Ryan McGowan encourages young Scots to go abroad

Ryan McGowan
Ryan McGowan has won 18 Australia caps while playing his club football in Scotland and China

Australia and Henan Jianye defender Ryan McGowan believes young Scottish footballers should try playing abroad early in their careers.

McGowan, 27, has played for four Scottish clubs and is currently in his second spell in China's top flight.

"A lot of Scottish kids I've encountered had almost a fear of going abroad," McGowan told BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound.

"I would recommend: go abroad, go for a year, two years."

Having joined Hearts in 2008, McGowan had loan spells at Ayr United and Partick Thistle before helping the Tynecastle side win the Scottish Cup in 2012, scoring in the final against Edinburgh rivals Hibernian.

Ryan McGowan
McGowan scored in Hearts' 5-1 Hampden win over Hibs

The following year he moved to Shandong Luneng Taishan and returned to Scotland in 2015 with Dundee United before joining Henan Jianye last year.

"I was 16 when I left Australia and my goal was to become a professional footballer and it somehow took me to Scotland," McGowan said.

"Scottish kids have it really easy, they have almost 40 professional clubs within a three, four-hour drive. They can just move to different clubs.

"When I was growing up I had one club in Adelaide where I was from that was professional. They could only sign 23 players, which was for the first team. My next closest club was a two-hour flight away. I couldn't exactly go there every Monday, Tuesday night to train.

"Worst case [scenario with going abroad] is you don't like it, you get let go, you don't enjoy it and you come back and you're in the same situation that you left two years previously."

Chelsea and Brazil midfielder Oscar, 25, is close to a £60m move to Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG in January while Argentina forward Carlos Tevez, 32, is reportedly nearing a move to Shanghai Shenhua from Boca Juniors.

Oscar
Oscar joined Chelsea in 2012 and won the Premier League last year

"Every team now has almost a world class player," McGowan explained.

"This window coming up in January could be even bigger. They broke all the records in the summer just gone and they're all going to try and outdo each other again.

"There are only five foreigners there so they do make a huge effort in making sure that you're comfortable, your family's comfortable and everything off the field is looked after.

"They believe that if you're well off the field then you should perform better on the field. I thoroughly enjoy it. I couldn't speak highly enough of it.

"It's a great opportunity to experience a totally different culture, different country and as a defender come up against world class strikers week in, week out. As the foreign defender, there's a lot of pressure, a lot of expectation on me performing well.

"Like any league, you have your top five or six teams who would challenge or would do well in any sort of league in Europe and then you have your bottom three or four that do struggle."

World Cup-winning managers Luiz Felipe Scolari and Marcello Lippi and former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson are currently working in China, with Lippi the national coach.

Marcello Lippi
Lippi managed at club level in China before taking on the national job

"They are so wanting to win a World Cup," added McGowan. "They want to perform well. Anyone that comes in from a different country or with a bit of pedigree, they want to know what they do 24/7 and how they do it from training to how they prepare for games, how they recover from games.

"I guess that's why they're bringing in a lot of world class coaches as well, to get the academies set up. They're doing a lot of stuff off the field to make them what they believe will be a powerhouse in 15, 20 years' time.

"My club's a relatively small club compared to a few others but we get 25,000-30,000. You probably have five or six clubs that when they're playing at home would get 60,000. I think the lowest is about 17,000 or 20,000.

"There is huge attendances at pretty much every game that you play in."

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