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Signing target Jamie McGrath could be a game-changing No.10 for Aberdeen, says former boss

Jamie McGrath.
Jamie McGrath.

Aberdeen will land a game-changing No.10 who thrives under pressure if they sign Jamie McGrath, insists his former boss.

The Dons have opened talks with St Mirren’s McGrath in a bid to land the playmaker on a pre-contract.

Republic of Ireland international McGrath’s deal with the Buddies expires at the end of the campaign.

Aberdeen are confident they can secure the 25-year-old on a pre-contact.

However it is understood boss Stephen Glass is keen to get a deal done to take McGrath to Pittodrie in the January window.

The Reds would have to pay £350,000 to land McGrath this month.

St Mirren bosses, it is understood, have made it clear they will not sell McGrath in January for any less than the £350,000 fee agreed with Hibs last summer.

That deal, which also involved a player swap for Hibs’ Scott Allan and Drey Wright, fell through on transfer deadline day last summer.

A playmaker who will only get better

Vinny Perth managed McGrath at League of Ireland big guns Dundalk prior to the midfielder’s move to Scotland in 2020.

Last season McGrath netted 17 goals for St Mirren and pitched in with eight assists.

Perth reckons the best has yet to come.

St Johnston’s Jason Kerr goes against St Mirren’s Jamie McGrath earlier this season.

Perth said: “Jamie played on the European stage with Dundalk and also started in the draw with Portugal (0-0) in the World Cup qualifiers in November.

“That is the level he belongs at so he would have no problem moving to a club like Aberdeen.

“With his performances for the national side, particularly against Portugal, Jamie has shown how technically gifted he is.

“Technically he doesn’t look out of place at that level.

“In the modern No.10 role, which he played a lot for us at Dundalk, with the GPS system, his work-rate was phenomenal.

“I felt he needed to make more forward passes and score more goals to become a real star.

“So far he has definitely ticked one of those boxes in terms of goals.

“I think his continued improvement will be his forward passes from that number 10 position.

“That is his next challenge to take him to the next level if he was to move to Aberdeen.”

St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin with Jamie Mcgrath.

Experience winning league titles

Aberdeen fans will know about McGrath’s goal scoring prowess.

Last season he netted in back to back games inside a week against Aberdeen.

First in a 2-1 League Cup defeat of the Dons and then a 1-1 Premiership draw days later.

St Mirren offered McGrath a lucrative new contract that would make the midfielder the highest paid player in the club’s history.

McGrath has yet to sign it and St Mirren boss Jim Goodwin said this week “realistically it’s highly unlikely Jamie will be a St Mirren player next season”.

McGrath won back to back League of Ireland Premier Division titles under Perth.

He also won another four domestic trophies before moving to Scotland with St Mirren in January 2020.

Perth, 45, insists if Aberdeen do sign McGrath they will secure a big game player.

St Mirren’s Jamie McGrath celebrates scoring one of his 17 goals last season.

Perth said:” Irish football doesn’t have a Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen or Hearts.

“However what Jamie was exposed to was a huge amount of European football and also title-winning football.

“No matter what level you play at you have to get used to the pressure that comes with that.

“That has stood Jamie in great stead.

“By the time Jamie was 23 he had won league titles and had exposure to European football.”

A playmaker for the European stage

Aberdeen have qualified for Europe in each of the previous eight campaigns.

This season the Reds reached the play-offs of the Europa Conference League, losing out 4-1 on aggregate to Qarabag.

The Reds are targeting European qualification again this season and have aspirations of reaching the lucrative group stages.

Perth insists McGrath has the ideal qualities to excel in Europe.

He said: “Jamie played a huge amount of European games with Dundalk.

“He was very important for us in those matches.

“European football is a different game and Jamie’s technical ability meant he shone at that level.

“He played against teams like Rosenborg, Qarabag, Slovan Bratislava, Larnaca – some strong European sides.

“I have had close to 50 European games as a coach.

“The big difference between even Scottish clubs to a point, outside the top two, is the technical ability of the opposition.

“You have to keep the ball.

“The one thing Jamie gave us as a coaching staff is that he is a player who can keep the ball for long periods.

“He can get out of tight spaces. Jamie was never fazed by anything.”

Jamie McGrath in action for Republic of Ireland, October 2021.

Excelling against Portugal… twice

McGrath’s career accelerated rapidly over 18 months as he netted 17 goals last season and made an international breakthrough.

A first start for Republic of Ireland came in a World Cup qualifier away to Portugal on September 1.

Far from being overawed by the occasion, McGrath excelled.

He delivered an assist with a superb corner for John Egan to head home.

Capped six times, McGrath came agonisingly close to marking his first start with a historic win.

Ultimately five time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo netted two injury time goals to seal a dramatic win.

Perth said: “I tried to get Jamie to stay at Dundalk.

“It was a very brave move by him at the time because at Dundalk we probably offered him more money than he was by St Mirren.

“He took a bit of a risk. I understand people in Scottish football won’t see it that way.

“But Jamie was just about to become the star of Irish domestic football.”

17 goals but best yet to come

During his time at Dundalk McGrath won six trophies – four of them in the 2019 season under the management of Perth, who left the club last November.

McGrath was prolific last season with 17 goals. Aberdeen’s top scorer in 2020-21 was Scotland international Lewis Ferguson on 10.

Jamie McGrath against Aberdeen defender Tommie Hoban last season.

Having added prolific scoring to his armoury Perth insists there is still much more to come – and Aberdeen can benefit.

Perth said: “I kept in contact with Jamie and would jokingly text him asking where were those goals for me.

“We talked at length a lot about how he needed to add goals to his game.

“I remember once he scored a hat-trick for me but he was probably in and around that eight, nine, 10 goals a season.

“I felt there was another level in him.

“I think if he had went up to the next level St Mirren might not have got him.

“He may have gone to an English Championship club.

“If you are going to play in a forward position goals are huge in terms of people’s perception of you.

“It is something we would have worked on and I know Jim Goodwin has worked with him on that.

“They have got their rewards for that – both club and player.

“You have to give Jim Goodwin credit because I think it was important Jamie went to the right manager in Scotland.”