Kenny McLean hopes his display against Kevin De Bruyne and Co proves he has come of age as one of Scotland’s main men.
The Norwich City midfielder was handed a start by Steve Clarke for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Cyprus and Belgium.
However, if the selection was a slightly unexpected move from the new national coach, its wisdom was borne out by his impressive performances – especially in the clash with the world No. 1-ranked Belgians.
“It is excellent the manager had such confidence in me,” said McLean.
“We had seven central-midfielders away with us, guys from across the English Premier League, so to play both games was brilliant.
“And I have to believe he put his faith in me for a reason, that he thinks I have the quality to do it for my country at the highest level, which is an honour really.
“Testing yourself against the best is what you want to be doing and Kevin De Bruyne is right up there with the best in the world.
“It wasn’t just him, either. The way Belgium have been playing together for a long time and the way they rotate the play is really good.
“While they gave us a tough night and the result was disappointing, I felt as if I acquitted myself against, arguably, the best midfielders in the world.
“I knew the role I had to play, and I knew what the manager wanted from me, so it was a case of trying to repay him for the faith he showed in me.
“I gave it 100%, but sometimes that’s not enough, and that was the case in Brussels.
“I’ve played the last three games for Scotland now, and the last four or five months of the season for Norwich, so it has been excellent.
“The Championship is a difficult league and in the second half of the season I played a lot of games.
“It has been tough, but I’ve done myself justice.
“At the same time, I also appreciate that with the quality we have, Steve Clarke could go with a totally different team in the next game.”
Timing, in football as in life, is everything and the 27-year-old can now look forward to the coming season as a regular in both the Premier League, with the Canaries having won promotion, and on the international front.
“I never felt like it was a gamble moving from Aberdeen.
“It was what I needed in the next chapter of my career,” McLean went on.
“And, of course, it has worked out excellently for me.
“I do feel ready for the step up. It’s going to be tough, but anybody wants to be in the position I’m in right now, going into the best league in the world, against the best.”
McLean is likewise relishing the prospect of a rematch against the Belgians on home soil in three months’ time.
“We need to look forward now,” he said.
“I think it will be a different game at a packed Hampden. We’ll be better equipped by the manager and hopefully we show a wee bit more bravery on the ball.
“We did that at times, especially in the second half. We put four and five passes together.
“When you see it coming off against Belgium, it gives you confidence that we have quality guys in the squad that can play.”
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