Whether it’s houses or football clubs, every move comes with a settling in period...
First published in 'The Stag on Saturday 18 March 2017
The good news for Mansfield Town fans is that Alex MacDonald is now beginning to feel right at home – off as well as on the pitch.
The all-action midfielder is the first to admit that Stags’ fans have yet to see the very best of him as he continues to build his fitness following his January Deadline Day move from League One Oxford United.
But just as important to the 26-year old has been to find a base for his family – wife Ashley and four-year-old daughter Chloe – having decided he wanted to move to the local area rather than commute from his previous home in Bicester.
Thankfully, on both counts, MacDonald has made big strides forward, gradually building up to full speed under the watchful gaze of manager Steve Evans in his day job at One Call Stadium, while also finding a
new place to live in nearby Farnsfield.
It means the former Burnley trainee believes he is well placed to produce his best in the remaining eight games of the season.
“I was living around 20 minutes from Oxford, but I’m not a fan of travelling in, so I’m delighted to have found somewhere so close – and that my little girl has now started school this week,” explains MacDonald.
“I felt [that] against Plymouth that I was at my fittest yet and showed glimpses of what I can do, but the supporters definitely haven’t seen the best of me yet."
MacDonald grew up in Runcorn in Cheshire but has played at Under-19 and Under-21 level for Scotland, where his father was born. He was helped along that path by Owen Coyle, then Burnley boss, who was close friends with the manager of those age group sides, Billy Stark.
“I played a lot of games for the Under-21s and then I carried on with the Under-21s, even though I wasn’t being picked for my club side at the time,” recalls MacDonald. “I enjoyed that time, because it was different from playing club football.
“I played with some good lads too. People like Tom Cairney, who is doing really well at Fulham, Johnny Russell at Derby, Jordan Rhodes at Sheffield Wednesday and Danny Wilson who is at Rangers.”
MacDonald has been delighted to see former club Burton Albion firstly win promotion to the Championship and then fight hard to establish themselves in the second tier, against all the odds.
He believes parallels can be drawn between the Staffordshire side and Mansfield, who hope, in time, to replicate the Brewers’ superb rise to prominence.
Liverpool fan MacDonald says: “You see it at a lot of clubs where there are lots of changes and a managerial merry-go-round, with chairmen who are very reactive to the results.
“I also speak to players at other clubs who have been unsettled because they don’t know if and when they are going to be paid. It’s nice to be at a club where things are stable and you don’t have to worry about things like that.
“I know the manager and chairman have a great relationship and when everyone is pushing in the same direction and looking to get promotion, that’s certainly a club where you want to be. What the
manager said to me about the future and what they are trying to build was important in me signing.”
During his time at Burnley, MacDonald enjoyed being on the bench against the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea, but insists the highlight of his career to date was at Oxford last season.
“We got to the Johnstone’s Paint [Trophy] final at Wembley and, although we lost, it was an amazing experience,” he says. “We also went on to achieve our number one goal of getting promoted out of League Two.
“I’m still in touch with a lot of the Oxford boys now – they are great memories. I hope that eventually I will look back at my time at Mansfield just as fondly, on the back of some success.”