If Fulham get back to the Premier League by beating Aston Villa in today’s Championship play-off final at Wembley, Kevin McDonald will be back where he should have spent most of his career.
That’s the verdict of the mercurial midfielder’s former Dundee team-mate Paul Dixon.
As teenagers over a decade ago Dixon and McDonald were thrust into the first team as the Dark Blues continued their struggle to bounce back from administration in 2003.
After three years together, the pair left Dens Park within a few weeks of each other in the summer of 2008, Dixon to city rivals Dundee United and McDonald for Burnley.
Within a year of heading south, the latter was playing top-flight football with the Clarets and “Dicker” admits to thinking at the time that whether or not the Turf Moor outfit would stay at that level, his mate would.
After an infamous incident that saw McDonald leave the ground after being substituted at half-time during a 6-1 home defeat at the hands of Manchester City, what had been a promising start to his career down south faded for a time.
He played just one more top-tier game that season and has not performed at that level in just over eight years since. That still amazes Dixon.
“Honestly, knowing Kev’s talent when he went down to Burnley and got promoted to the Premier League, I expected him to do what Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson have,” he said.
“I was sure it would be a stepping stone to one of the top-six clubs down there because that is the kind of ability he has.
“He was thrown in at the deep end at Dundee, like a few of us were, but he quickly became a very big player in the team and it wasn’t a surprise when English clubs started watching him every week.
“Burnley seemed a good move for him because he was getting a game and they got promoted but something went wrong and it knocked him back for a while.
“What exactly the story was I don’t know and maybe we never will, but for me the good thing is he is back in with a chance of getting up to the highest level again.
“I have to say when you look at the clubs he’s played for down south and the number of games he’s had, you would never say he’s had a bad career.
“It’s just that he belongs in their Premier League and I really do hope Fulham win tomorrow and he can spend the next few seasons at that level.”
He notes with interest McDonald is no longer the attacking midfielder of his Dens days, but tends to be the man who sits a touch deeper.
For him, that’s just a another sign of his all-round ability.
“Kev was very much an attacking midfielder when we played together but the times I have seen Fulham on television this season he has had more of a holding role.
“He can still get forward and chip in with a few goals and he’ll be a very important player for them at Wembley.”
Such is the “small world” nature of football that McDonald is not the only reason Dixon will be rooting for the Cottagers in a game that could earn the winners £160 million, even if they were to be relegated this time next year.
“Oliver Norwood plays beside Kev in their midfield and I played in the same team as him at Huddersfield, so it would be good to see them both go up.
“I even know the other midfielder, Stefan Johansen because I played against him a few times when he was at Celtic and I was at United.”