Despite being heavily linked with Tony Popovic’s Melbourne Victory, the Newcastle Jets pulled off one of the transfer coups of the off-season when they secured the services of in-demand free agent Cameron Devlin at the end of June.
The former Wellington Star was set to be the centrepiece of Arthur Papas’ rebuild at the McDonald Jones Stadium, but should reports from Joey Lynch and Nick D’Urbano be believed, we will never get to see the Olympian pull on the iconic Jets jersey.
Just over a month on from putting pen to paper on a two year deal with the New South Wales strugglers, Devlin is rumoured to be Scotland bound, with historic side Heart of Midlothian the likely destination.
Hearts announced their return to the Scottish top flight in style last weekend, John Souttar (brother of Socceroos favourite Harry) grabbing a late goal to secure a 2 – 1 home victory over Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic.
So what would Cam Devlin bring to the Jambos much anticipated return to the Scottish top flight?
While team mate and Mexican maestro Uli Dávila often caught the headlines, in his two year spell with the Wellington Phoenix Cameron Devlin cemented his status as one of the very best central midfielders in the A-League.
Standing at around 5’6, the 23-year-old probably doesn’t fit the bill of the prototypical defensive midfielder, but what he lacks in stature, he more than makes up for with his work rate, boundless energy and an excellent ability to read the game.
During his time in Wellington, Devlin led the league in successful tackles in two successive seasons, his terrier-like running and never say die attitude making him an excellent ball-winner.
Not shy of the physical side of the game (he was certainly no stranger to a yellow card), Devlin was also proficient at reading the game, enabling him to break up play and win possession without drawing the ire of the referee; making 43 interceptions, 13 blocks and 16 clearances in his final season with the ‘Nix.
On the ball, Devlin regularly displayed excellent technical ability, comfort in possession and an eye for a great pass. Despite only starting 17 of his 23 appearances, he still led the New Zealand outfit in pass completion, 91.6% of his 1,249 attempts finding their mark, 24 of which were key passes.
His performances and mastery of the ‘dark arts’ on the park, and a jovial, kind-hearted nature off it, earned him plenty of admirers on both sides of the ditch, and would undoubtedly see him quickly become a fan favourite at Tynecastle too.
We’ve seen far too many talented Australians move overseas only to waste away in academies or reserves, stagnating and failing to live up to their early potential, but should the rumours prove correct, a move to Scotland looks to be the perfect next step for Cameron Devlin.
His playing style would certainly suit the Scottish game, and if the recent signing of 22-year-old defensively minded midfielder Beni Baningime from Everton is anything to go by, he would definitely fit the mould of midfielder Robbie Neilson is looking to utilise.
Both of which bode well for Devlin’s prospective playing time, which will be vital should this move prove to a be a successful one.
Scotland has also proved to be an excellent value football market for many clubs in England and overseas, who regularly look North of the Border as part of their recruitment.
Southampton’s Stuart Armstrong, Liverpool duo Virgil Van Dijk and Andy Robertson, and Aston Villa star John McGinn are just a few of the many players who have earned moves to England in recent years off the back of impressive performances in the league, so should Devlin continue to develop and impress, a spell in the Scottish Premiership could prove to be an excellent first step on the road to a successful career in Europe.