JAMIE MacDONALD faces Aberdeen today inspired by the goalkeeper in the opposing team. Jamie Langfield’s courageous fightback from a brain seizure has touched many and MacDonald considers the 33-year-old a credit to the goalkeepers’ union.
This afternoon sees Langfield donning a special pair of gloves to publicise Brain Injury Awareness month, which will then be auctioned after the match. MacDonald shares the same glove sponsor as his Pittodrie counterpart and has helped him promote the cause.
The Hearts goalkeeper admitted he is in awe of Langfield’s strength of character in recovering from a seizure of the brain in May 2011. “He’s a credit to the profession because he’s been unbelievable,” said MacDonald. “You can’t imagine that happening to you and it must have been a very scary part of his life for him and his family. He’s back playing at the same level now and you wouldn’t know what had happened. It didn’t seem to faze him. He’s just a credit to everybody. I don’t know what else to say.
Langfield’s autographed gloves will be put up for sale immediately after this afternoon’s encounter between Aberdeen and Hearts, and MacDonald is undecided whether he would prefer them to be clean or dirty.
“For us, I’d rather they were dirty. Or maybe clean because that would mean the ball’s gone right past him,” he joked. “We want the result, but, for Jamie, it’s a big thing and it’s something close to him after what he’s gone through.
“I hope it does raise awareness. You think it couldn’t happen to you but he is a fit guy playing professional football and something like that happens. It can happen to anyone. He’s an inspiration to people to come through a brain problem like that and then come back. It’s not as if he’s playing at a lower level – he’s come back into an Aberdeen team at SPL level. As I said, you wouldn’t know any different. He’s come in, performed at an excellent level and had a good season.”
Aberdeen are seeking three points to potentially propel them into the SPL’s top six, somewhere MacDonald believes Hearts belong. “We can make excuses like it has been a difficult season and there have been a lot of changes. At the end of the day, we are Hearts and we see ourselves as the third force in Scottish football behind the Old Firm.
“We’re disappointed with where we are this year. We got to a cup final and lost, we’re sitting tenth in the league and we’re going to be in the bottom six this year. We should be in the top six every year, no matter what. We have seven games left and we’re looking to win all seven of them. We need to make sure we finish the best of the rest and give ourselves some confidence and a springboard for next year.”
That assertion on who is Scotland’s third biggest team is one Aberdeen may wish to challenge. “It’s obviously up for debate,” continued MacDonald. “Aberdeen have a great history as well and they’ve maybe not done so well in recent years.
“They can still get into the top six so this is going to be a difficult game for us. They will be desperate to get the win and give themselves a great chance of finishing in the top half of the table. The league is so tight so there will still be European places up for grabs after that.”
Such achievements are beyond Hearts for this season. On a more positive note, the permanent appointment of Gary Locke has found favour within the corridors of Riccarton.
“It’s nice to have clarity and not questions over who’s going to be in charge – are they only here until the end of the season? Will somebody else come in at the start of next season? – which usually happens.
“It’s nice to have somebody we know. Lockie is the manager now for the next year and a half and it’s a popular decision so far. All the players like him, training has been upbeat at a good tempo and everybody’s been enjoying it. We’re all delighted for him and I think the fans will appreciate it as well.”
MacDonald’s own performances have been relatively steady throughout the campaign. He admitted to analysing his own game too much in the past, although that has changed since he became a father for the first time last August.
“Since my daughter has been born I’ve not been so bad because, when I get home, I don’t have time to think about it,” he said. “In the past I was terrible. Every goal that goes in I was like: ‘Could I have done better? ‘What could I have done differently?’ That’s not always a good thing because you can drive yourself demented.
“The goals we lost in the cup final were probably preventable in a game we dominated. For ten minutes before half-time and the 15 or 20 after the break, we switched off. St Mirren took their chances, fair play to them, and unfortunately we couldn’t get another couple on a day when we pretty much dominated the game. That’s cup football for you. There were a few occasions last year on our run where we came away from games thinking: ‘How have we won that?’ It’s time to move on.”