I should have left Celtic a lot sooner, admits Michael McGlinchey

NEW Motherwell signing Michael McGlinchey believes he took too long to leave boyhood heroes Celtic, but hopes he can do them a favour if he makes his debut against Rangers at Fir Park tomorrow night.

The New Zealand international, 23, who has signed until the end of the season from Australian side Central Coast Mariners, was raised in Glasgow and chose Celtic over Manchester United when then Parkhead manager Martin O'Neill turned up on his doorstep.

In 2002, at the age of 15, he became the youngest player ever to make an appearance for Celtic when O'Neill picked him to play in a friendly against Wycombe.

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However, despite being noted as one of the brightest prospects to come through the Parkhead youth system, he failed to make the grade and after being released last year, eventually won a deal with A-League side, Mariners.

McGlinchey, who can play in midfield or attack, has since been capped by New Zealand but is looking to get some lost years back at club level, starting against old foes Rangers.

"I can't wait for my debut whenever it is but if it comes against Rangers it will be an added bonus and I will be looking forward to it," he said. "Obviously Rangers are a great team but everyone knows I support Celtic so if I get the chance to score I will hopefully put it away."

He added: "I'm glad of the time I had at Celtic. I worked under some great coaches and I'm thankful for what they did for me. But I think I would like to have left a few years before. I left when I was 22, if I had got away at 20 I would have played more first-team games by now.

"I guess it was a brave decision and it worked out pretty well. At the time you do think you can make a name for yourself. You have guys like Tommy Burns and Martin O'Neill turning up at your door and making a fuss over you, then you think 'This might be different for me.' But it's difficult. Celtic are constantly bringing players in and the boys you are competing with are all top players.

"Everybody needs an opportunity and I didn't really get many chances. I got a wee sniff under Gordon Strachan, I got on the bench, but it's hard to stay there. It wasn't to be and I had to leave to further my career and that's what I'm doing."

McGlinchey is hoping the temporary move to Lanarkshire will keep him in the frame for a place in the New Zealand World Cup squad.

"The World Cup is massive," he said.

"I didn't want to be sitting about for three months when the season finished over there so I thought the best thing was to be in a football environment and be training and playing."