Chester: RVW's 'worst decision' and the key to McLean's future City success
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The scouting, the pursuit and the consequences: Ewan Chester has opened up to Michael Bailey on making Norwich City’s record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel – as well as his thoughts on a much more recent purchase, in Aberdeen midfielder Kenny McLean.
The former Canaries’ chief scout has taken a keen interest in his former club’s move to sign Scotland international midfielder Kenny McLean from Aberdeen this year.
But more pertinent was Chester’s key role in City’s signing of Ricky van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon, ahead of the 2013-14 season.
Chester knows even now, so much of City’s work has been filtered through the prism of that club-record £8.5m deal for the Portuguese giant’s Dutch striker.
And even with that knowledge, Chester wouldn’t change his original judgment.
“I went to see him twice,” recalled Chester, having taken in Sporting’s 3-1 defeat at a “physical” Estoril and a 1-1 draw at Coimbra in the early spring of 2013.
“Lisbon in my time have been a big name but they were midtable; it was the worst Lisbon team I’d seen and they didn’t win either game.
“Basically he had three chances in two games – one a penalty that he missed, but he scored his two chances from open play and they were both strikers’ goals; channel run, the second one he gets across his defender and a great first-time finish.
“I knew Ricky previously in Holland at Utrecht and he did particularly well in the Europa League against Celtic – he scored a hat-trick that night and was outstanding; he looked so sharp. That brought him to my notice; he then played well against Liverpool and got a move to Portugal.
“We had a deadline on the deal because the president at Sporting was changing, so we had to do it in a certain amount of time. There wasn’t another chance for me to go and see him but in the two games I saw in a really poor side that didn’t create opportunities…if I went today, I would still recommend him on those. It was either do it now or it won’t happen.”
Indeed, Ricky scored a superb hat-trick in victory at Braga soon after his pending move to Norwich was confirmed – before notching a goal and an assist in another win, at home to Moreirense. Even if there had been more time, RVW was only providing more evidence.
“Ricky scored in his opening game here against Everton, breaks his toe and tries to play on – which in hindsight is laudable, but probably foolish,” added Chester.
“He was a Dutch international and the level of strikers they had around that time, to get a cap for them was some achievement.
“But the injury was key. He tried to play through it without an operation and in hindsight, it’s the worse decision he’d ever make because he couldn’t play to potential – and when he did have the operation, he then had recovery time. By that stage he had scored one goal from however many games, as opposed to scoring one from one.”
The rest of course, was history. But in terms of the present, Chester is looking forward to seeing how McLean now fares at Carrow Road – having joined City in January, before spending the rest of last season back on loan at the Dons.
“I think McLean’s signing is interesting,” added Chester. “He looks to me a player that if Norwich are winning the majority of their games or having the majority of possession, he will do well.
“Like Ricky and Leroy Fer, it’s about fitting him into the system because number 10 is too high and you end up playing with your back to goal. He’s got a range of passing so you want him in deeper areas.
“But he’s left-sided so gives some balance and if the club got off to a good start and are a top-10 team, I think McLean has got the potential to be a good player for them.”
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