THE BIGGEST compliment Ally Roy can pay his old pal Aaron McEneff is that he did not look out of place sharing a pitch with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
So, the former Hearts striker has no doubt the Irish playmaker is destined to be a smash hit at Tynecastle.
Roy, 23, played alongside McEneff at Derry City in 2018, with the duo starring in the League of Ireland Premier League and featuring in the Europa League qualifying rounds, where the Candystripes endured a narrow defeat to Dinamo Minsk.
McEneff’s displays were enough to land him a switch to Shamrock Rovers in January 2019, where he subsequently notched 18 goals in 60 games and impressed during their 2-0 Europa League defeat against Milan last September.
That did not surprise Roy, now leading the line for Airdrie, who reckons the sky is the limit for his ex-teammate.
Roy lauded: “We played together in Europe against Dinamo Minsk and he set me up with a really nice one-two for the opening goal over in Belarus, so he does have that quality to step up in the bigger games.
“You always knew he had that ability to play at a high level, but it was about finding consistency, which – credit to him – he absolutely found at Shamrock.
“The fact that he performed against guys like Zlatan Ibrahimovic in that Milan game, and gained plaudits, just shows his potential.
“He will have been desperate to show his ability against one of the biggest clubs in the world and I’m sure plenty of people took notice.”
Hearts shelled out a reported £175,000 for McEneff, a long-time target of new Tynecastle sporting director Joe Savage.
But Roy is adamant the tireless ‘advanced eight’ will swiftly live up to that price-tag due to his all-action style, eye for a killer pass and penchant for finding the net.
Roy continued: “He never stops running and the Hearts fans will LOVE him for that – but he’s also got that bit of quality in the final third.
“I’d say he’s like an ‘advanced eight’, in terms of his position – he’ll come from deep, get in the box and get his share of goals.
“With the packed defences Hearts face in the Championship, he is someone with that wee bit of magic. If guys like Liam Boyce, Steven Naismith and Armand Gnanduillet get in the right position, Aaron will find them.
“When I played with Aaron, we had a really good partnership because we played quite close together. I’ve got him to thank for a lot of my goals, so I don’t have a bad word to say about him!”
Indeed, McEneff’s form last term earned him a call-up to the senior Republic of Ireland squad in November and, although he did not feature in the Nations League clash with Bulgaria.
And Roy, who was handed his Hearts debut by Robbie Neilson back in 2014, believes he is working under the perfect coach to make him a known commodity in mainland UK and further enhance his international hopes.
He added: “This is a chance to prove himself in Scotland and really make a name for himself – because he’s more than capable.
“Robbie will definitely give him that chance. I know that for sure. Robbie was the manager who gave me a chance at first-team level when I was only 17 and I know that, if you work hard and show ability, then he will select you.
“Then it’s up to you to do the business.”