Brian McLean: Greenock Morton, playing abroad and developing at Rangers

Photograph courtesy of David Bell and Tontastic. Access David’s exceptional work here.

You are currently at Greenock Morton. One of your most memorable moments was your goal against Partick Thistle in a 3-2 victory. How would you sum up your time at Morton so far?

That was a nice moment especially as it was my first goal for the club against a rival at the time.

It was unfortunate how last season ended due to Covid because I felt we were in a rich vein of form and heading in the right direction.

At this stage of my career, I appreciate every single training session and game. It’s important that I make the most of every opportunity because I love the game at 35 in the exact same way that I did as a young boy.

You recently had some coaching experience working alongside Anton McElhone when he was in interim charge of the club. Do you see coaching as your next step when you retire from playing?

It’s a door that I am happy to leave open. I enjoy coaching and supporting players. I’ve played abroad in Singapore and in Iceland so I have experienced a lot in football that stands me in good stead.

I am currently working with a company called Player Data who specialise in data analytics and I’m really enjoying that side of things too. It’s another passion that I have.

I’m preparing as best as I can for life after playing and I hope that coaching will play a part in my future after playing.

You started your career at Rangers. What did you learn from your time at the club?

“Murray Park” by Tom Brogan is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

It was a privilege to serve my apprenticeship in football at such a big club. I got such a buzz being in and around the club.

I trained at Murray Park and I had no excuses as a young player because we had the best facilities and every essential need was provided for you.

I worked with John Brown and John McGregor who kept you grounded as well as developing you as a player. They made sure we were disciplined and for example every player had to be clean shaven.

There was once a time when a player turned up with peroxide blonde hair and Bomber [John Brown] sent him home to get his hair fixed and told him to come back when it was sorted. That may seem extreme but those little things kept us grounded and fully focused on our primary role which was to develop as a footballer.

That respect for others was fundamental to what the club engrained into us so that you were fully prepared for the time when you went to train with the first team alongside Barry Ferguson and the top players who were at the club.

After Rangers, you join Motherwell. You were highly regarded at the club and won the SPL young player of the month while at the club.

You then join Falkirk which also goes well and sees you move to Preston North End in England. How do you reflect on your time at Motherwell and Falkirk?

“File:Motherwell volley.jpg” by Alasdair Middleton is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When I first went on loan to Motherwell, I had a very good season and I was called up to the Northern Ireland squad for games against Portugal and Estonia.

I made my debut against Estonia which was memorable before paper work issues restricted my international career.

Credit: W. L. Tarbert – CCSA3.0

Terry Butcher was a very good manager and I learned so much from him and the players at the club at the time such as Stephen Craigan.

Injuries then hit me hard and set me back quite a bit. I signed a three year deal with the club and then it was such a frustrating time because I wasn’t able to be the same player that I had been in my loan season at the club.

My mentality never changed and I always wanted to prove people wrong because I was written off after suffering two cruciate injuries in two years.

Falkirk gave me the platform to perform and I enjoyed playing under Steven Pressley. He was a manager who I learned a lot from and helped me earn a move to Preston.

I went on trial down there and earned a two year contract which was great for me. It was ultimately a short lived experience for me but one that I also learned a lot from.

You also played abroad in Singapore and Iceland. What were those experiences like and how did they compare to football in the U.K.?

“singapore” by khora is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It was easy to settle once you adapted to the cultural mindset of each country. Football wasn’t the be all and end all because the sun would shine every day regardless.

The climate in Singapore ensured that the pace of the game wasn’t as fast paced as the U.K. but the technical level was very impressive.

One of the things that I found interesting was playing during the Ramadan period. You are playing games while 80% of your squad is fasting throughout the day so you need to be mindful of that when you are communicating with them on the park.

Iceland was completely different to Singapore. Every team in the league set up in the same system as the Icelandic national team. I played for Íþróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja (ÌBV) and we won the Icelandic cup when I was there.

The quality of football wasn’t of the same standard as here in the U.K. however as a nation they wanted to better themselves and develop. They invested in lots of indoor facilities which shows you how seriously they take it.

Who would you say that the best players that you have played with so far in your career?

Training with Mikel Arteta was special. He never had to break sweat. He’s like Roger Federer in tennis because he makes it look so easy when you know that it isn’t.

“Mikel Arteta 1” by Ronnie Macdonald is licensed under CC BY 2.0

His career in England with Everton and Arsenal showcased just how good he was.

Craig Moore was another player who was superb and Marvin Andrews is another. He was the nicest guy off the park but he was a different animal on the park.

Who would you say are the best players you have played against are so far in your career?

I’d have to say Dado Pršo. He may have looked unorthodox as a player but he was as strong as an ox and could run all day. He wouldn’t give you a moment to think as a centre back.

“Spurs 3-1 Wolves” by flierfy is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Robbie Keane was phenomenal when he was at Celtic. He has lightening quick feet. He reminds me a lot of Jermaine Defoe who is at Rangers.

Last but not least, who would you say were your most influential coaches?

“The Forgotten Men” by Graeme Bird is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Steven Pressley was crucial in my development. He created a good squad and he gave me extra responsibility within the side which helped me grow as a communicator.

He carried himself in such a professional manner. His man management was key at galvanising our squad and helping us improve as individuals as well as a collective.

Published by Callum McFadden

Football CFB founder. Freelance football writer & broadcaster of over 350 interviews with professional players and managers across all levels of football.

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