Pompey keeper MacGillivray's not winging it any more

As a quicksilver winger, Craig MacGillivray's explosive talents persuaded Leeds and Celtic to offer trials.

Monday, 30th July 2018, 4:07 pm
Updated Friday, 31st August 2018, 4:59 pm

Their subsequent rejection shaped a career path which this summer led to a Pompey move '“ as a goalkeeper.

Leeds and Celtic had opted to turn down the 14-year-old MacGillivray and within two years he had also renounced his outfield ways.

Irrespective of natural attacking capabilities and his Saturday league manager's desire to retain his pacy ability on the flank, a life in goalkeeping beckoned.

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Within a year-and-a-half of picking up the gloves, the rookie keeper had been recruited by Harrogate Railway Athletic and soon began to capture admirers.

Now the one-time wideman is bidding to wow the Fratton faithful in their League One surrounds as the latecomer aims to make up for lost time.

MacGillivray said: '˜I was a striker or winger and had trials at Leeds and Celtic.

'˜I was quick, to be fair, also representing my school in sprinting.

'˜I was aged 14 when I had my Leeds trial over six-week blocks.

'˜Sam Jones, who I was later to play with at Shrewsbury, was there at the same time.

'˜Unfortunately I was let go because I was small.

'˜Even in an outfield situation, a lot of lads around were me were big and strong.

'˜They could see I had pace but if you have pace and not the height then you can get man-marked out of it.

'˜So I was released and returned to football in the Saturday and Sunday leagues.

'˜Then one Saturday morning, ahead of a game, I volunteered to go in goal for a shooting drill.

'˜Well, why not? It was muddy, wet and cold and I enjoyed it.

'˜I was 16 at the time and told the manager I wanted to play in goal again.

'˜'No, no, no,' he replied. 'We've got our goalkeeper'.

'˜At the end of that season I left and found a club which would have me in goal. I was that serious about it.

'˜It took me back to being a kid, throwing yourself around in the mud.

'˜I had actually been a keeper when I was very young.

'˜At the age of six I fancied myself as a goalkeeper but had no idea what was going on.

'˜Then one day there was a shooting drill and myself and another keeper went in nets together and we went for the same shot.

'˜My teeth met his head, knocking my teeth out and splitting the other lad's head.

'˜Fortunately they were my baby teeth but after that I thought 'I'm going to play out now'.

'˜What followed was a long stint without playing in goal '“ then a decade later I fancied it again.

'˜Even though it was shooting practise before a game, it was one of those sessions when everything which came towards the goal stayed out.

'˜There remains no better feeling.

'˜I don't know what it's like to score a goal.

'˜I haven't had that feeling for a very long time.

'˜But try keeping a shot out that was destined to go in and hearing all the noise around you.

'˜That cheering when you save it and the oooh sound.

'˜If that's not on par with scoring a goal then it's actually better, in my opinion.'

The son of a Scottish rugby union player for Galashiels, MacGillivray had never played football before moving to England at the age of six.

At the age of 17 '“ having served a year-and-a-half in the unfamiliar role of goalkeeper '“ he was snapped up by Harrogate Railway Athletic, putting himself on the pathway to the Football League.

There followed a route which took him to 14 appearances with Shrewsbury Town last season as they fell in the League One play-off final to Rotherham.

Now installed as Pompey's number one, the career of Scots-born MacGillivray continues to gather impressive momentum.

The 25-year-old added: '˜Unfortunately for me at the time, a lot of managers in non-league look for an older head.

'˜They don't want to put in a young lad in case he gets bashed about.

'˜But I got my chance at Harrogate Railway, who were in the Northern Premier League at the time.

'˜From there I went to Stalybridge Celtic and then Harrogate Town.

'˜I did very well in my first year at Harrogate Town in Conference North.

'˜I was a young lad getting talked about but people wanted to see if I could do it for a second year.

'˜Then I received a phone call from Neil Cutler, a goalkeeping coach who wanted to take me to Scunthorpe.

'˜The only problem was he had just left them following relegation from the Championship.

'˜Instead he took me to his new club, Walsall, in June 2014 and I've been in the Football League ever since.

'˜Now it's time to be a number one, that is my ambition at Portsmouth.'