HIS time in public office as the self-appointed mayor of Norwich may have proved short-lived, but Kenny McLean is convinced he can help Scotland remain in the running on the campaign trail.

Having become an online sensation by downing a bottle of MD 20/20 as City celebrated their Championship victory with their fans last month, McLean has now turned his attentions to drinking in success in Euro 2020 qualification.

The national team’s chances of qualifying for the finals of a major tournament for the first time since France ’98 were written off back in March when they lost their opening Group I match to Kazakhstan 3-0 and then failed to impress in their unconvincing 2-0 win over minnows San Marino.

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But the midfielder is optimistic he will be uncorking the champagne – or some other alcoholic beverage of choice – with his Scotland team mates when the section is concluded.

Helping Norwich, who he joined from Aberdeen on a free transfer last summer, clinch promotion to the Premier League after a three year absence in his first season in England has certainly increased his confidence that he can compete against the best with club and country.

He is, with John Fleck of Sheffield United and John McGinn of Aston Villa also going up, a member of a sizeable Scotland contingent who will be plying their trade in the top flight down south next season. He is convinced that can only help the country.

“You want to play at the highest level you can and there is nowhere higher than the Premier League in England,” he said. “To test yourself against the best will be something to really look forward to. I am delighted for the other boys who are getting up. It is brilliant for Scotland.

“We know the fans get right behind us in these two games. It is a cliche, but when they do that they are like a 12th man. As I say, we have got some really exciting players here. They are players they will want to come and watch in the next few years.

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"We have got two important games coming up against Cyprus and Belgium that we know we can do really well in and push ourselves to the championships.”

McLean made headline news for non-football reasons after Norwich’s title victory. He pinched the hat and bell of local mayor Martin Schmierer at a civic reception at the city hall, promptly took to the balcony with said bottle of MD 20/20 in hand and declared a public holiday to huge cheers.

“It was carnage, a mad few days,” he said. “We deserved to enjoy ourselves. But I maybe enjoyed it more than anybody else. The celebrations got the better of me a wee bit.

“Just before the bus parade we were in the town hall and the mayor was with us. His hat looked appealing. I stuck it on, took his bell and ended up out on the balcony. I had a few drinks in me and that didn’t help!

“It was good because the fans got involved with all the boys and it was an excellent few days to be a part of. I just topped it off with a nice hat. We have just been promoted and everybody is talking about the Mayor of Norwich. I hope I am known for my football.

 

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“The real mayor has been tweeting me and asking for his hat back because I had it the whole night. I took it without his permission and then he played along with it. The fans played along with it and we all had a good laugh, which was brilliant.”

His term was fleeting. “They have taken it off me!” he said. “I was only mayor for two days. Then they appointed someone else. I got a tweet when I was in Dubai last week, which was disappointing.”

The 27-year-old is at pains to point out he hasn’t spent the past month in an inebriated state. “We get some down time, but when you are doing that you always keep yourself ticking over, especially if you are involved in international games,” he said.

“You know you need to keep yourself on the ball. I have been working hard. I have been getting programmes from my club and from Jonesey (Scotland head of high performance Graeme) here. He has been sending me stuff that he wants us to do. Everybody is up to speed.

“I don’t think it will be hard (to resume playing) at all. When you get the honour of being called up for your national team your head is switched on right away, you are on your game. We have got Cyprus and Belgium coming, Cyprus first. We will be ready when it comes.”

McLean scored his first goal for Scotland on the occasion of his sixth cap against San Marino when he diverted a Ryan Fraser cross beyond the keeper from an acute angle with his head.

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But the midfielder still found himself being booed along with his team mates at the end of a disappointing 90 minutes. He is convinced, though, that better times lie ahead under new manager Steve Clarke.

“The performance wasn’t up to scratch and the fans have got their own view on that,” he said. “They are entitled to their opinion. We know we weren’t good enough that day, but we got the win. Right now, we just need to look forward really. We can’t dwell on what has happened in last couple of games.

“The expectation is high from everybody in this squad – the management, the fans, everyone. That is because we know how good the squad is. We have got new management, we will get a lift from that right away. We need to look forward. We have got two tough games coming up. That is where the focus is.

“The manager will put his stamp on what he wants to do with the team. But I think everybody knows what’s expected. We want to do as well as we can going into every game individually. We will take it one by one. We don’t want to go into games thinking there are superior teams to us. We are a very good team and we can take maximum points from every game we go into.”