Aaron McLean’s “Mystic Mac” predictions, when he foresaw Darren McQueen scoring the promotion-clinching goal, have already been well-documented but what is perhaps less well known is the role the veteran striker has played behind the scenes.
As one of the club’s senior players, McLean has been only too happy to play the father figure during his long spell on the sidelines.
“I’m one of the experienced ones, I’ve been in these kinds of positions before with other clubs and had promotions,” McLean told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster. “Especially with such a young squad, I think it’s essential that the older players have to step up, that’s why Daryl signed me. He signed me to be one of the players, when he’s not in the dressing room, I make sure that I help marshal the dressing room along with Keds, Winfield, Clarkey and so on.”
McLean has been selfless with his time and he says that’s something he learned to do early on his career, being selective in which older players he aspired to be like.
“You’ll find at clubs, not everyone wants you to do well,” McLean explained. “Some people will talk and say certain things but in football, not everyone always wants you to do well. I always looked to the players that I thought, you just want the best for me, you don’t want anything from me. I thought when I’m older and I’m talking to the younger ones, that’s the kind of people I want to emulate. I want to be able to give them advice and help them with their careers so that in years to come, when they’re the experienced players, they’ll do the same. I enjoy that responsibility and when I see the young lads doing well and the team doing well, whether I’m on the pitch or not I get exactly the same satisfaction from that.”
And while he wasn’t on the pitch that often this season, McLean is just delighted to have fought back from injury and played his part.
“I’m buzzing to have been back and been able to play a part,” he said. “When I first got the injury it looked like my season was over and like I said before I have to give massive credit to the manager, to [Peter] Varney, to the owner. They basically said we’re going to give you the best of everything, we’re going to make sure you have the best surgeon then the rest was just down to me, down to how hard I was prepared to work to try and get back.”
McLean’s hard work has been mirrored by the rest of the squad throughout 2017 and like most of his teammates, he agrees that there was a moment around the turn of the year when everything changed.
“We didn’t start the season how we would have wanted to,” he reasoned. “That’s the reason we didn’t end up winning the league but from after the Dartford game something just clicked in terms of, if you want to achieve something, if you want to be celebrating like we are now, then you have to put the hard work in.
“I came to this club to get promotion. That’s the be all and end all. I didn’t come here because I just wanted to see the rest of my career out. It’s a club that wants to achieve things otherwise I would just have gone to play for a League Two club that’s just happy to sit mid-table. Through my whole career, the thing that’s always driven me on and helped get the best out of me is I’ve been at clubs that want to go and achieve things, at whatever level. I would never go and settle for just being an average player in an average team.”
And speaking of players who aren’t average, with McLean seemingly having taken McQueen under his wing this season, the former Hull City frontman is expecting big things of his teammate. “We’re a little bit different in how we play but there’s a lot of similarities as well and as a kid, I always used to look up to the older players. Daz is a player that has so much ability and I have no doubt he is going to play at a higher level, exactly the same as Matty Godden was last year. Sometimes helping those players might be detrimental to myself but as I get older, I’ve learned football’s not just about one individual. As a group collectively, if we’re all doing well, then we all win in the end.”
Listen to the full seven-minute interview below.