Matty Hayward – @Mattyhayward96
To be honest, Shaun has got lucky to get a profile here. To call him a new Gull is not dissimilar from calling the concept of spending shedloads of money to try to buy your way out of the Conference new, or referring to Danny Wright as newborn. In a sense, though, MacDonald is a new signing. So he needs a profile. So here I am. And if I give you one piece of information that you didn’t know about the goalkeeper we’ve had for the last three seasons, then I’ll consider this a success.
MacDonald was born in Newcastle, and began his career with Gateshead, then Blyth Spartans. It was at Gateshead where he worked with Gary Owers, and when the worst Gulls manager in (my) living memory was after a goalkeeper to bolster his National League South squad, Shaun fit the bill. Upon achieving his signature, the Gravy Obsessor commented that he’d been impressed by the custodian because he, and this is one of the great quotes from a Torquay United manager, “drove down here for seven hours. And he’s been rewarded for that.”
Fortunately, Owers left not long afterwards, leaving a few diamonds in a dismal pit of rough. Mac was one of those diamonds and went on to play a key role (40 appearances in the net, quizmaster on the bus) in the Yellows’ title-winning campaign. The following two seasons saw the Geordie’s grip on the number one shirt contested by Lucas Covolan. Their first season in combat saw quite a bizarre series of chops and changes, but by the middle of the last campaign it was clear Gary Johnson had decided on the Brazilian as number one.
I don’t think I’m speculating wildly or breaking the Official Secrets Act to suggest that MacDonald had become a bit fed up by this, and come the summer was happy enough to part company with the Gulls. (Whether he was offered a deal, we don’t know for sure. I suspect he was, but his first-choice status could not be guaranteed, so he chose to gamble and try to find a new club where he’d be better valued).
However, following a far-from-ideal start to the season for United, and a few hit-and-miss trial periods for MacDonald, the two are back together. He made his return (not a second debut; you can’t have two debuts) on Saturday and, though he wasn’t too troubled, kept the Gulls’ first clean sheet of the season.
Most Likely To
- Carry on as the first choice, certainly for the time being; he’s very obviously an upgrade on the currently injured Mark Halstead and the young Marcin Brzozowski
- Lie on his LinkedIn (I stumbled across it by chance while researching this piece. He says he’s 6 foot 2. If he’s 6 foot 2, I’m Martin Clunes)
- Fit in well. He knows the club, the manager and most of the defenders very well. It’s clearly important to Gary that his players share his “vocabulary” and “ideas”, and Mac ticks that box.
Least Likely To
- Dither on the ball. We saw glimpses of it on Saturday, but one of his best skills is his ability to distribute at pace and kickstart a counter attack
- Be the best ‘keeper in the world. Let’s temper our expectations a bit. He was out of the team last season for a reason, and he’ll have to be better if we are to be competitive in the top half of the league this time around. He’s still very young for a goalie – he’s 24; most of them will peak in their late-twenties at the very earliest – so has plenty of room to improve, and I hope he does that at Torquay.
Shaun MacDonald remains a good goalkeeper. He was a good goalkeeper when we first signed him, he was a good goalkeeper when he was getting slated and dropped on an almost weekly basis, he was a good goalkeeper when he left Plainmoor, and he’s a good goalkeeper now. That’s important. That means our defence can feel a bit more comfortable, knowing they’ve got the insurance of a good goalkeeper behind them.
Whether he’s a minor downgrade on Covolan (and that’s not clear cut) is sort of an irrelevance now. Last season is gone, and in this moment we need a goalkeeper who is more competent than the other ones we’ve got on our books. MacDonald clearly is that, and his signature was a convenient one for all parties. He’s only joined on a short-term deal, and whether he’s the long-term solution is a different matter that depends on multiple factors: whether he gets a better offer, whether he performs well enough to earn a longer deal, whether Halstead comes back fitter and proves himself in training, whether a better goalkeeper comes on the market and Gary fancies a punt.
For now, though, it’s just nice to have one less position to fret about.
COYY – Matty