Aaron Pressley on bullying his dad, Neil MacFarlane role and the 'strange' Scotland Under-21 call-up

It doesn't take long listening to Aaron Pressley to be encouraged by the striker who could spearhead the Scotland Under-21 attack for the next couple of years.

Aaron Pressley is on loan at AFC Wimbledon. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
Aaron Pressley is on loan at AFC Wimbledon. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

There is a confidence which doesn’t stray towards arrogance. There is insight and humour. But most of all there is that gallus quality which all Scotland strikers should have.

It can be expressed in different ways but looking at the key talismanic forwards to have pulled on the national team shirt down the years – Kenny Miller, James McFadden, Lyndon Dykes – they have all had that as part of their personality.

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As is expected, Pressley had to batter away a number of questions about his dad Steven. A totemic centre-back for Hearts, Celtic and Scotland, not to forget spells with both Rangers and Dundee United during his formative years.

Aaron on the Tynecastle Park pitch with dad Steven Pressley who was Hearts captain. Picture: SNS
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One particular answer provided an insight into that gallus, confident nature.

Asked if he and his dad had ever gone head to head in the back garden he said “no, not at all". A momentary silence was followed by the brilliant line: “I'd bully him to be fair”.

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What he will give Scotland

The 20-year-old, who sounds very similar to his old man, is set to win his first cap for Scotland Under-21s in the upcoming double header against Kazakhstan and Belgium with Scot Gemmill’s side needing positive results having failed to win either of their opening two games in qualification for the European Championships.

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Pressley will be looking to fill the void left by Fraser Hornby for the 21s. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

Pressley, it is hoped, will fill the focal point void left by Fraser Hornby.

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Hornby's club career has underwhelmed so far. He has just four goals at first-team level and didn’t find the net on loan at Aberdeen during the second half of last season. But he sits as the country's record scorer at Under-21 level.

Currently on loan at AFC Wimbledon from Brentford, Pressley reckons he will bring more than a goal threat to the Scotland attack, aided by one or two tips from his father.

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"You can only learn and it gives you more knowledge about football as a whole," he said. “He's been a young player trying to break through. He's experienced all that and I think that helps me.

"He watches most of my games when he can. Sometimes I don't see what he sees. As a defender he sees it from that perspective. He gives me tips on being harder to play against, just some things I can tweak in my game to take it to the next level.

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“Obviously different from him but I do have that aggressive side.

"I think I can bring good link-up play, a target to play up to. I can press, move in behind and I think I will give this side something different.”

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Brentford development

A key point in Pressley’s career was the move to Brentford from Aston Villa where he starred for the B-team under Neil MacFarlane, playing his “best football”.

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MacFarlane was a team-mate of Steven Pressley at Hearts, while also serving as assistant to him in various manager roles, including at Falkirk and Coventry City.

"Neil was really good," Aaron said. “He’s probably been my best coach.

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"I think he brought out a side of my game that I forgot I had and he took it to the next level. That was the best football I have played in my career so far.

"He made me feel a belief in myself. He trusted me and that got me to play the best I’ve played, he got me to my best fitness, he coached me well and I was scoring a lot of goals for his team.

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"It’s a big credit to him and Sam Saunders and the team there. They really pushed me and gave me a chance there.”

The striker is now getting regular first-team football, scoring four in 19 matches in League One.

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Coming up against the likes of Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday in the league and Arsenal in the cup are the sort of experiences he is looking for to ultimately become a regular for Premier League Brentford having got a taste of action during the Bees’ promotion-winning campaign last season.

"Yes, 100 per cent the aim is to be a Premier League player when I go back,” Pressley said. “But it’s tough with Ivan Toney in there. I wouldn’t say I am anywhere near him at the moment.

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“But it’s got to be the aim eventually. Coming up against Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday — all the teams in League One that are strong opposition — can only put me in a good place.

“The experience of playing Arsenal was different. Going there and watching these players play, I took a lot from that.

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“Some of these players, you see them getting stick on social media and you go there and watch them and you see how good they actually are.”

The 'strange’ call-up

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The short-term focus is Scotland and creating memories for his country having found out he was in the squad via Dapo Mebude, who is also in the squad, and Twitter.

“Dapo, who is at Wimbledon with me, came through and told me I was in the squad,” he said. “I didn’t actually know until I saw the announcement on Twitter.

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"It was a strange way to find out but I didn’t mind. The other international squads came out four or five days later but this one came out in advance.

"I was at the Scotland v England game at Hampden when Leigh Griffiths scored his two free kicks.

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"It was a good experience. You go from celebrating then they scored in the last minute so it was not ideal. But watching that made me think how good it would be to play for Scotland.”

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