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Kieran Ngwenya: Aberdeen prospect talks Malawi, Kelty Hearts loan and Dons dream

Ngwenya's footballing journey has already been eventful
Ngwenya's footballing journey has already been eventful

From Aberdeen to Africa, Kieran Ngwenya has already packed plenty into his burgeoning career.

And the highly-rated defender insists Kelty Hearts is the perfect platform for the next stage of his journey.

Ngwenya, 19, has shone for the Maroon Machine since arriving on loan from the Dons in September, making 15 appearances for the runaway League 2 leaders.

As well as contributing to Kelty’s imperious form in the fourth tier, he was a standout in their stunning Scottish Cup victory against holders, St Johnstone.

And while Saturday’s last-16 tie against St Mirren was a bridge too far — the part-timers succumbing to a 4-0 defeat — the Malawi cap is treating it as another pivotal learning curve.

Ngwenya heaped praise on Michael Tidser, pictured

“I’m loving it here,” Ngwenya told Courier Sport. “The gaffer [Kevin Thomson] and Geordie [assistant, Kevin McDonald] have been unbelievable with me.

“They help me out after every game; tell me the things I did well and, more importantly, things that I can improve on.

“Michael Tidser, the skipper, has helped me a lot. He is always by my side and ready to give me advice. Tids is just so honest.

“If you are doing something wrong, he’ll tell you. Even if he can sometimes be blunt, you know he’s telling the truth and it’s for the right reasons. That’s just the way he is.

“He’s not scared to praise you, either, so when you get that pat on the back, that gives you so much confidence.”

Malawi debut

Ngwenya’s formative campaign at Kelty Hearts follows a stint with Cove Rangers last term, while he has already represented Aberdeen on two occasions.

And he can certainly lay claim to being the only Malawi internationalist currently plying his trade in League 2, having made his debut for the The Flames in the summer of 2021.

Eligible to play for the nation through his father, Bryne, Glasgow-born Ngwenya jumped at the opportunity to represent a country he had visited on several occasions as a child.

Ngwenya trained with his new teammates in the Malawian city of Blantyre last June before travelling to Tanzania and playing the full 90 minutes in a 2-0 friendly defeat.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” Ngwenya recalled. “It was a friendly, but seeing all the fans — the colour, noise and passion — was just brilliant.

“This was at a time when we were just starting to get fans back in stadiums so, as a young player, I had never experienced anything like it. The love I was shown over there has really stuck with me.

“You could see how much it meant to the supporters to watch the national team.

“I had been over [to Malawi] before so I had that familiarity. I used to travel over there with my dad — I have a lot of family who still live in Malawi — so it was special to be back there and representing the country.

“When that opportunity came, it was no decision at all. My dad was so proud; absolutely buzzing!”

Although yet to build on that first cap, Ngwenya is ‘hopeful’ of further recognition, adding, ‘I am patient about it’.

Aberdeen aspirations

Because that maiden Malawi outing was not a competitive match, he remains able to switch allegiances to Scotland or Trinidad & Tobago, where his mother, Annette, hails from.

Ngwenya in Premiership action against Ross County

Back at club level, Ngwenya is on course to lift the League 2 title in May and will hope to impress the next Aberdeen manager as the Dons hunt for a successor to Stephen Glass.

He is contracted to the Pittodrie club until 2024 and they have high hopes for the big defender in the Granite City.

“The clips go back [to Aberdeen] from my games and I know they are keeping tabs on what’s going on at Kelty,” he added. “I hope I’m impressing them.

“I’ve got another couple of seasons [on his contract] after this one, so I’m trying not to rush anything. Playing regularly and learning is the priority now.”

‘It felt like being stabbed in the back’: Tam O’Ware feared career was OVER before Kelty Hearts rebirth

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