The Socceroo could be set for his debut this weekend after making the move from Brisbane Roar, and the SPL could be just what the midfielder needs
COMMENTBy Beau Busch
Matt McKay’s move to Rangers has been questioned by some who suggest that the Scottish Premier League (SPL) is not at a level that is best for the Socceroo’s continued development.
However, while the SPL may not be the equal of many European leagues, it is still a place where he will continue to improve.
The decline of Scottish football over recent seasons has been well documented. When many thought things could not get worse, all Scottish clubs bowed out of European competitions in the qualifying rounds to leave the nation without a representative in either the Champions League or the Europa League this term. That was until Celtic's late reprieve, thanks to qualifying opponent FC Sion's disqualification.
This is hardly a glowing endorsement of the league the former Brisbane Roar captain is about to join. However, things are not all doom and gloom in Scottish football. The SPL is still capable of producing players of great ability with clubs south of the border in the English Premier League prepared to pay good money to secure them.
This season has seen David Goodwillie move from Dundee United to Blackburn Rovers with the Celtic trio of Emilio Izaguirre, Ki Sung-Yueng and Beram Kayal also attracting the interest of clubs such as Manchester United, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham.
|MATT McKAY'S MOVE
"So, while it is a wrench to be leaving home, the most important thing is I am doing so to further my career. I can't wait to get started."
- Matt McKay
Perhaps most encouraging for McKay is that players like Ki and Izaguirre came to the SPL as relative unknowns, similar to the Australian late bloomer.
Neither were big name signings or could have been deemed to be the finished article but in a short period of time they have shone for Celtic and are now, unlike before their moves to the SPL, on the radar of some of Europe’s elite clubs.
Key to attracting the attention of these clubs is playing regularly, something that McKay is likely to do at Rangers. With neither of the Old Firm clubs able to attract top players as in previous years, there has never been a better time for McKay to move to Rangers with the view of getting regular playing time.
Also in McKay’s favour is the fact that he will offer the sort of drive from midfield that the Gers have been missing this season. A true box-to-box midfielder, McKay is the type of player boss Ally McCoist had been seeking to add to his squad during the transfer window.
Having had a bid turned down for St Johnstone’s all-action midfielder Murray Davidson it is possible that McKay could find himself in the centre of the Rangers midfield rather than the initially mooted left-sided role he has so impressively filled for the Socceroos. If McKay is to play in the centre, then there are Rangers players who will bring out the best in him.
Lee McCulloch in holding midfield will provide dependable cover to allow him the freedom to burst forward and forwards Nikica Jelavic and Steven Naismith will thrive on McKay’s ability to pick a pass under pressure.
Whatever role he plays, put your money on him being a success. It is often noted that some players excel at one level but struggle when they transferto a bigger league. On the evidence of McKay’s performances at international level for the Socceroos, it seems extremely unlikely that he will fit into this category. Placed in better company and facing difficult opposition McKay has continued to improve and looked extremely capable against top international players when playing for Australia.
|"Some players thrive at one level but struggle when they go up a standard to produce the same type of performances... it seems extremely unlikely that McKay will fit into this category."|
With Rangers often dominating possession in SPL matches McKay will see plenty of the ball and the demand to maintain possession will be high, which again will help him improve. Whilst some clubs facing Rangers may attempt to turn matches into a difficult long ball contest, there has been a considerable change of philosophy from many sides in the SPL.
McKay can expect the likes of St Mirren and Kilmarnock to tackle Rangers with no fear and try to play positive attacking football, with the ball on the floor, despite lacking the financial resources of the Old Firm clubs. This is a positive for McKay as his game will flourish in free flowing matches.
Whilst the SPL may not be to everyone’s taste it is far from a football wasteland. Hopefully for McKay, and the Socceroos, he is another who excels in the SPL and proves that Scottish football is not in the terrible state that has been so publicised.