FIGHT BACK TO THE TOP

Con­nor has big plans to im­press at Mon­trose

Strathearn Herald - - THE BACK PAGE - Matthew Gallagher

Con­nor McLaren knows first hand how dif­fi­cult mak­ing the break­through in the Scot­tish Premier­ship can be.

But that isn’t stop­ping the Auchter­arder mid­fielder, pre­vi­ously of St John­stone, from tar­get­ing a re­turn to the top of the sport.

The nim­ble-footed winger was, at one point, on the verge of break­ing into the Perth side’s first team.

But he was re­leased ear­lier this year fol­low­ing loan spells at El­gin City and Stir­ling Al­bion.

McLaren (20) now finds him­self ply­ing his trade with League Two Mon­trose, where he re­cently penned a deal un­til the end of the sea­son.

“Be­ing from Auchter­arder, I was de­lighted to sign with the lo­cal club,” McLaren said. “I had just left Celtic and was look­ing to stay full-time and prefer­ably lo­cally af­ter hav­ing to stay in digs while be­ing with Celtic.

“I be­lieved I was close to earn­ing some game time at Saints hav­ing made the bench, in­clud­ing the Europa League tie at home against Alashk­ert. A mem­ory that sticks out was the Euro­pean away trip.

“I’ve learned that it’s getting in­creas­ingly tough to break­through at that level as clubs are in­creas­ingly un­der pres­sure for points and bring­ing youngsters through comes with risk.

“I’m now cur­rently work­ing at Gle­nea­gles which is a bit of a cul­ture shock hav­ing the job as well as foot­ball. But I’m en­joy­ing it as much as I can.

“I have as­pi­ra­tions to get back to full-time foot­ball but for now my fo­cus is on Mon­trose and see­ing what we can do in the league this year.

“I would say I want suc­cess like most foot­ballers and I want to see how far I can push my­self in the sport. I have al­ways hoped to be a pro­fes­sional.”

McLaren has a strong hunger to prove his worth while play­ing for the Links Park men this term, who have started the sea­son strongly.

Set­tling in at the club has been seam­less with fel­low former Saints An­drew Steeves and Jor­dan Mil­lar in the squad.

“I’m thor­oughly en­joy­ing be­ing at Mon­trose and it’s a strong chang­ing room,” McLaren said. “We’ve started just about as well as pos­si­ble. There are some fa­mil­iar faces which al­ways helps when going into a new en­vi­ron­ment. I knew both An­drew Steeves and Jor­dan Mil­lar be­fore com­ing to the club so it’s made it easy.

“The league stan­dard is getting higher all of the time, es­pe­cially with a lot of play­ers com­ing down from the higher leagues. I’m just do­ing my best just now at Mon­trose and hope­fully we con­tinue the strong start.”

McLaren ini­tially joined Mon­trose on a one month deal but im­pressed man­ager Ste­wart Petrie.

Petrie said: “Con­nor’s per­for­mances have been very en­cour­ag­ing. He has fit­ted in re­ally well and gives us an­other di­men­sion to our at­tack­ing op­tions. Ex­tend­ing his con­tract was an easy de­ci­sion to make.”

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