Players don’t come much more experienced than Marc McKenzie. After a twenty-year career, spanning fourteen clubs across the SPFL and Junior game, ‘Squib’ arrived at Newlandsfield in the summer from Hurlford. At 38 years old, some may have doubted the contribution he could make, but these people clearly haven’t been paying much attention to football at this level for a while.
Any doubters will now have been comprehensively silenced, with McKenzie sitting on five goals from twelve games. He is also, along with Adam Forde, one of only two players to appear in every competitive match for Pollok this season and he sat down with us to talk about the highlights of a stellar career, and how he wants to create more memories in black and white.
When did you start playing football, and which teams did you play for as a youngster?
I can’t really say I started when I was wee, as I’m still the same size! Really, I have been playing for as long as I can remember. As a youngster, I played for Bosco juniors, Calton, Arsenal Boys Club and St Columba’s before joining Raith Rovers pro-youth. After coming through their youth system, I had a brief spell at Livingston before moving to Albion Rovers where I made my senior debut in 2003.
You spent five years with East Stirlingshire from 2005-2010, a period which saw them begin to climb the table after five successive seasons finishing bottom of Division 3. How challenging was it to play for the club during the difficult years, and what was it that turned their fortunes around?
I joined East Stirling from Stenhousemuir during a period of real financial difficulty. However, I wanted to be playing every week and Gordon Wylde, the gaffer at the time, was very keen to have me at the club. Gordon was excellent, and it wasn’t long after I joined that the new chairman Spencer Fearn came in. It was clear to see that he wanted the club to progress and develop. Things changed a lot and we managed to be in the promotion play-offs a couple times, but we just missed out on going up.
In the final game of the 2007-08 season, you had to win against Pollok’s Scottish Cup conquerors Montrose to maintain league membership for the club. What do you remember about the build up to that match and how much pressure was the team under?
We treated the game just like any other to be honest. Naturally there were some nerves coming from the supporters, but luckily we did enough to win the game and keep the team in the league.
You came on as a late sub in the game as The Shire beat Montrose 3-1 to avoid bottom spot in the last competitive match played at Firs Park. What was the emotion like around the club after that game?
I think for the small hardcore group of supporters at the Shire, it was an emotional day. Happy that we won the game and avoided bottom spot, but sad to be leaving Firs Park.
You then spent four years at Cowdenbeath, split between Division 1 (latterly the Championship) and Division 2, finishing as their top scorer in the title-winning campaign of 2011-12. That was only the club’s second trophy since 1939. What did it mean to bring success to a club and fan base that were not used to it?
I absolutely loved my time at Cowdenbeath and everyone involved at the club. It was a very special place for me. In my first season, we were in a very tough league with mostly full-time clubs and we ended up being relegated. We bounced straight back up the following season however, winning the league and I managed to finish as top scorer, while also being awarded Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year, so it was very memorable. We followed that the next season by managing to stay up on a dramatic last day.
How did you enjoy your time at Elgin City and how challenging was it playing so far North?
We had a really good team that probably should have won the league. That season was their highest ever finish in the league but we lost out in the play-offs. We did really well at home which made the long journey to games a bit easier every second week. In the end, because I was only meeting up with the team for games and I wasn’t training with them, I didn’t feel as much a part of the team as I should have.
You spent eighteen years overall in the SFL/SPFL with ten different clubs. What are your personal highlights from that time in your career?
I won league titles, various personal awards, played at pretty much every ground in Scotland, and played with and against some top players. I have had so many highlights that it would be hard to pick out one specific moment.
In 2017, you joined the Junior ranks for the first time with Arthurlie. How different was the experience of playing football at this level, and how did you adapt?
To be honest, there wasn’t much of a difference between the West Juniors and League 1/2. There were a lot of top players in the Juniors who didn’t fancy testing themselves in the SPFL. In my opinion, too many stay were they are comfortable and don’t want to travel.
Your time in the Juniors is best remembered for two spells with Hurlford. In that time, you won two West of Scotland Cups (one Junior and one WoSFL), but also suffered late heartache in the 2018 Junior Cup Final. What are the highlights of your time at Blair Park?
Winning the cup was a great highlight from my time at Hurlford but the club overall were great with me, my wife Colette, and our five kids as they made them feel part of the club every week.
You have caused Pollok many problems over the years as an opposition player, scoring three times. What are your fondest memories of games against the Lok and how was it coming to Newlandsfield as an away player?
My first game against Pollok was for Arthurlie at Newlandsfield. The Pollok fans have always gave me a bit of stick when but that’s all part of football and I’m sure that I have wound them up at times by scoring and gesturing in their direction!
How did your move to Pollok come about, and what was your reaction when you heard there was interest?
The gaffer got in touch with me so I met up with him and Chris for a chat. Maxi had previously tried to sign me for Rob Roy, but the lure of the size of the club, the crowds, the quality of the pitch and, of course, the bags of money they offered me meant that I couldn’t say no! (Editor’s note – no bags of money were exchanged.)
You have a lot of experience over a twenty year career. What do you think you can bring to Pollok this season?
Hopefully I can pass on some of my experience to the rest of the team given that I am the oldest in the squad, even if I don’t look it! I am a player who will always give everything even when I am not playing well. Hopefully I will score some goals and ultimately help bring some silverware to the club.
You scored your first Pollok goal against Irvine Meadow in mid-August. Does the novelty of debuts and first goals ever wear off, or are they as exciting as they were twenty years ago?
Scoring goals, especially in front of big crowds, is a feeling that only the wife can come close to replicating! You should never get tired of scoring goals.
What are your aims this season, both personally and in terms of what you think the club can achieve?
Personally I want to play as much as possible and score as much as possible. As a club and a team I think that on our day, with the experience and quality we have, that we should look to win something and I don’t see why we can’t.
Finally, not that we are trying to force you into retirement, but do you hope to move into coaching after you hang up your boots?
Hopefully I can move into that area of the game in some capacity but I also hope my legs have a few more years, miles, and goals left in them yet! I hope to hit 650 career appearances this season and I would love to keep playing to get to the 700 mark.