Gary’s back in the game De­fender puts in­jury agony

Paisley Daily Express - - Theti Cket - Craig Ritchie

Gary MacKen­zie has been liv­ing a night­mare.

The St Mir­ren cen­tre half has seen in­jury af­ter in­jury plague his sea­son – but he in­sists it could have been a lot worse.

An un­di­ag­nosed con­cus­sion picked up in the sea­son’s opener against Falkirk saw him pro­duce a shadow of the per­for­mance ex­pected the fol­low­ing week in the Ren­frew­shire derby, in a de­feat which saw the Saints thumped 4-1.

“I shouldn’t have played in that game,” con­cedes MacKen­zie. “It was my own fault.” He has hardly been seen since. Af­ter ad­mit­ting to the club doc­tor that things just weren’t right, MacKen­zie was signed off as he looked to re­cover from the head knock which he re­veals saw him un­able to re­call even play­ing in the game at Cap­pielow. Ev­ery­thing else was just a blur. It was a scary pe­riod for MacKen­zie, who had hoped to kick on from his de­but cam­paign which had saw him pick up sev­eral player of year awards.

But now back in full train­ing, with an out­side chance of fea­tur­ing against Brechin this week­end, MacKen­zie has opened up on his fight to get him­self back in the reck­on­ing.

“I hadn’t been feel­ing great the week in the run-up to the Mor­ton game,” he told Ex­press Sport. “I just wasn’t feel­ing well but I didn’t want to say – I wanted to play.

“But I spoke to the gaffer af­ter the Mor­ton game be­cause he pulled me in be­cause he felt I wasn’t my­self.

“Any­one that was at that game would tell you that wasn’t how I play foot­ball.

“I couldn’t ex­plain to him what it was I was do­ing, I couldn’t re­mem­ber the ac­tual game and when I tried to piece to­gether the week be­fore it I just couldn’t do it at all.

“At that point the doc­tor stepped in and gave me the guide­lines, and there was a cou­ple of weeks I couldn’t do much.

“It’s been re­ally hard men­tally. But once you get your head round the fact that it’s not go­ing to be a quick fix then you just need to knuckle down and do the rehab that is re­quired to get back in the side.

“It was tough be­cause for the first time in around four years I had com­pleted a full pre-sea­son. Af­ter last sea­son, where I man­aged to play a lot of games and fin­ish the sea­son re­ally well I was look­ing to push on.

“Ev­ery­thing was go­ing well through­out pre-sea­son and then I picked up a con­cus­sion against Falkirk, then tore my Achilles in a prac­tice match. I had torn my Achilles be­fore so I think that made it worse be­cause I knew that there was a long road ahead. I felt like I was back to square one af­ter feel­ing on top of the world for the first time in a long time.”

The Achilles in­jury that fol­lowed only served as an­other ham­mer blow to the de­fender who played a mas­sive role in St Mir­ren avoid­ing the drop.

Uni­ver­sally revered by the Saints sup­port, MacKen­zie’s woes were felt through­out the sup­port as the Bud­dies bat­tled to make a good start to the cam­paign.

For MacKen­zie, the train­ing ground and treat­ment room, so of­ten the bane dur­ing his ca­reer, has be­come a so­lace for the moun­tain of a de­fender.

Com­ing into Ralston ev­ery­day pro­vided the 32-year-old with the goal of get­ting back into the side, while a Satur­day has been best served in the stands pro­vid­ing sup­port for his team­mates.

Ad­mit­tedly, it has been tougher than he ex­pected to watch on.

But with just over a week un­der his belt back in full-train­ing, MacKen­zie in­sists the time is now to get a smile back on his face.

He added: “Now be­ing on the pitch with the boys, you feel part of it again. When you are in­jured then you feel like you aren’t in­volved. That is hard.

“Get­ting over that is one step. The next step is to get back out there on the pitch.

“But I’m just tak­ing each day as it comes. If I am en­joy­ing my

Smil­ing once more Gary MacKen­zie

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