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Ross County target young Arsenal defender as Malky Mackay's Dingwall squad shapes up for the Premiership campaign

By Alasdair Fraser

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Ross County manager Malky Mackay during the home clash with Montrose. Picture - Ken Macpherson.
Ross County manager Malky Mackay during the home clash with Montrose. Picture - Ken Macpherson.

Ross County are hoping to complete the loan signing of Arsenal defender Harry Clarke early next week.

Staggies’ manager Malky Mackay is understood to be targeting the 20-year-old for a season-long stint in the Highlands.

Talks with the English Premier League giants are ongoing and Mackay is vowing to use extensive contacts south of the border to strengthen a County squad that saw 15 summer departures.

So far, the former Cardiff City boss and Scotland performance director has brought in only three permanent signings – midfielders Ross Callachan (Hamilton) and David Cancola (Slovan Liberec), and striker Dom Samuel (Gillingham).

He has also landed Manchester City kid Alex Robertson and Southampton left-back Jake Vokins on loan.

Clarke started out in Ipswich Town’s youth system, but switched to the Gunners in 2015.

He has represented England at under 17 level and spent last season on loan at Oldham Athletic, playing 33 times.

Mackay said: “David Cancola will be ready to start work with us on Monday, after his spell of isolation.

“I hope there will be another two joining him, hopefully at the start of next week.

“Ideally everybody would love to get their players in for the first day of pre-season but it rarely happens at a football club.

“It works right through to August 30, where clubs are shuffling their pack and eventually decide to let someone go and allow clubs to make a move.”

Mackay admits a combination of factors affecting County, and clubs all across the country, have slowed down the recruitment process.

He said: “You look around the whole country, and England, and the combination of Covid, Brexit and the way the world is means it is not a hugely fired up transfer market anywhere.

“We were always going to have a monumental task in terms of 15 players leaving our club and the amount of players we have to get in.

“I don’t want four of our youngsters on the bench, I want them out playing football so they are learning the game and then come back to us as Ross County first-team players.

“We’ve still got lots of work to do in terms of filling the squad.

“It won’t be until a couple of transfer windows where we will have a squad I am comfortable with.

“It will take time but in the meantime the staff are working hard to improve things.

“I spoke to all the Scottish Premiership chairman about loans and relationships when I was technical director of the Scottish Football Association.

“If you are going to loan a player you want to send him to a club that will develop him and it has a good ambience and facilities.

“You want them to play in a certain manner and you want to trust the reputation of the coach.

“I told them they have to make themselves attractive to the English Premier League clubs, so that club might choose you over another club to send a player up on loan.

“You need to have a unique selling point as to why they want to choose your club.

“So we do Zoom calls with the club, player and agent where we can answer all their questions and we send out a welcome document we’ve worked hard on.

“Myself and my coaching team all have good experience in England and when you phone a trusted source then it gives you a good and true character reference.

“That helps because I want to make sure the culture is right and that means bringing in the right characters.

“Once you get enough of those characters you see the club really grow.”

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