Eleven years ago Scottish midfielder Paul McShane went to Iceland to get match-fit after injury. Last Thursday he finally returned to the United Kingdom in a professional capacity, putting in a dynamic performance in Fram Reykjavík's 2-1 UEFA Europa League win at The New Saints FC.
The victory in Oswestry on the Anglo-Welsh border took Fram, absent from Europe since 1992/93, through 4-2 on aggregate to meet SK Sigma Olomouc over the next two Thursdays in the second qualifying round. For former youth international McShane, it was a first competitive game on British soil since he left Rangers FC aged 20. His destination in 1998 was Grindavík, where he settled quickly thanks to his team-mates' good English and the presence of compatriot Scott McKenna Ramsay.
"I'd undergone a knee operation and was released by Rangers so I went on a few trials with English and Scottish clubs but they either asked me to come back when I had a higher fitness level or money was a problem," McShane told uefa.com. "Having become a bit disillusioned, I got a call from an agent who offered for me to go to Iceland for the summer. I thought it would be a good experience as I was still young and it would give me a chance to get match-fit before returning to Scotland and having another crack at it – but that was eleven years ago.
"I had no intention to stay longer than a season," added the versatile McShane, not to be confused with his namesake Sunderland AFC defender. "However, when I went back to Scotland not much had changed so I took a gamble and went back to Iceland. I had just turned 20 and within the year I had my son Hilmar Andrew to an Icelandic woman," he went on. "I'd love to return to Scotland, in fact I'd love to go anywhere in Britain and play full-time. At the end of the current campaign I'll return home and go on trial with as many clubs as possible, but if nothing materialises I'll finish my career in Iceland."
So was the TNS match in Wales a chance to put himself in the shop window? "I'm enjoying my football at the moment but I'm 31 so if an opportunity arose through playing in such ties then of course I'd seriously consider it," said McShane. A good showing against Czech side Sigma would certainly increase his profile and McShane, who joined Fram from Grindavík in 2007, hopes his team can step up and move closer to recapturing the days when they met FC Barcelona, Real Madrid CF and Panathinaikos FC in UEFA competition. "We have a young squad and for the majority of the boys [TNS] was their first taste of European football," he continued. "But we know we'll always create chances and we're confident of getting results away from home. The tie against Sigma will be a stern test but hopefully we can proceed to the next round."
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