Jamie Maclaren has been backed to fill the penalty-box predator role at Hibs which has largely remained vacant since the 71-goal Jason Cummings departed for Nottingham Forest last summer.
The 24-year-old striker has signed for the Easter Road club on loan from German second-tier side SV Darmstadt until the end of the season in an effort to force his way into contention for a place in the Australia squad at this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Having been the hottest striker in his homeland before earning his move to Europe last summer, Maclaren is viewed as the cherry on top of the cake for a Hibs team which has become renowned this season for creating plenty chances but not converting enough of them. “Jamie’s a different type of striker to what Hibs have already got,” said former St Mirren, Ross County and Motherwell striker Steven McGarry, who worked with Maclaren for two seasons at Perth Glory and has continued to follow his progress closely from his Australian base. “I still follow Scottish football and I know Hibs have been crying out for a striker. Oli Shaw has come in and done quite well but Jamie’s more dynamic than Oli. He’s probably more like Simon Murray in terms of his work ethic because he doesn’t give defenders a minute’s peace but he’s got more of an eye for goal than Murray – he’s a natural goal-scorer.
“He’s pacey and direct and loves to get in behind, and I think that’s something Hibs are lacking at the moment. He’s not the sort of striker who will want to come and play with the midfield, he prefers to play on the shoulder, he’s a proper penalty-box striker.”
Hearts had been hopeful of landing Maclaren before Hibs made their move. McGarry believes the Aussie will be better suited to the east side of the Capital. “I’ve been following the storyline over the past week or so and it looks like Hearts were also in for him,” noted the 38-year-old Scot, who now runs an academy Down Under. “Looking at the two teams, I definitely think Hibs’ football will suit Jamie better. I don’t think the way Hearts are playing just now would have suited him so much. At Hibs, he’ll benefit from the players playing round about him – the likes of John McGinn and Dylan McGeouch behind him, and Martin Boyle and Brandon Barker out wide delivering crosses for him.”
McGarry watched closely as Maclaren developed from raw prospect into one of the star players in the A-League in Australia after returning to his homeland following a spell in Blackburn Rovers’ academy, where he worked under former Scotland captain Colin Hendry. The Melbourne-born striker, whose father is Scottish, arrived at Glory as a 20-year-old in 2013 and after scoring 11 goals in two seasons there, he kicked on to another level when scoring 43 goals in two seasons with Brisbane Roar. This scintillating form helped him force his way into the national team in 2016, but after five full caps for his country, his World Cup place is now in jeopardy as he hasn’t started a single match at club level since moving to Germany last summer. The fact the Socceroos are currently managerless could count in Maclaren’s favour if a return to scoring form in Scotland coincides with the appointment of a new man at the helm in the coming months. “I played with him in his first year at the Glory before I retired and then I was transitioning into coaching during his second year before he moved on to Brisbane Roar,” said McGarry. “I was pretty friendly with Jamie so I’ve kept a close eye on him. He got his chance pretty early with the Glory and he was pretty raw when he first came in but you could see he was a natural finisher. It took him time to settle in and he did reasonably well in that first year but in his second year, he really started to take off. He built up his confidence and when he went to the Roar, he looked unstoppable at times, particularly in his second season.
“He had some very good players around him at the Roar, just like the Hibs team at the moment, and he was always the guy on the end of crosses and through balls. He was hot property and during that spell he got a call-up for the Socceroos, which shows how highly thought of he was in Australia. There was some big hype about him because he was one of the best strikers in the country. Everyone in Australia likes to follow a young lad going overseas, but unfortunately his move to Germany hasn’t gone the way he would have wanted, which is why he’s getting himself out on loan.”
McGarry believes Maclaren is well equipped to adapt to the demands of Scottish football. “I can definitely see him doing well in Scotland,” he said. “His dad’s Scottish so I’m sure he’ll have told him what it’s all about and what to expect. He won’t have the same time on the ball as he got in Australia, where it’s more about controlled build-up play and not as frantic as it is in Scotland.
“It’s very hard to compare Scottish football with Australian football because sometimes you’re playing in 35 degrees and high humidity out here. The build-up is a lot slower in Australia and you’re allowed more time on the ball to be technical whereas in Scotland it’s very quick and physical, although I think most teams have tried to pass the ball a lot more in the last few years.
“He’ll probably get a bit of a shock with the physical aspect of it but he’s an intelligent player and I’m sure he’ll adjust quickly. He’s very good friends with Ryan Edwards at Partick Thistle, so I’m sure he’ll have had a good chat with him about Scottish football. He’s also been at Blackburn, so he’s certainly not alien to British football. He’ll have a good idea of what to expect.”