Kazakhstan side Kairat Almaty over two legs.
The Dons shook that off to finish second in the Premiership, with McLean an ever-present, starting all 38 games and finishing with six goals and six assists to his name, also earning his first Scotland senior cap in a friendly win in the Czech Republic.
The left-footed creative force was again an integral player during 2016-17, making 53 appearances as Aberdeen finished runners-up to Celtic in the league and the Scottish Cup, scoring five and creating another five.
All of which led to McLean beginning the final year of his Dons contract with his stock flying high, confirming in November 2017 that he wouldn’t be renewing his deal as he looked to take his career to the next level, on the back of finally winning his second international cap.
With his Norwich move secured during the January transfer window, he cracked on and completed last season with excellent figures of 11 goals and six assists from 47 games in all competitions.
With fourth and fifth Scotland caps added during the summer, away to Peru and Mexico, McLean looked ready to step up with City – only for a poor challenge during a League Cup victory over Stevenage in August to put his hopes on the back-burner.
Two assists and two goals from six league appearances have thrust the summer arrival right back into Daniel Farke’s promotion plans though, with a return to the Scotland fold surely not far away either.