John McMaster believes Scott McKenna’s switch from Aberdeen to Nottingham Forest is bittersweet after twisting on a £7million jackpot from Aston Villa.

But the Dons legend admits the 23-year-old’s cut-price £3m move is a sign of the times and could be a bargain for a player who has depreciated in value since the Villans flashed the cheque book two seasons ago.

Despite indifferent form in the last campaign, a Celtic bid of £5m was also rejected for a defender whose transfer to Forest will still eclipse the club’s record sale that saw Eoin Jess move to Coventry for £2m in 1996.

McMaster is convinced the boardroom at his old club will be smarting at failing to cash in when McKenna’s stock was at its highest.

He said: “Aberdeen missed the boat with McKenna when they kicked two offers from Villa into touch.

“But two years is a long time in football and by Scott’s standards he had a bad season last year.

“It was night and day when you look at his performances from the season before. He was outstanding during that campaign and I recommended him to Swansea where I was working as their Scottish scout.

“Even at that time when the figures for him being bandied about were five and six million pounds, I felt that was too expensive and he just wasn’t worth that kind of money.

“When Aberdeen were offered the £7m from Villa they should have grabbed it. At the time I remember thinking it was nuts to knock it back.”

McMaster is adamant the loss of McKenna’s from Dons’ defence is already being felt after a 3-0 weekend defeat to Motherwell but he’s also certain the Pittodrie bean counters will feel a sense of relief in the current coronavirus climate.

He said: “As it stands, £3m from Forest with the add-ons is decent money.

Aberdeen will be happy with that and everyone’s a winner if Scott hits the ground running down south and possibly hits the Premier League with his new club next season.

Aberdeen have still done well to get the figure they have for a boy who’s been there since he was 11 years old.

“The good thing about Scott is he’s everything you want in a centre-half. He’s left sided and can ping a football and make a pass. Now he needs to push on and improve himself.

“He has a terrific attitude and a gauge as to how vital he was to Aberdeen is that he left to talk to Forrest last Friday and the Dons lost three goals to Motherwell on the Sunday.

“That tells you quite a lot. The bigger picture is trying to balance the books right now.

“The pandemic has altered the market and clubs just can’t turn down decent money at the moment given all the uncertainty and the difficult decisions that have to be taken.”

McMaster is currently scouring the Scottish scene as a scout for Cardiff City, looking to unearth the next gem to take south.

And he is convinced our clubs only have themselves to blame if English teams eye our best talent as easy pickings and it’s down to season on season failures in Europe.

He said: “With the exception of Celtic, you rarely see any Scottish clubs moving players on for really big money.

“There’s a dearth now of Scottish boys heading down to the Premier League or the Championship.

“I took four players down to Swansea, Jay Fulton being one of them and a few boys have gone to Fulham and the odd one or two elsewhere but it's nowhere near what it once was.

McMaster shows off his Gothenburg winners' medal while working for Swansea

“The biggest issue is that Scottish football has suffered from the clubs failing in Europe.

“I look at the Europa League and we struggle every season to get through even a few qualifying rounds, never mind the group stage.

“The only reason we have two Champions League spots next season is down to Celtic and Rangers doing so well.

“I’ll always remember when Jimmy Calderwood said when he was manager of Aberdeen that reaching the last 32 in the Europa League would be a brilliant thing for his CV.

“Are these the levels which our clubs now aspire to?

“Players can put a few zeros onto their transfer fees by doing well in Europe and since that hasn’t been the case at clubs outside the Old Firm, the value of their talent has been impacted.

“I can’t think of anyone outside the big two who’s moved for huge money in recent years.

“The South Stand at Pittodrie was built with the money Tottenham paid for Stevie Archibald, £800,000 back then was a huge amount of money. Gordon Strachan’s move to Manchester United also brought in £750,000, so Aberdeen were doing big business in those days.

“Sadly those days are over.”