Portsmouth keeper Craig MacGillivray: My pride at finally being handed dream number one shirt

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It’s a number, of course. An often indiscriminate digit which these days bears little relevance to a footballer’s first-team credentials.

Yet for Craig MacGillivray, the number one shirt is career reaffirming.

Pompey No.1 Craig MacGillivray   Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey No.1 Craig MacGillivray Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey’s undisputed first-choice keeper will this season proudly parade a number one on the back of his shirt.

The inevitable pre-season number shuffle has prompted the reallocation of MacGillivray’s 15 to newcomer Ross McCrorie.

As a consequence, the Scot has been handed the prized number one – a digit of supreme significance for many goalkeepers.

Since Walsall provided him with his Football League opportunity in the summer of 2014, MacGillivray has sported numbers 13 and 15.

Now he possesses the shirt he has long coveted.

He said: ‘It is just a number, I realise that, but I would have thought a goalkeeper given number one is similar for a winger presented with the number seven.

‘You automatically think of David Beckham with that shirt, while strikers love having the nine or 10, it’s natural.

‘Whatever number’s on your shirt, ultimately it is down to your performances, but this is the first time I’ve worn it in the Football League, which is a nice little carrot.

‘For me, there’s definitely a bit of happiness inside as a result. I’ve worked hard to get myself into this position, I put in so much last season to get past Luke (McGee) and then keep my spot.

‘Then, on the first day of this pre-season, I came into the building and there was kit on my spot in the changing room. I opened out the bundle and it was lovely – the number one!

‘I wore 15 last year, I had 13 at Walsall, but for me there is a little bit extra having number one on a goalkeeping shirt.

‘It doesn’t necessarily mean just because I have this shirt I am guaranteed to play, no-one in the team is guaranteed that, no matter what number they wear.

‘Now I’ve got this I see it as another challenge to do the same again. I have this shirt for a reason, not just ego, and must do it justice and ensure I keep it.

‘There are loads of goalkeepers out there who have different numbers. Rui Patricio at Wolves has 11 on his shirt, Jan Oblak at Athletico Madrid has 13, Neil Etheridge had 25 at Cardiff in his first year and now he has one.

‘I know quite a few goalkeepers in this league, one is Alex Cairns at Fleetwood, who had a different number until Chris Neal left for Salford. He then got to take the number one spot and shirt.

‘He thought it was a big privilege – and it is, even if it doesn't say you are going to play.

‘As a goalkeeper, you want that number one shirt.’

MacGillivray made 19 appearances during three seasons at Walsall, all achieved while wearing the number 13.

Then a move to Shrewsbury in the summer of 2017 saw him request the number 15 – which he would retain upon his Pompey arrival in June 2018.

Now he has the number one, previously sported by the likes of Davis James and Luke McGee.

MacGillivray added: ‘At Shrewsbury I was offered 13 and turned it down because I now see it as bad luck.

‘During my three years at Walsall, I barely played. Richard O’Donnell left, Neil Etheridge came in and left, then Mark Gillespie arrived. I never really got a chance.

‘So when I arrived at Shrewsbury, I thought “Do you know what, I’m going to change my number” and took 15.

‘When I came to Pompey last year, big Kev asked “You had 15 last season, do you want it again?”

‘Why not, I’d had quite a good period at Shrewsbury, even if I didn’t play much. I wasn’t unlucky, Dean Henderson was ahead of me and played very well.

‘Now I’ve changed numbers again – and I’m very happy to have the number one shirt.’