The much anticipated Neil McLean Testimonial match is finally upon us and this Saturday at 3pm, Harlaw Park will be awash with Red and White as well as Red and Black as Inverurie Loco Works play host to Aberdeen FC, who will have hopefully secured their place in the Europa League next round less than 48 hours earlier.
The centre of attention though will rightly be the Locos captain whose ten years loyal service will rightly be rewarded with a fitting game to match the special occasion.
This week Neil has been looking back on a very enjoyable decade with the Locos:
On serving his local Highland League club: “It’s been great coming from Oldmeldrum so near to Inverurie, getting to play for my local team and playing with some great players and under great managers.
“I’ve been lucky we’ve had success over the ten years with a little bit of a barren spell in the middle. Early on we won back-to-back Qualifying Cups, two in a row with the League Cup followed. Anybody who plays the game wants to win trophies, it’s been great to win them here.
On the Managers: “You can take something new from every one you play for and the way they want to play the game. The attacking style of play Kenny Coull and Scott Buchan play brings the best out of me. I’m certainly now playing in a position that best suits me, where I enjoy being part of the game the whole time.
“They’ve all been great to play under, you have your ups and downs with managers, but at the end of the day everyone has wanted to push forward for the club.”
On his loyalty and experiences: “There have been a few of my team mates and former team mates who’ve been awarded Testimonial seasons, it’s testament to the football club they grant them.
“A lot of players have come through over my ten years, I’ve taken something out of the experiences they’ve had.
“I’d say we have a very good squad at the moment, up with the best we’ve ever had in terms of quality and depth.”
On his Soccer Scholarship in USA as a teenager: “It was an opportunity that came out of the blue. Nowadays you can research about an American university through the internet, back then for an 18 year old it was a step into the unknown.
“It was not so much a case of football lessons primarily as lessons in life. From the football perspective I learned more about tactics and looking after yourself on the fitness side of things. I’ve tried to bring a bit of that back in teams I’ve played for as well as Locos over the years.
“Now with my standing in the team, some of the young boys are looking for that guidance so I learned a lot at Hartwick University.”
On playing and captaining Scotland: “It was obviously a great time of life to be playing for and captaining Scotland. Jim Fleeting, Tommy McIntyre, Neil Mackintosh and Graeme Sutherland were coaches who took time out of their busy schedules to look after us part time players. It really was an honour to play for Scotland. In any sport you play for your country, whether at tiddlywinks or lawn bowls, it should be an honour. It’s the pinnacle of what I’ve done in the game and I’ve great memories of it.”
On the game and season ahead: “It’s an honour to have Aberdeen FC agreeing to come out, hopefully they field a strong team, it will be good to test ourselves against them.
“It’s good to see the Dons like ourselves doing well, the crowds they’ve had in the last two European games shows how far they’ve improved under Derek McInnes and the players he’s brought in.”