TEST flanker John Barclay is beginning to get his head around the fact that his future lies outside Scotland after Glasgow confirmed they will not renew his contract this summer.
The 26-year-old was hailed as the brightest teenage talent in Scotland when selected by Matt Williams for a national squad camp at just 17. The Scottish Schools Cup-winning captain with Dollar Academy fought back from a serious injury as a schoolboy to go on and, in 146 games to date, make the Glasgow No 7 jersey his own, but his progress was hampered by a serious of unrelated injuries, including torn thumb ligaments when a friend sat on a glass he was holding.
A sharp brain and clever ball-player, Barclay has been recognised as Scotland’s leading openside flanker since he made his Test debut opposite Richie McCaw in the 2007 World Cup. He enjoyed a rivalry with Edinburgh’s Ross Rennie, whose career has also stalled through injury, but dominated the No 7 jersey through the last three years. However, after winning his 41st cap off the bench against Tonga in November, he suffered a torn hamstring and only returned to the field last month, ruling him out of early Six Nations contention.
Kelly Brown stepped into the openside role and has been one of Scotland’s top performers. There have been calls in some quarters to restore the ‘Killer Bs’ to the Scotland pack, with Barclay teaming up again with Brown and Johnnie Beattie, but the emergence of Rob Harley ends those for the moment.
Now the final Glasgow ‘B’, whose wife is due to give birth to their first child in May, is hoping that a fresh start in a new country can revive his Test fortunes by allowing him to emulate the success of his fellow ‘Bs’.
“I’ve had some great times at Glasgow,” he reflected, “and now the hope is that I can develop and improve as a player the way Johnnie and Kelly have moving on. Of course it’s disappointing to leave. While we haven’t won any silverware yet, we have a squad now that is going to be competing for it in the next few years and that’s something I’d have loved to have been a part of, but we have a good chance to do something this year and that is the big focus for me.
“I’ve known about this for a while so I’ve got my head around it now, and it’s about looking forward to a new challenge. It’s not easy to leave a club, especially when you’ve only ever had one, so I’m sure it will be a tough move initially, but that is what life is about and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve kept in contact with Johnnie [Beattie] and seen how much he has enjoyed going to France, and the resurgence he has had in his form this season, so I take a lot of comfort from that.”
Barclay has had offers from English and French clubs over the past few years, but each time his contract has come up he has been persuaded to stay in Scotland. He almost left the club last year, but a proposed move fell through and he agreed a new deal for this season with an option to extend it in 2013-14.
For the first time, however, Glasgow did not take up the option, with head coach Gregor Townsend instead bringing Richie Vernon back to the Warriors from Sale to supplement a large back row pool with young talents Chris Fusaro, Ryan Wilson and Adam Ashe pushing through.
“John has been a fantastic player for the club and we would like to wish him all the best for the future,” said Townsend. “He will be with us until the end of the season and is now back to full match fitness following his recent hamstring injury. It is great to be able to call on a player of his ability and experience for what could be some of the most important games in the club’s history.”
Barclay is mulling over several offers, with former Scotland prop and Edinburgh coach Tom Smith, now with Lyon, among the bidders keen to lure him across the Channel.
He added: “I want to make the right decision for me, my career and my family, and I am very determined to get back into Scotland contention, but the main focus is on helping Glasgow to a good finish in the RaboDirect. The club has been a huge part of my life since I turned professional and I’ve learnt a lot from the coaches and players that I’ve worked with at the Warriors. I’d like to thank everyone associated with the club for their support over the last nine years and I’m looking forward to being involved in some big games between now and the end of the season.”