Alan Pattullo: Scott McKenna’s fee has fallen but he’s a better player

Pandemic meant Aberdeen would never reap the sum previously offered by Aston Villa
Aberdeen's Scott McKenna is set for a £3m move to Nottingham Forest. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNSAberdeen's Scott McKenna is set for a £3m move to Nottingham Forest. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Aberdeen's Scott McKenna is set for a £3m move to Nottingham Forest. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

Interviewed earlier this year, Scott McKenna reflected on a big-money move to Aston Villa that never happened. He stressed the point that it was unlikely Aberdeen would receive such a large bid for his services again.

A pandemic brewing in the Far East as he spoke all but ensured this would be the case. Villa bid between £6-£7 million for the centre-half hours before the transfer window closed two years ago. Nottingham Forest are currently in negotiations with Aberdeen to buy McKenna for a reported £3m. The drop in value is down to a variety of reasons. The perverse truth of the matter is that Forest will be securing the services of an even better player than Villa were hoping to sign, providing agreement is reached.

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It was the timing rather than the size of the fee that Aberdeen were unhappy about in August 2018. The Pittodrie side were concerned they did not have the opportunity to search for a replacement.

It left McKenna slightly frustrated. However, he got his head down while making no secret of the fact he felt a transfer elsewhere, sooner rather than later, was required if he was to meet his career ambitions. After all, he’s been at Aberdeen since he started training with them as an 11-year-old. He turns 24 in November. As far as he’s concerned, now is a good time to move.

He wants to play in one of the major leagues in Europe. A still- to-be confirmed switch to Nottingham Forest won’t satisfy that objective, not immediately at least. However, it is a step in the right direction.

Rightly or wrongly, few players outwith Rangers and Celtic make the move from the Scottish Premiership straight into the Premier League. McKenna was realistic about that when speaking to The Scotsman in February, after another transfer window had closed with him still in situ at Aberdeen.

“The end goal is playing in one of the major leagues in Europe, it does not necessarily have to be England,” he said. “Is a step straight there realistic? Probably not. Do I need to play well enough to earn a move from Aberdeen and prove myself at another level to try and get there? Most likely.

“You have to have goals and aims and aspire to get there. It does not always happen in one move, it might take two or three moves. You might get a move that does not go well and you need to prove yourself again. It all comes from doing well for Aberdeen and Scotland.”

He has certainly been doing that – just not as many times as he might have liked for Scotland. The pandemic has limited his international outings this year to just two. A strong start to Aberdeen’s season coupled with a very poor one by Nottingham Forest has created the circumstances where he’s become extremely attractive once more. Again, it’s not ideal timing for his club. Aberdeen have an exciting Europa League third qualifying tie against Sporting Lisbon tomorrow night in the Jose Alvalade stadium. McKenna would no doubt love to have played a part. He has been a significant contributor to his side’s good form of late.

It is no coincidence that his absence on Sunday as Aberdeen continued to negotiate with Forrest coincided with a heavy 3-0 defeat against Motherwell. Fans are understandably concerned by the prospect of taking on Sporting Lisbon without their most physically imposing defender. What could prove his last game for Aberdeen – the 1-0 win over Kilmarnock last Saturday – saw him showcase what a dependable player he has become, particularly in the air. He won everything that afternoon. Statistics confirm this. In fact, he contested 22 aerial duels against Kilmarnock, Hibernian and Livingston, his last three league appearances for Aberdeen, and won them all. Forest will be well aware of this data.

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The English side appear to have begun this season suffering from a hangover following the post-lockdown collapse in form that robbed them of a place in the play-offs. They only needed a point on the final day to seal a berth having been in the top six since Boxing Day. However, a heavy defeat to Michael O’Neill’s Stoke City and a Swansea’s comprehensive win over Reading meant they missed out on goal difference.

Manager Sabri Lamouchi was retained despite the terrible finale, when Forest failed to win any of their last six matches. The current side includes former Rangers loanee Joe Worrall, pictured, who McKenna could partner in the centre of defence. Forest struggled to contain the 6ft 5in Kieffer Moore on Saturday, with the striker scoring both of Cardiff City’s goals. Before that, it was new Scotland striker Lyndon Dykes who did much of the damage in Queens Park Rangers’ 2-0 win. Forest currently sit third bottom of the Championship. Their fans are rightly excited by the prospect of McKenna’s impending arrival.

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