Daniel Mackay wasn’t born until almost three years after that World Cup but he is part of a generation that is currently being inspired by the thought that one day, not too far from now, they could be following the footsteps of guys like Andy Robertson or, in his case, Ryan Christie and Kevin Nisbet.
Like Christie, Hibs’ latest signing Mackay is a product of the Inverness Caledonian Thistle youth ranks, a youngster who has also had the privilege of picking the brains of Ryan’s dad Charlie.
He is also following in the footsteps of one of Steve Clarke’s newest caps, Nisbet, who this time last year was being hailed as one of the star turns of the Scottish Championship and ready to step up to top tier football with Hibs. This year he is preparing for the Euros and subject of interest north and south of the border.
“I have been with Inverness since I was eight. It has been a long journey from that start to the end of my time there,” said Mackay, whose first mentor was former head of recruitment for the club’s youth academy Ronnie Duncan, who then handed the baton to Christie.
“They have both had a great impact on my career,” said the 20 year-old winger. “I can only thank them for what they have done for me.”
Moving up to the first team, John Robertson and assistant Scott Kellacher took over the mantle before illness and bereavement saw Neil McCann and Billy Dodds step in to guide the squad through the remainder of the season.
“The thing about this championship season is that we didn’t play for about two months because of cancellations and then we had a run of games in a short period of time. Then, before going to Hibs I had some time off and now I feel ready to go again after a week in with them.
“It has been a hard season with the covid and then losing the assistant manager and manager. But, it was good to get a good run of games under my belt in the second half of the season and thankfully I showed what I can do. That led to the move to Hibs, which I am very thankful for, and then the call up for Scotland [U-21s], two years after I was last involved, was the icing on the cake.”
Through it all, Christie has maintained an interest.
“Charlie has always spoken to me, ever since I signed. He doesn’t have much to do with the first team but he would still talk to me and Roddy [McGregor] and Cammy [Harper], who are in the Scotland squad as well. He told us if we ever need anything he would always be there so I have spoken to him quite a lot this year. He is always a good guy to go to. He has been brilliant.”
It is Ryan, though, who has shown the likes of Mackay that there is a route to the top. The Celtic star tapped into the emotion of an entire nation when he sobbed his way through an interview when Scotland finally ended the years of hurt by bagging an invitation to the biggest football soiree in Europe next month.
“He was at Inverness as a young boy before making his way to Celtic so it has been brilliant to see a boy from your local area, somewhere as small as Inverness, reach those levels. He has shown us there is a pathway and Charlie always says ‘if my boy can do it, any one of you can if you put your mind to it’.”
Moving on to bigger and better things, Mackay, who is part of Scot Gemmill’s Scotland U-21 squad for next week’s double-headers against Northern Ireland, says it was important to end up at a club that was not only capable of nurturing his talent but also reflected his ambitions.
“When you make decisions about your future, you’ve got to balance everything out and look at what the club wants to do, what they can provide for you. It’s obvious what Hibs have done for Kevin Nisbet, when you see what he’s done.
“He was at Dunfermline last year but it’s clear the way he has developed as a player and kicked on so I feel that Hibs will be the best place for my development.”
Anxious to get going, he recognises the need for patience. Not every player hits the ground running as Nisbet and fellow youngster Josh Doig but while the likes of Martin Boyle took a while to hit the heights, he has spent the past couple of seasons proving to the club and the fans that the wait was worth it.
“I know things might take a wee bit of time because it is a big move but if I can get a few games under my belt and get used to the team and get used to the step up from the Championship to the Premiership hopefully it will be a steady improvement. I want a good run of form. I don’t want to be a bit-part player, I want to be able to deliver.
“I am not a loud or outspoken person, I don’t like being the centre of attention in the dressing room but I have gone in there confident enough. I believe I have earned the right to be there. Now I just need to show that on the park.”