BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
STEVEN McGARRY, the former Perth Glory teammate of Jamie Maclaren, is adamant the Australia international will embrace being public enemy number one at Tynecastle after eschewing interest from Hearts to join Hibernian on loan.
The 24-year-old held talks with Jambos boss Craig Levein in December but a deal to bring the striker to Gorgie from SV Darmstadt could not be struck.
And their Edinburgh neighbours pounced swiftly, capturing Maclaren on loan until the end of the season.
In a twist of fate, his maiden outing for the Hibees will come against Hearts when the sides cross swords in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup on January 21 – and one suspects the debutant is ensured a hostile welcome when he steps onto the Tynecastle Park turf.
“I don’t think there is a better game for Jamie to be introduced to Scottish football,” said McGarry. “It is a phenomenal atmosphere, one of the most hostile venues in the country, as I remember well, and I think he will embrace that.
“Jamie has moved to Scotland to play in big matches, in front of massive crowds and make sure he is in the shop window for the Socceroos – so what better game to start with?
“He is really mature and well-rounded for his age, so will handle everything else that goes with it. He has played in derbies in Australia, has played international football – including against Brazil – and has been overseas. He’ll take it all in his stride.”
Ex-St Mirren and Motherwell forward McGarry remains an avid viewer of SPFL football from his base in Australia, where he is a player, coach and technical director at Perth-based outfit ECU Joondalup, and he is certain Maclaren has made the right choice.
He believes the clinical forward’s instinctive style will make him the final piece of the puzzle for Neil Lennon’s creative, but often wasteful, Hibs side.
“He is quick, dynamic and has a real eye for goal. He’s a penalty-box player,” continued McGarry. “I’ve watched a lot of Hibs this season and they will suit his style of play better than Hearts.
“He’ll get on the end of the deliveries from Martin Boyle and [Brandon] Barker and look to make clever runs for Dylan McGeouch. Jamie is different to what they have at the moment and will score goals in that team. I’m sure that is exactly what Neil Lennon told him to get him in the door.”
McGarry played alongside Maclaren during the 2014 campaign when the promising striker had just returned from a stint in British football with Blackburn Rovers. A fresh-faced, raw youngster, it was not always plain sailing on his return to the A-League as he sought to kickstart his career.
Nevertheless, a ‘relentless’ desire to improve convinced McGarry that he would make the grade, and the pair remained pals as Maclaren became a key figure at the Glory, then Brisbane Roar, before earning a switch to Germany.
“Jamie is a great lad and will be a top boy in the Hibs dressing room,” continued McGarry. “But the biggest thing he has is a tremendous work ethic, on and off the pitch. He knows when it is time to be serious and get the head down. He is very mature; he always was.
“It didn’t always click straight away when he came in from Blackburn, but he quickly grew up and got wise to the demands of professional football at the Glory, changing the way he trained, his diet and things like that.
“Jamie was relentless in his determination to overcome every challenge put in front of him, and I’ve no doubt he’ll do that in Scotland.”
Maclaren, capped five times, intends to use his six-month stint at Easter Road to cement a place in Australia’s World Cup squad this summer, and McGarry believes there is an ideal opportunity for the lad from Sunbury, Victoria to become the Socceroos’ number nine.
“The situation with the national team over here is a strange one,” added McGarry. “Ange Postecoglou was the manager who took them to the World Cup but he has stepped down. So there will be a fresh pair of eyes coming in and Australia don’t really have too many established out-and-out strikers.
“It’s a great chance for every player to stake their claim, but you need to be starting games, and Jamie knows that.”