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Danny Stewart: Switching Bologna’s Aaron Hickey could solve right-back problem

© LM/Francesco Scaccianoce/IPA/ShuAaron Hickey on his Bologna debut, up against Yam Karamoh of Parma.
Aaron Hickey on his Bologna debut, up against Yam Karamoh of Parma.

As anyone who has seen Bologna’s bonkers video welcoming him to the club will testify, Aaron Hickey is a young footballer open to persuasion.

In it, the 18-year-old brings a surreal change of direction to a clip of “wild” Scotland when plucking a plastic monster out of the waters of Loch Ness by its spiky head.

Tucking it safely into his side, he grins at the camera before insisting: “Believe me, I am real!”

As happy as fans of the Italian outfit might have been to discover their new signing is fine with a bit of marketing malarkey, it is a safe bet what really pleased them was the storming debut the former Hearts full-back made in the 4-1 win over against Parma last Monday night.

A late replacement for the injured Mitchell Dijks, the Scot turned in a nerveless display, storming up and down the left flank as if playing in Serie A was second nature to him.

Bologna boss, Sinisa Mihajlovic – who in the summer personally sold Hickey on the move to Italy on the basis it would be better for his career than joining Bayern Munich’s B team – was entitled to be smug.

While playing it cool, he managed to talk up Hickey’s great future in the game, and the speed with which he was learning.

Both factors will be of interest to Scotland manager, Steve Clarke.

To say the national coach has a lot on his mind just now goes beyond mere understatement.

On Thursday night, Scotland host Israel in the Euro Play-off semi-final at Hampden Park in what will be Scotland’s biggest game for decades.

Win, and the dream of a return to a major Finals for the first time since 1998 will be just 90 minutes away.

The fact that the hour-and-a-half of the Play-off Final might have to be spent playing against the mildly-terrifying Erling Braut Haaland – who spearheads Norway’s attack in the other semi against Serbia – is a matter to put to one side.

Even then, looking to the future is a big part of an international manager’s job.

Failure to reach Euro 2020, played in 2021, will see attention move immediately to the new Nations League campaign, and preparation for the 2022 World Cup qualification campaign.

What is also almost inevitable is that a failure to battle through the Nations League Play-offs and into the Euro Finals will be followed by a rebuild.

A rebuild that would surely feature Chelsea prodigy, Billy Gilmour, and Aberdeen pair Ross McCrorie and Lewis Ferguson, who have struck up an instant partnership in midfield this season.

It would also, assuming he continues his education in Serie A, be likely to feature Aaron Hickey.

Only not as we might know him because if there is one thing Clarke is not short of, it is left-backs.

Skipper Andy Robertson is a Champions League winner and has a claim to be the best on the planet.

Kieran Tierney’s performances in the position earned him a £25-million move to Arsenal.

That fee is now regarded as a bargain, thanks to the smooth ease with which the Scot has established himself as a regular for the Gunners, playing on the left-side of a defensive three.

Then there is Greg Taylor – a Clarke favourite from when the pair worked together at Kilmarnock – who has since gone on to help fill the gap Tierney’s departure left at Celtic.

So the answer as to how best to build Hickey into Scotland’s future may lie in the past.

Make mention of the country having a world-class full-back, and Robertson’s name is the one that will come to mind.

For many fans whose memories can stretch back a bit further, though, no one will ever top Danny McGrain MBE.

The Celt was converted from a right-back to peerless left-back with Scotland to accommodate the considerable talent that was his opposite number across the city at Ibrox, Sandy Jardine.

It might not work.

Tierney, nothing if not eager to do whatever his coaches require of him, looked uncomfortable when switched to the right-flank.

If it does work, though, it could strengthen an area that has not been the team’s strongest in recent years.

Motherwell’s Stephen O’Donnell is an honest, reliable, professional, who always gives his best. Liam Palmer of Sheffield Wednesday likewise.

At 28 and 29 respectively, they are players for right now rather than for campaigns to come.

Hickey, who has played as a central midfielder, might just be an off-the-wall alternative.

Sometimes it pays to try something different.

Just ask the person who dreams up the Bologna videos.