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Career ladder: Gary MacKenzie

20 August 2012

Name: Gary MacKenzie
Position: Defender
Date of Birth: 15/10/1985
Club: Milton Keynes Dons
Previous Clubs: Rangers, Dundee.

What do you remember about your first ever match?
I remember being in the car - I was 18 and heading to Ibrox for a game against Motherwell - I wasn't quite sure if I was going to get the nod to make my debut and I had a mix of nerves and excitement, but it was a great day. I had my girlfriend and my mum at the game, my dad was a bit nervous so he went to the pub. I managed to get on and I played well so all in all it was a fantastic day.

Who was your childhood hero?
I was a massive Rangers supporter growing up, as everybody was in my town. I liked Mark Hateley and, obviously, Paul Gascoigne when he signed for the Gers.

When did you realise you had a chance to progress in the game? 
I always played for the best teams in Scotland when I was young so I always knew I had more of a chance than, say, my mates did. On the other hand, I witnessed a lot of people who had high hopes, fall short, so I never took my opportunities for granted. Even at 18 I wasn't positive that I was going to make a full career out of it, all I knew is that I had at least a couple of years as an apprentice.

Which coach has had the biggest influence on your career?
I would say Alex Rae. He was at Rangers when I was there. He took me to Dundee and gave me a couple of years of first-team experience, and he also played a part in bringing me to Milton Keynes Dons, so I've got a lot of praise for Alex. He's done well for me in my career and I owe a lot to him.

What did you spend your first wage packet on?
I can't really remember that far back. There wasn't much of it so it was probably just a computer game or even helping my mum out by buying some food.

Does your squad number have a special meaning to you?
I quite like being the number five. The big centre-back is always number five so to have that number down here gives me a lot of pride.

Who did you last swap shirts with?
I don't think I've ever swapped my shirt with anybody.

How has the game changed for the better since you became a pro?
At MK Dons, we play a style of football that improves everybody in our team. Some teams play a certain way and stick to it but I don't think you learn or improve much on that and we're now seeing more teams play with different styles. We've been encouraged to take the ball and, if we make a mistake, so be it. I think it brings out an extra 10% in every player throughout the season. I've improved down here playing different styles of football and hopefully that can carry on.

If you could have coached yourself when you were a teenager, what advice would you have passed on?
Just to work hard and give it your best shot and to make sure that when the opportunity comes around, you're ready. Also, if you give 100% both on and off the pitch, you will get your chance. People say they have never had a break in football but, in my opinion, if you continually give 100% to try and make it in the game, eventually your break will come.

If you stay in the game at the end of your career, what will you do? a) Manager b) Coach c) Scout d) Physio e) Pundit?
Up until about a year ago I thought when I finished football I would quite like to get away from the game. But, in the last year, I've thought about doing my coaches badges and maybe becoming a manager. I don't know what I'll do when I finish, I may take a year or so out of the game. I've got my kids so I maybe need to give them time from when I haven't been there throughout the long seasons. I'd definitely like to become a manager, though.

What do you want to be best remembered for at the end of your career?
I hope in 10 years time I can look back and say I've achieved things with clubs and won trophies. Also just being known as a good player and when people mention your name they think, 'he was a good player'.

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