Kevin McNaughton: Talentspotter
Aberdeen’s Danish manager, Ebbe Skovdahl, evidently thinks a lot of his latest protégé, 18-year-old right-back, Kevin McNaughton. “One of the most talented full-backs I have seen in recent seasons,” he says.
McNaughton was fast-tracked into the Aberdeen first team squad from the youth team and, amidst an injury crisis, made his debut against St Mirren back in September. While his introduction was slightly fortuitous, 20 appearances at left-back, and a recent spell at right-back have had little to do with luck.
“He’s quick with tremendous stamina,” says Skovdahl. “The offensive side of his game is strength. He’s not afraid to take people on, or to dribble.” Not quite in the Doug Rougvie mould then.
Versatility is another of McNaughton’s assets, having played in midfield during his youth, but Skovdahl is attempting to make the best use of McNaughton’s strengths by moulding him into a full-back. “It’s important that he has space in front of him because he’s very quick over a longer distance, although over five or 10 yards he’s pretty good too”. Whether the right-footed McNaughton progresses as a right or left-back who knows? “I’m quite comfortable in either position,” says McNaughton.
But before Real Madrid get their chequebook out, it is worth noting that defensively, McNaughton could be a little stronger, according to Skovdahl, a point not lost on the player himself.
“I’ve not put enough tackles in this season,” he admits. When quizzed on his ambitions, McNaughton modestly admits to being content to “keep playing away and hopefully keep my first team place”, something he seems well on the way to achieving at the moment.
“One day I’d like to play for Scotland,” he confesses, but is sensible enough to realise that his immediate priority must be to work on his own game. He hopes to improve his tackling and “defensively read the game a bit better”. In a team short on experienced defenders, McNaughton will look to the older heads of Derek Whyte and Thomas Solberg to ensure that his development continues.
An unassuming type, McNaughton’s, level-headedness is shown in his determination to ignore current transfer speculation (rumoured Leeds and Liverpool interest) and maintain a sense of perspective. “It’s quite daunting: I was pushing for Aberdeen’s Under-21s last season and now I’m being linked with clubs like Liverpool,” he says. “It seems like I’ve come quite far.” But the question is, how far can he go? The journey has only just begun.
Interview: Steve Devlin. From the June 2001 issue of FourFourTwo.