Jamie MacDonald: I'd go back to Hearts in a second - it's a huge risk leaving Kilmarnock
Jamie MacDonald acknowledges the gamble he is taking. Rejecting a new Kilmarnock contract on reduced wages leaves the 34-year-old clubless during the worst crisis to hit football since World War II. No-one need explain the risk.
The former Hearts goalkeeper would jump at the chance to return to Tynecastle Park if given the opportunity. However, he realises there are many issues to be resolved there before new signings will be considered. For now, he must sit, wait and hope.
MacDonald refused Kilmarnock's offer because it did not make financial sense to travel daily from his Edinburgh home to Ayrshire on a lower salary. He has made that journey every day for the last five years and now wants something closer to home. He is fully aware there are no guarantees during a global health pandemic.
Some Hearts fans would welcome him back for next season. There is no lingering bitterness over his unceremonious exit in May 2014 and MacDonald says he would happily rejoin his formative club.
He was players' and fans' player of the year in 2013/14 but was cast aside as Ann Budge took control and appointed Craig Levein director of football. Jamie Hamill, Ryan Stevenson, Gary Locke, Billy Brown and Alan Combe were also dispensed with in a brutal changing of the guard.
MacDonald has never been the type to harbour grudges. And given the position he is now in, he couldn’t afford to even if he wanted to. He hopes to earn a full-time contract but is not ruling out a part-time club after spending last season on loan at Championship side Alloa.
"I still want to stay in full-time football,” he said. “Killie wanted me to be a Premiership goalie and fight for the No.1 position. I'm still more than capable of that but I'm also at an age where I wouldn't rule out part-time. At some point, I will need to start looking at that avenue and perhaps a non-playing job.
"I'm still hopeful I can pick up something full-time. I've still got more than a few years left to play at a high level. I've generally been injury-free in my career but just now it's a waiting game.”
Hearts might need a goalkeeper for next season once they ascertain which league they will play in. “I served my time there and I was bitterly disappointed with the way it ended. I would have loved to stay there but you are not always everybody's cup of tea in football,” recalled MacDonald.
“Obviously, if an opportunity like that arose then I would be delighted. I would go back in a heartbeat. I grew up at Hearts. I was there from 14 years old until I was basically forced out of the door.
“It's somewhere I would definitely go back, although I think Hearts have their own problems to deal with just now like a lot of clubs.
“The way I left isn’t an issue, absolutely not. It's just football and it happens to everybody. I don't think it was something particularly aimed at me. The people in charge at the time decided I just wasn't for them and you just have to accept that.
"As I said, you won't be everybody's favourite type of player. The quicker you learn that in football, the easier it is to control your emotions and not make knee-jerk reactions.
“You can't go away in the huff if somebody doesn't like you. All you can do is work hard and try to prove them wrong.”
For the last six years he has endeavoured to do just that at Falkirk, Kilmarnock, and latterly Alloa. Leaving Rugby Park is a big decision due to the timing of becoming a free-agent goalkeeper.
"It's a bit of a gamble right now. It's not like I'm walking into anything elsewhere. I live in Edinburgh and I've travelled to Kilmarnock every day for the last five years,” explained MacDonald.
“The offer they made me was just too much of a cut, which I totally understand from the club's perspective. It's going to be the same throughout football.
"I was grateful they offered me something but I looked at it and thought it's not worth it for me to travel to Killie every day. It didn't make sense for me and my family because a quarter of your wage goes on travel expenses. I decided it would be best to try and look closer to home.
"Clubs aren't really talking to players, apart from their own, about contracts. They are a bit tentative because they are waiting to see what happens with the leagues, with reconstruction and all that talk.
“Clubs are looking for clarity on when and how they start back. Until that comes, there probably won't be a lot of dialogue between clubs and players. It is a bit of a risk for me but I felt it's one I had to take.”
Be it with Hearts or anyone else, MacDonald would have no qualms displaying his shot-stopping in Scotland’s second tier again next season.
“The standard of player in the Championship had risen in the last few years because people had dropped down from the Premiership to play regularly,” he pointed out.
“I think you will find guys with massive top-league experience dropping down because Premiership teams will run with smaller squads now.
"It definitely wouldn't faze me to play in the Championship again. I enjoyed it with Alloa. Anybody can beat anybody in that division.
“Even against Dundee United, who ran away with the title, we beat them at home in only their second defeat. Then we lost 2-1 at Tannadice, so there wasn't much in the games.”
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