Scott McGill: Progress report on Hearts' teenager as Airdrie label him 'a real asset' after extending loan deal

Control with the left foot, shift with the right and fire an almightly 20-yard blooter into the Motherwell net. Scott McGill wasted no time imposing himself at Airdrie last July.

Saturday, 8th January 2022, 7:00 am

Nor has he relented in the intervening six months. The Hearts teenager’s loan in North Lanarkshire has just been extended until the end of the season, with Airdrie manager Ian Murray labelling him “a real asset”.

McGill climbled off the substitutes’ bench just hours after signing for the club to lash that aforementioned screamer past Liam Kelly in a Premier Sports Cup group tie. It was the perfect way to announce his arrival, Airdrie fans sprinting down the stand jubilantly as their new hero completed a 2-0 local derby win.

Since then, McGill has occupied both attacking and defensive midfield berths and played a number of times at left-back. Murray can’t endorse him enough and is delighted Hearts agreed to the 19-year-old remaining in League One until the summer.

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Hearts teenager Scott McGill is staying on loan at Airdrie.

“He has played 22 games, which is brilliant for him because he had hardly played any competitive games at the start of the season,” Murray told the Evening News. “Scott signed for us in the afternoon and came off the bench to score a cracker against Motherwell that night.

“He set the standards for himself then and since that game he has done remarkably well. He has been shunted around a little bit because of injuries and Covid but he has adapted so well to everything we have asked.

“We used him in midfield, his natural position, but seven or eight times we have asked him to play left-back. We know that’s not his natural position and it's not what we envisaged for him but he has learned it very well. He’s got forward and worked on his defensive side. I feel we could probably play Scott anywhere and that’s a compliment to him.”

McGill’s contribution has helped Airdrie win 11 of their last 15 matches, advancing to the League One play-off positions and to the Scottish Cup fourth round.

“We play a very attacking formation,” explained Murray. “We ask a lot of our three midfielders to drive us on. Same for full-backs, we want them getting right up the park. That’s where Scott comes into his own. He can play as a holding midfielder but he is really good going forward.

“He puts in good deliveries from out wide and he has a great shot on him. He is a real asset to us at the moment. He can play anywhere – left or right wing, off the striker, or he can dictate games in the holding role.”

Four appearances for Hearts last season indicated the Riccarton youth academy graduate’s potential. His raw talent was clear, however youthful naivety is an issue often needing coached out of teens before they can challenge for regular first-team football. The best way to do it is through senior game time.

Airdrie and Murray are a perfect fit with their policy of letting young loanees play and develop before returning to parent clubs as more rounded individuals.

“Scott came here as an 18-year-old and was very quiet,” said Murray. “Now he gets involved with the first-team players and understands what it means to win games. He knows Hearts are watching him very closely and are happy with his development.

“We had quite early discussions with Hearts near the end of last year and made it clear we wanted to keep Scott. They were more than happy for him to continue here. From speaking to Scott, he is happy, he’s developing as a player and developing as a guy.

“When a young player gets a taste of competitive football, they want more. For him to go back to Hearts when they are doing really well and break into the first team would be very difficult.

“Our mantra is not to take young players just to fill squad gaps. We take them to play them and we say openly: ‘We will send you back better.’ We don’t want them here for three years because we want them to play in their club’s first team.

“That doesn’t always work out but I think Scott has a good chance. With a bit more experience and game time he can go back to Hearts in the summer and perhaps push for a place there.”

The next 18 months or so will go a long way towards ordaining young McGill’s future at Tynecastle. His contract ends this summer but an extension would seem a no-brainer for the Edinburgh club.

“He is a young guy and will develop physically,” said Murray. “If he wants to play in the top league with Hearts – a team looking to finish third and win cups – there are a lot of demands at Tynecastle when you play in front of 16,000 or more. It’s a different proposition than just going out and swanning about.

“Scott is very good with the ball, he probably needs to be just a wee bit tidier. He is getting there. At the higher level, you get punished when you give the ball away.

“So he needs eradicate those mistakes that young people make, hitting those 20-yard passes and completing 50 out of 50 rather than 45.

“Scott is very driven, positive in his play and always looks to go forward with the ball. More physicality will come.

“He is a physical player but to step up a couple of levels you need to be that little bit stronger.”

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