'˜Shaun Maloney the man to replace Niall McGinn at Aberdeen'
The Dons faithful have been disappointed by the fact that Northern Ireland winger Niall McGinn has refused to sign a new contract at Pittodrie but argues that capturing Maloney would more than compensate for his loss.
Maloney, at 34, may be in the twilight of his career but Stark claims that the fact that he has started only 71 league games in the last six years for Wigan Athletic and current club Hull City (due to injury and occasional loss of form) could work in his – and Aberdeen’s – favour.
“Would Shaun be a statement signing? Yes, absolutely,” said the former Scotland Under-21 manager. “They made a statement of sorts by paying relatively big money for Kenny McLean and I think that paid off.
“Shaun is a good Scotland international player and his status can add something extra to the team in terms of his ability and his experience of winning things. That is the kind of signing that would improve Aberdeen.
“McGinn going is obviously a loss to to them because he carries a goalscoring threat as well as providing assists. But Shaun has that great set-piece delivery and he has real quality on the ball. He can create and score goals and his arrival would compensate for the loss of McGinn. In fact, if they can keep the rest of them, Niall’s loss would be offset if Maloney comes.”
The former Celtic and Aston Villa player won the last of his 47 caps for Scotland in the 3-0 defeat by France last summer but Stark is in no doubt that he has plenty still to offer at Premiership level.
“Shaun has had a spell where he’s been injured and hadn’t been starting,” he said. “I believe he is a good type of professional and a decent type of boy and those lay-offs can add a couple of years on to the end of his career and that will allow him to still play at the highest level in Scotland.
“Your body can only take so much intensity – Wayne Rooney has been playing Premier League football since he was 16 and now looks off the pace at31 and Derek Johnstone at Rangers was much the same. Shaun, though, has had times where, for whatever reason, he hasn’t been played, played and played again. As a result, he won’t have the wear and tear or the miles on the clock that other players of his age will have and hat will probably benefit him now.”
The signing of Maloney would be almost as big a fillip to the Dons as becoming the first Scottish club to beat Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic when the teams meet at Pittodrie on Friday. Stark points out that the effort to maintain undefeated sequences brings a different kind of pressure to bear on managers and players.
“It could become a negative if it becomes a big thing in the build-up to the final if Aberdeen don’t win on Friday,” he said. “It would mean Brendan would have to work against complacency creeping into his squad before the final.
“Consequently, it will be interesting to see how the game goes on Friday night in terms of how the two managers use their personnel and how they approach it.
“Of course, Brendan wants to go through the full league campaign unbeaten because it might not happen again in our lifetime. In the cups, you can get an easy path through, although it’s still an achievement but remaining unbeaten in the league would be more of an achievement than winning a treble.”
l Billy Stark was speaking at a William Hill event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.