Former Hamilton Academical defender Andrew MacLean discusses the players he played with and against during his time in British football.
Throughout trialing with several clubs in the UK, I was fortunate enough to train with highly talented young footballers. Some of which have seen their careers transpire to bigger and better things where as others have not been so lucky.
At my time with Fulham and Norwich City, I had the opportunity to train with notable fringe first team players such as Melbourne Victory’s Adrian Leijer and Cottagers defender Matthew Briggs, who holds the record for being the youngest player to play in the Premier League at 16 years and 65 days.
However, despite the number of talented players in both youth teams, the most notable player that has gone on to compete in senior football is Wes Foderingham. Wes is an extremely agile shot stopper, who at the time represented England’s Under 19’s and last season made 54 appearances for League One side, Swindon Town.
When I participated in a week-long trial at Heart of Midlothian in September 2009, I trained with the side that finished runners up to Celtic in the SPL Under 19 competition the previous season. Jamie Walker was their youngest striker, one with swift movement and an incredible nous for finding the back of the net. I was also left impressed by Dylan McGowan, brother of Socceroo Ryan, who’s ability to win the football and then distribute efficiently was indicative of his poise on the pitch. It is of no surprise to me that both of them are now regular first team players for Hearts.
Following Hearts, I ventured further north to Dundee United where one player really stood out for me.
Scott Allan who at the time was just 18, was being touted as a future star for the Arabs.
His deft touch and ability to distribute the ball with a wide array of passes made it obvious that he had a lot of potential in the centre of midfield. He recently joined Birmingham City on loan after moving from Tannadice to West Bromwich Albion in 2012.
The talent that encompassed the Celtic Under 19 side in 2011 was undoubtedly the envy of not only clubs in Scotland but all over the UK. That season the side competed in the NextGen youth competition, which pitted them against the likes of Barcelona and Manchester City.
Tony Watt was their main striker who I had the demanding task of marking on occasions. His strength and finishing paved the way for his famous winner against Barcelona in the Champions League last season.
Jackson Irvine, who is a friend of mine from competing together in Singapore back in 2008, was their holding midfielder who has the ability to be able to control the pace of a game with his superb passing, dribbling and athleticism. He recently vice-captained the Under 20 Australian team in the World Cup and is bound to establish himself in Celtic’s first team in the near future.
Republic of Ireland youth international, Paul George, was in my opinion not only the best player in their side but the most talented I had come across in my time in Scotland. The now 19-year old, with his quick feet and blistering acceleration, had the ability to glide past players with ease. Hopefully he can overcome some serious injuries that have dampened the last two years as he projects to become the next Aiden McGeady.
More recently, midfielder Gary Fraser, who I had the opportunity to train with every day during my time at the club, was released last season and was subsequently signed by Championship giants Bolton Wanderers. The 19-year old possesses an elite passing ability and also a knack for scoring 35-yard goals with his thunderous right foot. He has since gone on loan to SPL side Partick Thistle to gain first team experience but I have no doubt he has the ability to emulate the Accies stars that have preceded him.