Russell McLean looks to benefitting from being Peterhead’s main man this season, according to manager Jim McInally.
McLean returned to the club this summer and has taken the number nine jersey, scoring his first goal in the 3-1 win against Cove Rangers on Saturday.
The 23-year-old scored 14 goals in a two-year spell with Peterhead between 2017 and 2019, before heading to Montrose. During that time he was perhaps in the shadow of Rory McAllister, who earned a record as one of the SPFL’s best marksmen during his time at Balmoor.
McAllister left for Cove Rangers in January last year and McLean, fresh from leading Montrose into the play-offs, rejoined the Blue Toon on a one-year deal.
Something as simple as taking the number nine jersey may well have a significant impact on the towering striker’s fortunes.
McInally said: “I know it’s early doors but there’s a change in Russell. He’s obviously a couple of years older and obviously enjoys wearing the number nine jersey.
“He’s a handful, a decent player. I always knew as he got older he would get better. But it helps when you’ve got another striker up there running the channels.
“He’s got the jersey now, the one that he wanted. We were having a laugh with Rory after the game (on Saturday) and he said ‘I can’t believe you’re wearing my jersey’.
“Rory, it was always going to be hard to fill his shoes. He’s irreplaceable really. But Russell in his own right has already been here and he’s not got a lot to prove to people, as he was quite popular before.”
McLean was an impressive figure against Cove, playing up front alongside Niah Payne in what has become a youthful Peterhead line-up over the last couple of seasons.
McInally added: “You can see the mistakes that they make and really, that’s why they’re here.
“With the shape that we played on Saturday, the 4-3-1-2, you need to score goals or you’ll get countered on. But you also need energy in your team.
“We have got good legs in our team and that includes the likes of Simon (Ferry). Ryan Conroy has played three games in a week; he only went in at left-back last season and he’s playing against top players.
“The experienced players are doing well and the young players have got loads of energy. Andy McCarthy is still to come back in and he’s a big loss to us.”