Jamie MacDonald is intent on banishing the mental anguish of being dropped last season by re-establishing himself as Kilmarnock’s first-choice goalkeeper.
Despite having been, by his own analysis, in the form of his career since moving to Rugby Park from Falkirk two years ago, the 31-year-old found himself relegated to bench duty from January onwards after former manager Lee Clark took the opportunity to sign highly-regarded youngster Freddie Woodman on loan from Newcastle United on the proviso that he would play regularly.
For all that England’s recently-crowned Under-20 World Cup winner may indeed go on to have a career at the top level, MacDonald’s removal from the team was a bitter blow at a time when he feels his game is going from strength to strength in his peak years.
With Woodman now back at Newcastle, the former Hearts goalkeeper, who has started all three of his team’s Betfred Cup matches this summer, hopes to make the gloves his own again. “It’s been great to be back in the team,” said MacDonald. “The last six months of last season were obviously difficult for me. When you spend about four and a half years playing week in, week out and all of a sudden that stops, it is difficult. But I’ve come back fit in pre-season and I’m raring to go. I’m feeling good right now – it’s just a case of getting games and getting my sharpness back.”
MacDonald admits the difficult time he endured in the second half of last season has strengthened his resolve. “It’s difficult but you need to remain professional,” he said. “As a goalkeeper, it’s not a position where you can play players half an hour here and there. You’re basically waiting for an injury or a loss of form so it’s difficult, but it makes you stronger. It’s something I’ve had to deal with in the past.
“More recently, I’ve not had to deal with it, but it’s given me a hunger and an eagerness to get back in and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Kilmarnock are searching for a new goalkeeper to compete with MacDonald and have been linked with Dundee United’s Cammy Bell, but the current custodian is simply focused on making himself impossible for Lee McCulloch to drop. “I’ve not had a chat with the manager about my situation,” he said. “I’ll just come in and train every day and try to perform to the best of my ability and make sure the manager picks me at the weekend. It doesn’t matter where you are – that’s what you have to do.”
Kris Boyd’s clinical double saw off Annan amid torrential rainfall at Galabank as Kilmarnock, who lost their Betfred Cup opener away to bitter rivals Ayr United, moved to the top of Group E. It was the veteran striker’s first goals of the season after a couple of games against Ayr and Clyde in which he had been the subject of criticism from supporters. “The big man’s been a bit frustrated in the last couple of games because he’s not had many chances,” said MacDonald. “But he’s a natural and his two finishes were outstanding, especially the second one.”