The St Mirren manager is baffled that the 19-year-old has not been called up to join Scotland’s under-21 side, but he welcomes the interest that McLean is generating among scouts of other clubs.
McLean has been watched by Burnley and Crystal Palace in recent weeks, with his improving form recognised as he received the Clydesdale Bank Premier League young player of the month award on Tuesday.
Lennon does not fret that McLean’s attitude will be skewed by the speculation -- “he will remain level-headed,” he says -- and rather than be irked by the possibility of having to sell the midfielder at some stage, he accepts that dealing with these scenarios is part of his job.
“I’m not fearful at all,” Lennon says. “He’s on a long-term contract here and I take it as a compliment. You know you’re heading in a good direction if teams are coming to look at your youngsters. I encourage that: come and look at our youngsters, come and look at our coaches, come and watch what we’re doing at St Mirren. We’ve got Kenny, [Paul] McGowan, all these types of players tied up, so we’re in a healthy position. There’s a lot of development still to do, but Kenny could go the full distance.
“It’s a pat on the back for the club collectively, from the board, to the coaches to the supporters and every player in there. It’s our job to keep Kenny maintaining the level he’s at.”
McLean has one Scotland under-21 cap and one under-19 cap to his name, but he was left out of Billy Stark’s squad for the game against the Netherlands on Monday.
Having broken into the St Mirren starting line-up, held his own in the Premier League and scored his first goal last month, McLean is among the on-form midfielders of his age group, which is why Lennon cannot understand the player being ignored by the under-21s.
“I’m surprised he’s not in it, and I said that even before he broke into our team,” said the St Mirren manager. “He’s got a left foot that could open a tin of beans, and a decent right foot. He’s one of these players that we lack in Scotland, he’s always looking for the slide-rule pass, and he can deliver it.”