ST MIRREN midfielder Kenny McLean picked up his first Clydesdale Bank Premier League young player of the month award yesterday and said a name check by Scotland manager Craig Levein capped a wonderful October, in which he also scored his first goal for the Buddies.
Levein revealed on a television highlights show that the 19-year-old had come to his attention even before his winning strike against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on 29 October.
McLean, who featured for Scotland Under-21s last season, knows he has a long way to go before he can look to full honours but was boosted even to be mentioned by the national team manager.
After collecting his award at the club’s training ground in Ralston, Paisley, McLean said: “It was massive. Obviously it gives me something to live up to a wee bit and hopefully I can do that and keep progressing.
“I was in the 21s at the end of last season so I will be looking for an another appearance in the next season or two, hopefully.
“But I am just looking to keep my place at St Mirren and get more goals like the one at St Johnstone.
“It is my first award since I came into the first team so it’s great to pick it up so early and hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.
“I think the goal took me on the way to this award. It was great to get my first one for the club and hopefully that is also the first of many.
“I played left midfield last season which I was happy to do as long as I was playing but this season I have my chance in centre midfield and hopefully I can take it.
“The way we play under the boss suits me and hopefully we will be moving forward.”
McLean came through the youth ranks at St Mirren Park and earned his first taste of first-team football on loan with Arbroath in the Second Division, making 23 appearances for the Gayfield Park side during the 2009/10 campaign. He made his St Mirren debut in October 2010, when he also signed a three-year extension to his contract, and won his first Scotland Under-21 cap in March.
Yesterday, McLean spoke fondly of his loan spell at Arbroath and insisted it was beneficial to his development.
“I was 17 at the time and I think it was the right thing to do,” the Cambuslang teenager said. “Getting first team football when I was younger has definitely helped me get where than I am. It was a better standard than youth football, it was first team football and the Second Division is better than what people think.
“I played regularly and enjoyed my time there.”
It has been a good week for Danny Lennon, who watched his team draw 0-0 with Hearts in an entertaining match on Saturday and then saw goalkeeper Craig Samson drafted into the Scotland squad for Friday’s friendly in Cyprus.
Asked if he believed McLean was also a future international, the St Mirren manager replied: “There is no doubt about it.
“The sky’s the limit for Kenny with the quality that he has. I see what he brings on a daily basis in training. He has a bit of everything and the only thing that will stop Kenny McLean going to the top is Kenny McLean.
“And we are delighted with Craig Samson being called up, along with Kenny’s award today.
“It is a pat on the back to everyone here at the club.”