I read, with some amusement, James McClean’s latest “come and get me” plea to Celtic. I like McClean. He is a skilful footballer who could definitely do us a turn. To say that he has the right bona fides, that he “gets it” would be an understatement.
But as I’ve said on this site before, getting it isn’t enough. You could take the average fan out of the stand and be 100% sure that he or she gets it. Try playing them in goal for ten minutes. It’s a non-starter, unless you got lucky and pulled Artur Boruc out of a seat.
McClean does have the talent of course, but I wonder if he’s a “next level” footballer. On top of that, I was chatting to Phil yesterday and he reminded me that one of the reasons Scott Sinclair was so successful in last season’s campaign was that Kieran Tierney was bombing up the left and letting him cut inside where he could have a shot at goal.
I happened to mention James McClean to him, and he suggested that his role as an orthodox left winger would negate a lot of what makes Kieran so effective in the team. Looking to the right, where Mikael Lustig is no longer able to get up and down the park as quickly, and Forrest, as a traditional wing-player, has thrived … but Kieran changes the whole balance on the other side and is arguably a more effective wide player than anyone we’re likely to sign.
There’s another reason McClean won’t be rolling up at Celtic Park for signing talks any time soon, and it’s this; Lewis Morgan. He is an exceptional young player, and he can play the wide role that Forrest does on the right, but he’s just as capable of cutting inside and scoring goals as Sinclair. He’s the competition for that left hand side of the pitch, and signing McClean would virtually guarantee that this talented young footballer would have to go out on loan.
I want young Morgan to play next season. He’s good enough. And we can’t, indefinitely, go on scooping up top youngsters from other clubs and then benching them. Eventually they will stop signing for us and then we’ll risk missing out on the kind of player who gives us as much service and becomes as essential as Scott Brown.
Every team should have options, and Lewis Morgan gives us some. But he adds to the options that are already there; Callum McGregor can play wide left, and Johnny Hayes considers it his natural position. We are already well represented in that area.
McClean would have made an outstanding signing before Brendan arrived; now it would be overkill, a signing in an area where we don’t need it. Lewis Morgan is a long-term prospect. Lewis Morgan makes it impossible. McClean would love to pull the Hoops on, but he’s not the only player out there who would.
We can’t sign all of them.
There’s no sentiment in team building.