Ross County’s boss, Malky Mackay, has warned his loanees that they will need to be prepared for the level of scrutiny that comes with playing in Scotland while also praising Arsenal for being easy to work with.

Harry Clarke with Ross County (Photo via Ross County FC)
Harry Clarke with Ross County (Photo via Ross County FC)

Harry Clarke will spend next season on loan in the Scottish Premiership, playing for Ross County. The 20-year-old centreback featured for Arsenal during pre-season and his move represents a step up from his League Two loan last season.

“We looked at the fact he had already been out on loan,” Makay told The Press and Journal’s Friday edition. “We did some work on him and tracked him, and spoke to people at Oldham as well.

“I had a really good conversation with Arsenal’s loans manager Ben Knapper. I have to thank them, they’ve been really good to deal with.

“He looks like everything you would want in a footballer and a defender. I’m delighted to have got him as we were in competition for him.”

But Mackay’s praise did not come without a warning for Clarke and the other players who have signed on loan for Ross County. “The scrutiny that is on the top league in Scotland is something they will not have handled,” Mackay added.

“What I talk to them about is the obsession in Scotland with football.

“Having been down in England, the lower the league goes, the less scrutiny there is.

“You might have the highlights on a Saturday night but, up here, the top league is on TV all the time. It is covered by every radio station, social media, our journalists are at every game.

“It is talked about every day, clubs are analysed every day.

“I love it, to be honest – the debate and discussion, argument and opinion oozes passion for the game in our country.

“That’s something these loan players have got to handle because – if they want to become a top player – it also happens in the English Premier League, having been there myself.

“If they want to go and become international footballers, it is about pressure and about handling that elite environment.

“That’s what we can offer players who come here. We can give them those experiences they wouldn’t get in England’s lower leagues.

“They are going to be on television, talked about a lot and in front of 50,000 or 60,000 fans they’ve got to be calm, make the correct decision under pressure – these are the things that we can bring to players that want to come up and join us.”

Clarke spent last season in League Two with Oldham Athletic. That was the central defender’s first loan spell, and it went well as he made 35 appearances. This loan, however, should provide him with a tougher test.

Clarke got a taste of Scottish football with Arsenal in pre-season, travelling with the group up to Edinburgh and playing 45 minutes against Hibs. Now he’ll be hoping to prove himself on a weekly basis.

The 20-year-old was always likely to go out on loan this summer, having been added to Arsenal’s loan list they distributed around the UK.