Portsmouth's finest goalkeeper for almost a decade - Charlton new-boy Craig MacGillivray will forever have a place in Fratton faithful hearts

Perhaps it was fitting that on the day of Craig MacGillivray’s official Pompey severance, a penalty shoot-out dominated sporting headlines.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 7:00 pm
Craig MacGillivray was Pompey's penalty hero as they triumphed in the Checkatrade Trophy at Wembley in March 2019. Picture: Joe Pepler
Craig MacGillivray was Pompey's penalty hero as they triumphed in the Checkatrade Trophy at Wembley in March 2019. Picture: Joe Pepler

Albeit on the international stage through Switzerland’s Euro 2020 triumph over France, nonetheless it was a timely occurrence.

MacGillivray’s spot-kick save won Pompey the Checkatrade Trophy, while his Stevenage heroics reignited a Blues career in danger of fading away.

And although he was unable to prevent a penalty shoot-out loss to Salford in another Wembley final, the Scot conjured up one of the great Blues goalkeeping performances.

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If only he had faced Oxford United in the League One play-off semi-final second leg – but let’s not drift into hypothetical scenarios.

The former Shrewsbury reserve established himself as Pompey finest goalkeeper since departing the Championship in April 2012.

Granted, David Forde runs him close, yet represented a player recruited for a particular time at a particular level.

The former Republic of Ireland international commanded his box magnificently, while also excelled in distribution, yet age was impacting upon his agility.

Craig MacGillivray made 135 appearances for Pompey after arriving in the summer of 2018. Now he has joined Charlton. Picture: Joe Pepler

Paul Cook wanted a keeper to dominate, prioritising bossing a penalty area over performing acrobatic saves in a division he felt was more focused on balls into the box.

Tellingly, following Pompey’s return to League One as champions, neither Cook or Forde’s former Millwall boss Kenny Jackett made moves to bring him back to Fratton Park permanently.

MacGillivray would perform for the Blues with distinction in the league above, demonstrating an all-round game more superior than the 37-year-old Forde that the Fratton faithful witnessed.

Admittedly, in their nine seasons outside the Championship, Pompey under its various financial guises have not exactly been blessed with wonderful talent in the goalkeeping department.

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However, that should not detract from MacGillivray’s fine service to the club which earned him The News/Sports Mail’s Player of the Season in his final campaign.

In the trophy’s 43-year existence, only he, Peter Mellor, Alan Knight (three times) and David James (twice) have come from the union.

The 28-year-old has so far maintained a public silence over the circumstances behind a painful Fratton Park exit which was such a surprise to many.

Certainly the Scot was hoping the Blues would take up the 12-month option on the contract extension he signed in January 2019.

Settled in the area and to wed a local girl whose father was a former Pompey season-ticket holder, MacGillivray was happy with his south coast life.

Alas, his future was taken out of his hands and the departure was sealed long before his Charlton unveiling on a two-year deal on Monday.

It would take a stoney heart not to feel for the ex-Walsall man in such circumstances, especially one of the friendliest and most grounded players in recent times at Fratton Park.

MacGillivray possesses a natural humility honed from a previous existence as a sports teacher stationed around six schools in the Harrogate and Knaresborough areas of North Yorkshire.

Meanwhile, his footballing pathway included stop-offs at Knaresborough Celtic, Harrogate Railway, Stalybridge Celtic and Harrogate Town.

It’s a progression to Fratton Park number one which should be admired, demonstrating an immense determination to succeed through many set-backs, not least that first-team removal halfway through the 2019-20 season.

Kenny Jackett’s ‘gut feeling’ devastated MacGillivray, yet, true to character, he forced his way back in at Stevenage in August 2020 following Alex Bass’ nightmare first half.

From that moment, he rattled up 52 appearances in 2020-21, including establishing himself as an ever-present in League One and claiming the fans’ vote for player of the season.

Ultimately, though, it wasn’t MacGillivray’s form or presence of another rival which heralded his Fratton Park exit.

It meant the Scot joined the Fratton Park summer exodus, albeit arguably one of the most controversial of a failing squad which finished a miserable eighth.

His reputation, however, remains unaltered. MacGillivray served Pompey with distinction, while off the pitch was a fine ambassador for the club.

We may no longer have Craig MacGillivray but we’ll always have Wembley March 2019.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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