‘I wore him like a backpack’: When McGowan marked Virgil van Dijk

Dylan McGowan has a secret formula to stop Liverpool colossus Virgil van Dijk from wreaking havoc in the box.

Keeping the towering Dutchman quiet has proven a near-impossible mission for Premier League, Champions League and international opposition in recent years.

And McGowan has first hand experience of getting up close and personal with van Dijk when the new Western Sydney Wanderers recruit shared the pitch with the 1.93 centre back in the Scottish Premiership some five years ago.


McGowan, 28, was handed the unenviable assignment of marking van Dijk - who was on the books of Celtic at the time - while playing for Heart of Midlothian, the club for whom he made over 50 appearances for between 2010-2014.

“I had him at corners,” McGowan remembers to SBS The World Game.

“He sat in the zone for Celtic at corners, and I remember the coach saying, 'you’ll have him when we were defending'… no problem. He said ‘he doesn’t want to attack the ball, he’s scared of heading it'… and I’m thinking, alright.

“So we go to the tunnel and I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s not actually that big but it’s just the presence, the sheer size of the man.

“I wore him like a backpack. I just tried to hang on to him for dear life."


McGowan will get the first opportunity to bestow his set-piece wisdom to his Wanderers teammates when the Red and Black face Perth Glory in the FFA Cup 2019 Round of 32 on Wednesday.

The Adelaide-born product signed a three-year deal for Markus Babbel's side in June after departing Danish Superliga outfit Vendyssel.

A Hyundai A-League Premiership and Championship double winner with Adelaide in 2014/15, McGowan also won the FFA Cup with the Reds in 2014.