Kenny McLean is desperate to ensure his farewell game for Aberdeen is rendered even more special for being on the winning side on cup final day at Hampden.
The Aberdeen midfielder is in the unusual position of answering to two taskmasters following matches. He must first seek to please Derek McInnes, his manager at Aberdeen. But he also reports in to Norwich City, the club he joined during the last transfer window before being immediately loaned back to Pittodrie.
This arrangement seems to be working for both him and Aberdeen. McLean scored his third goal in three games on Sunday to help his current side overcome Dundee United in their Scottish Cup fourth-round tie. With a home tie against Kilmarnock to come next month in the last eight, hopes are high that Aberdeen can reach the Scottish Cup final for the second successive year. But this time they want to go one better than finishing runners-up, with McLean especially keen to leave Pittodrie on such a positive note.
“That has always been the aim since I signed for Norwich and came back here,” said McLean. “It is my ambition (to win the Scottish Cup) but it is what everybody wants not just me. It is my last game and to go out on a high would be special.”
Aberdeen have not won the Scottish Cup since beating Celtic on penalties in 1990. They have lifted only two League Cups since then. Such failure to be among the big prizes could be one reason why McLean has been tempted to try his luck down south.
He is simply relieved to have his future sorted out after being linked with a move to Rangers earlier this season. The midfielder believes his performances are reflective of someone more comfortable about his situation.
“I am playing with a bit more freedom because at times you are playing for your future,” he said. “I had four months left on my contract and sometimes you can put too much pressure on yourself. At times, I probably was doing that and trying too hard. It wasn’t bringing the best out in me but now I have my future secured I can relax and enjoy my football and that is when I am at my best.”
Norwich will be as happy as Aberdeen to learn of his contentment. The Carrow Road club have lost only once in the league since before Christmas and hope to make a late run to the Championship play-off places.
“I keep up to date with their scores and they are on a great run, but my full focus is here,” explained McLean.
“There is somebody who looks after the loan players. I speak to him after games as to how the matches have gone. He will also be at games and I will get feedback as to what he wants me to do. It helps for what they will want from me next season but right now I will listen to the Aberdeen manager and do what he tells me. It is all about what is happening at Aberdeen.”
The Pittodrie side have put together a four-match winning run since losing to Rangers last month. They travel to face Hibs on Saturday in good heart after booking their last-eight Scottish Cup place.
McLean scored the important third goal against United which came just 60 seconds after the visitors brought themselves back into the tie through Sam Stanton’s strike. McLean’s goal was created by a delightful piece of skill by on-loan Celtic player Ryan Christie, pictured, who drifted past his opponent before chipping a perfect cross into the box.
“I knew he would put it on a plate,” said McLean. “The quality and skill he has doesn’t surprise. He skipped away from a player with unbelievable skill and stuck it in between the centre-halves. I have timed my run well and it was just good to get on the end of it.”
McLean considers Christie to have all the talent required to follow him to England, providing Celtic do not want him or if Aberdeen cannot sign him permanently, the preference of all Pittodrie supporters. Christie is on loan at Pittodrie from Celtic until the end of the season. McLean is surprised Christie has not made the breakthrough yet at Parkhead.
“He has the ability to go and play at the highest level,” he said. “I think he has the ability to be a top player at Celtic. But we are benefiting (just now) and I am not going to complain.”