Scott McKenna’s journey from bit-part Aberdeen player to Scotland skipper is arguably more dramatic. It spans a single season and has seen him going from playing in front of 155 people at Glebe Park to leading Scotland out at Estadio Azteca, where the crowd was over 70,000.
McKenna started the last campaign playing for Aberdeen Under-20s in a 1-0 win over St Johnstone at Brechin City’s sparsely-populated ground in the Irn-Bru Cup.
He ended it by winning his fourth cap marshalling Scotland against Mexico in one of the iconic stadiums of world football. Charming though Glebe Park is, it can’t match the Azteca for awe factor.
McKenna was still coming to terms with his meteoric rise yesterday as Scotland prepared to head home from their summer tour to Peru and Mexico. It was the right time to reflect on a remarkable few months. He has already skippered Aberdeen in a Scottish Cup semi-final, although that was one of the few things that has failed to work out for him of late; his side lost and he was culpable for one of Motherwell’s three goals.
“The Scotland Under-21 game against Holland changed everything for me,” he explained. “It has been a crazy season, I don’t think it will sink in or another couple of weeks when I’m away on holiday and I can sit back and relax. It has been pretty full on, one thing after another, and I have enjoyed every single moment.”
McKenna made his Scotland Under-21s debut in that 2-0 win over Holland in early September. Derek McInnes noted his performance and pushed him into the first team soon afterwards. The Kirriemuir-born defender has certainly not looked back. The only regret is none of his family were in Mexico City to witness live such a proud moment as the 21-year-old leading out his country.
“They’re all at home,” he said. “It was going to cost far too much for them to come over and that’s why we appreciate all the fans who came. There weren’t many of them but they made a noise in both venues even though they were well outnumbered. They spent thousands of pounds to get here.”
McKenna only found out on the morning of the game he was skipper. “When the team was put up on the board there was a ‘c’ next to my name,” he said. “I was massively surprised. I know it is a relatively inexperienced squad but there were boys with seven and eight caps starting and I thought they might have been given the nod ahead of me, so I was absolutely thrilled to get it.”