Midfielder Alex MacDonald is determined to have a bigger input at Gillingham this season but won’t be making life any more difficult for the manager.
The 32-year-old overcame a career-threatening injury to play a part this season but the majority of his 28 appearances have come off the bench. Grateful as he is to be playing again, he wants to be starting matches.
He said: "From a personal level to be able to play football again is great, there was a lot of times last year that I didn’t think I was going to be able to, but touch wood that is behind me, I am just hopeful I can influence the team and push up the table.
“I don’t think I am missing games or being on the bench because my body is not able to do it, I think that is down to the choice of the manager. I am fit and raring to go.
“The only thing missing is to play as many games as I can and get on from the start but that’s not been the case at the moment. I understand the predicament we are in at the football club and I am not here to make it harder for the manager or try and bang on his door. At the moment he sees me best coming off the bench and if that is what is going to best help the team in his mind then I fully back him.
“If you are not starting games the best thing for you to do is try and influence games when you do get your chances and opportunities on the pitch. I am not here to try and sulk or make it harder for the manager, I am here to help the team as best I can, if that is coming off the bench at this moment in time then so be it.”
MacDonald is in his third season with the Gills, making 45 appearances during his first. The 2021/22 campaign was cut short with a knee injury, in October 2021. It was a long way back, not easy for a player who was working away from home.
“It is hard, there is no secret about it,” he admitted. “I have found it difficult at times been away from my daughter, since I have been down here. It has been quite a period of time I have been away now.
“It is a very very difficult part of the job, when your daughter gets to a certain age. I remember when I moved to Mansfield from Oxford and I moved my daughter’s school, she was in tears, saying ‘Daddy, is this always what we are going to have to do, keep making friends?’ It broke my heart.
“It was at that point I thought I needed to settle down somewhere and if I had to go away to work then that is what it would have to be. After Covid hit, for lower league players there weren’t as many options, not as many avenues to look down. I signed down here and I have been here for a few years.
"I’ve not a bad word about Gillingham but when you have had that heartbreak of your daughter in tears for moving schools it wasn’t something I was willing to do again.”
He has football to focus on again and although he got family-time last Christmas because of the injury, he can’t wait to be playing again over the festive period.
He said: “Playing on Boxing Day is a tradition, something I have known all my adult life. The Boxing Day games seem to have a little more grab about them, it is a family thing, stadiums are packed, but the one thing that makes a Christmas is a win on Boxing Day.
“I don’t think I have had a Christmas off prior to (last season), it was a different kind of Christmas, one with family, my daughter, and as much as I love her to bits I would rather be careful about what I am eating and drinking, knowing that I have got a very big game the day after.
“I am looking forward to being in that normal football mindset over Christmas period and fingers crossed we get a big result.”
The Gills host Colchester United on Boxing Day, in a clash of the bottom two, but before that there's a small matter of Wolves away in the Carabao Cup.
Gillingham play the fourth round match tomorrow (Tuesday) night.
MacDonald played in the win over Brentford in round three and knows these are the moments that can make lasting memories.
He said: “That is what we have tried to say in the dressing room before hand, competitions like the FA Cup and Carabao Cup can give you memories and moments that you last with you for the rest of your life.
“I have been quite fortunate to have had some good cup runs in the past and played at some big stadium and played some good opposition, for some of these young lads it will be their first taste of it.
“It is a great learning curve for the young lads to test themselves against these Premier League teams, but regardless of your age, it is great to go and test yourself and compete against proper players.”