BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HARVEY ST CLAIR has become the latest Scottish starlet to embark on an Italian adventure after quitting Chelsea to join Serie B outfit Venezia.
The 19-year-old was offered a new deal by the English Premier League giants but, with limited first-team options on the horizon at Stamford Bridge, decided to make the eye-opening switch to Venice.
Watford and Zenit St Petersburg were understood to be among the waspish winger’s admirers, however he has penned a three-year contract at the Arancioneroverdi, with the option for a further season.
Venezia narrowly missed out on promotion to Serie A last term, losing out 2-1 on aggregate in the playoffs against Palermo. They were dealt a further blow when manager Filippo Inzaghi departed last week to take the reins at Bologna.
“I first trained with Chelsea when I was six years old so I’ve been associated with the club for a long time now and they’ve done so much to help me over that period,” said St Clair.
“That made this a really difficult decision and one I didn’t take lightly.
“They’re a great club with an unbelievable academy. I just feel it’s the right decision for me at this point in my career. I really want to be playing regular first-team football if I can and with the depth of talent Chelsea have I just didn’t see that happening for me in the short term.
“That’s absolutely not a criticism of them. If anything it’s a compliment because of the level they’re at.”
St Clair was a standout for Chelsea’s under-23 side last term, scoring three goals and providing three assists in 17 appearances for the young Blues.
He has also shone for Scotland at under-21 level and impressed during the recent Toulon Tournament as Scot Gemmill’s side secured a fourth-placed finish in France.
“It’s something that I did think about at Toulon, because I was mixing with a lot of boys who are already playing regular first-team football,” continued St Clair. “I had some really good chats with [Scottish FA Performance Director] Malky Mackay and Scot Gemmill about my situation.
“I appreciated their advice. I talked them through the options that were open to me and they gave me their thoughts. I think it’s good to sound out two experienced football people like that – especially when I want to keep progressing within the Scotland set-up.
“They were positive about the idea of me stepping out of a comfort zone and trying a new environment.”
St Clair joins former Celtic and Hibernian favourite Liam Henderson in the second tier of Italian football and will hope to have a similarly impressive impact as the Bari playmaker, whose since arriving in January has reportedly caught the eye of Fiorentina.
He told the Scottish FA: “I look up to Liam Henderson. He’s a great example as a young Scottish player who stepped out of his comfort zone and has done really well with Bari. Now he’s being linked with other clubs.
“Some young players might be comfortable but it’s good to challenge yourself. Hopefully, our paths will cross and I can pick his brains. It would be good to get his take on a few things.”