Aberdeen legend Billy Stark has backed Kenny McLean to be a hit with Norwich City – and hasn’t ruled out a move to the English Premier League in years to come.
Midfielder McLean has been in sensational form for the Dons during the second half of the season and was again outstanding in Tuesday’s 2-0 win at Motherwell, setting up Kari Arnason’s opener before scoring himself.
In the summer, the Scotland cap will head for English Championship Norwich after signing in January on a three-and-a-half-year deal.
He was loaned back to Aberdeen for the rest of the season.
Former Dons midfielder Stark played at Pittodrie from 1983 to 1987 and won two Premier Division titles, two Scottish Cups, one League Cup and the European Super Cup.
He was manager when McLean won 11 caps for the Scotland Under-21s between 2011 and 2014 and believes the player will make a big impact for the Canaries, and in time could step up to the Premier League.
He said: “I wouldn’t rule it out (stepping up), there are so many elements involved in players’ progression and their characteristics.
“Kenny is good receiving and passing the ball, he’s creative and can handle the physical side of things, which is important.
“Look at James Maddison, who played with Aberdeen – he’s just been nominated for young player of the year in the Championship.
“While they’re not exactly the same type of player there is a comparison in some respects.
“I wouldn’t look any further than Kenny being a success at Norwich, because that’s the first thing he’ll have to do.
“I’m reasonable confident he will be a success at Norwich and what comes after that is difficult to predict.
“But there are players like James McCarthy and James McArthur who have gone down and moved for big money in the English Premier League.
“I wouldn’t rule that out, but I don’t think you can guarantee it will happen.
“There is a really good chance Kenny will be successful at Norwich and if he can do that bigger clubs in England in the Premier League will be looking to bring in British players with ability who will perform for them.”
McLean is expected to line up for Aberdeen against Hearts at Tynecastle tomorrow.
Stark has been impressed with his form and believes agreeing his future with Norwich in January has helped him hit top gear.
He added: “He’s been in good form and looks as if he’s playing with confidence.
“That’s something he has always had is good confidence about himself.
“You can never tell with young players how much of their potential they are going to realise.
“But the fact he has the move to Norwich tells you how well he has done at Aberdeen.
“It’s a situation where if he wasn’t performing there would be questions asked, there could be pressure come on if he wasn’t performing.
“But with his confidence he has handled that and been an outstanding player.
“He hasn’t left any room for anybody to criticise him, so fair play to him for that.”
McLean’s form with Aberdeen has been such that he has gained three Scotland caps – the last of which came last month in the second game of Alex McLeish’s second spell in charge, when the Scots beat Hungary 1-0 in Budapest.
Stark remembers McLean’s quality sticking out when he played for the U21s and is pleased to see the 26-year-old go on to gain full international honours.
The East Kilbride boss said: “I’m definitely pleased to see it. You can never be sure of how boys are going to progress.
“At 21s and even more down at younger age groups there are a huge percentage of players who didn’t even make a top-level career.
“Less so in the 21s but there’s still a high proportion who end up playing lower league football.
“He’s one who has played consistently at a high level and it will be interesting to see how he handles the English Championship. It’s quite direct and you don’t want to be negative about it – but it’s not quite the quality of passing you get in the English Premier League.
“There is a tendency for a lot of the teams to rely on power and pace and be quite direct. But he has an understanding of the game that he will still be able to have a big influence on matches.
“I remember him more towards the end of my time with Scotland U21s. We played Georgia at home (November 2013) and we had a free-kick on the right. He played a great ball in for Callum Paterson to score an equaliser.
“His set-piece delivery can’t be underestimated either, he’s got a good package.
“He has a good physique and his left foot with the range of passing and the consistency he has shown with Aberdeen, who are the second best team in Scotland, marks him out.”