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Premiership unfinished business for Celtic striker Scott McDonald

He's not about to barrel out of Celtic Park, but it is something that is on his horizon: the Premiership represents unfinished business for Scott McDonald. The Celtic striker, who struck his 18th goal of the season against Aberdeen on Saturday, insists he sees his immediate future in Scotland, but can't hide an ambition to prove himself south of the border.

"I have already played in the Premier league with Southampton, albeit briefly. I will play there again," declared McDonald to tribalfootball.com, "but for now I have a dream career at Celtic and really cannot look too far ahead."

Just weeks after turning 18, McDonald made his Premiership debut as a substitute for Southampton at the old St Mary's ground. However, despite his promise, McDonald spent the remaining two years of his Saints career away on-loan at the likes of Huddersfield, Bournemouth and MK Dons.

"I don't see myself coming back to Australia in the next five to seven years as I really want to achieve a lot in Europe. But you can never know in football. As people say 'have suitcase will travel'," says McDonald.

But that's not to say McDonald is eyeing a move away anytime soon. The Australian was rewarded with a contract upgrade last summer and is now 12 months into a new five-year deal.

"Contracts are contracts but performing on the pitch is the best form of security a player can have," smiled McDonald.

"I am delighted that the Club I love has given me the contract but at the end of the day I am under no illusions. To stay and play at Celtic I need to help the team win games and because Celtic is such a big Club, we are about winning titles. I have to score goals and give 100 percent."

Now firmly established as a boxoffice name in Scotland, McDonald is determined to make his mark across Europe. Goals against AC Milan and Manchester United in the Champions League has brought him to the notice of the European media, but the Aussie wants more.

After getting the better of world class defenders like Nemanja Vidic, of Manchester United, and AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini, McDonald says he feels confident whenever - and wherever - he steps onto a pitch.

"Well, I have played against some pretty tough defenders in my time, but I try not to let their reputation deter me from doing my job," he said.

"I think they know they have been in a game when they've played against me. I use my assets as best I can and try to give the defenders as hard a time as I can.

"I am pretty confident in my own ability so I try not to worry too much about the opposition."

It's that confidence which should have eased McDonald's progression to Australia's national team, but it just hasn't happened for him at international level. While a regular in Pim Verbeek's line-up, McDonald is still to break his international duck and is desperate to deliver for his Dutch coach.

Those close to McDonald say he enjoys a good, open relationship with Verbeek and appreciates the Dutchman's man-management - no matter how frank he can be.

Indeed, the striker, now a veteran of over eight years of professional life in Europe, says the pundits back home are wrong to criticise Verbeek for his decision to select overseas-based players ahead of the media's latest A-League favourite.

"I think Pim has one goal in mind in everything he does and that is to take Australia as far as he can in world competition," said McDonald.

"Obviously making the World Cup is what he is employed to do. I think at times perhaps people forget that and take his stance on the A-League and A-League players the wrong way.

"Not every player can make it overseas and to have a domestic competition like the A-League is great. The best players will always want to go overseas.

"Some people say it's the money, but I think sportsmen and women strive to compete at the highest level. That is why players want to go overseas."

McDonald has made no secret of his regret at missing selection for Australia's 2006 World Cup squad and is determined to part of next year's version. While at 25 he can already boast goals on the biggest stages in the game and winners medals most pros can only dream of, McDonald is quick to emphasise the lasting memories he had as a junior international.

"I've had some great moments already in my career," recalls McDonald. "Winning the SPL in my first season at Celtic was a moment I will never ever forget. Running out onto Celtic Park for my first home game was special. Putting my Celtic shirt on for the very first time was also special.

"But there was also the opportunity I had to play for Australia at the U17 World Cup in New Zealand. We reached the final against Brazil and only lost on penalties, that will always stay with me."

In that Brazil team was a teenager by the name of Kaka and while their careers have taken vastly different journeys, ten years on McDonald is still competing at the same level as his AC Milan rival. A not insignificant achievement when so many of his former teammates have dropped off the map.

A repeat of that Auckland final in South Africa next year? That's improbable - but like with Celtic and the Champions League, McDonald will be determined to be no passenger at World Cup 2010.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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