Rod Mc Donald Interview.

Rod Mc Donald was born on March 20th, 1966 in London and the family moved to Liverpool when he was two years old.  He had four good years with Walsall in the opening years of Bescot Stadium scoring goals and leaving a lasting impression on Saddlers fans for his all - action style in testing times for the club who had suffered a double relegation.  Rod takes up his story...

"When I was a young lad I clattered into a table , was in hospital for a long time and from the age of 5-12 had to walk with a leg iron on.  I was told that I'd never be able to play any sports but I was determined to prove everyone wrong.  I played for boys clubs in Liverpool and was invited to go on a International tournament in Malta and I played in 5 games and scored a few goals.  Malta was great.  I'd never been on holiday before!"

"I was invited for a trial at Liverpool FC for a few weeks which was great  as it was the team I supported, playing alongside players like Nigel Spackman, Peter Beardsley,  Alan Hansen, Bruce Grobbelaar, and Phil Thompson in training and I played in 7 reserve games only to be told by Thompson who was looking after the reserves that I was being released as he thought I was too small.  I was determined to prove him wrong."

"I signed for South Liverpool in the HFL Loans league and there was an offer on the cards from Wolves under Graham Turner but it never materialised..  Some other clubs like QPR and Crystal Palace were also interested in me.  I next joined Colne Dynamos  who had some former  big league players like Alan Kennedy.  I joined them in 1989 and scored in every game I played in.  26 goals in 13 games and we won the title but the club folded."

"There was a chance to join nearby Burnley but I had already spoken to Paul Taylor at Walsall who wanted me to meet Kenny Hibbitt.   I checked what Burnley had to offer  but they couldn't beat Walsall's offer but I was happy to sign for Walsall anyway. In the early part  of the summer before I joined Walsall I'd had an operation on my groin. I was grateful to Keith Bertschin who was recovering from a foot operation and he supported and helped me in those early weeks. I played in a pre season game at Kiddy"

Rod broke down twice in full training so Kenny Hibbitt resisted the temptation to play him till 100% ready and he was named on the bench for the hope game against Scunthorpe and came on in the 78th minute.  His first start was in the League Cup game v Chelsea and nearly scored in the first minute but for a brilliant save by Dave Beasant. " I scored my first goal in a 3-1 win at Maidstone.  I got the only goal in the FA Cup at Aylesbury which was shown live on B.Sky.B the first time they had shown a live FA Cup tie." In total that 1990-1 season he scored 6 goals in 34 games.

In his second season his scoring really took off, banging in 19 goals in his 45 games that campaign. He got a memorable hat trick against Blackpool on Boxing Day in a 4-2 win at Bescot. He recalled the FA Cup replay against Yeovil and the signing of  Kevin Mac Donald.. "I was delighted when we signed Macca.  He was brilliant and in training was also passing on his knowledge with his bits and bobs.  A really classy player . We were awarded a penalty against Yeovil and I said Macca I can take it as I was feeling confident. 'No I'm taking it' he insisted and he missed it. Afterwards  he said, 'Sorry Rod, you should have taken it.  Another excellent player that season was Paul Mc Loughlin who we had on loan from Wolves. I'd say he's one of the best I ever played with."

In the summer of 1992 Walsall signed another player who was an influence  to Rod  and helped him with his game - Wayne  Clarke. "Wayne was great, talking me all the time throughout games and was a brilliant passer and finisher, a similar player in style to Teddy Sheringham.  None of the lads could believe it when Kenny Hibbitt left him out of the play off games v Crewe, especially being as he was the match winner in both league games against them a few weeks before. Some of us said Gaffer, you can't leave Clarkey out. I was living in Crewe at the time and I got some right stick from people up there after the play offs. ( lost 1-5 at Crewe and 2-4 at Bescot ). I remember the away game before when we beat Doncaster 4-0 away  and the Walsall fans were all in fancy dress. We did better in the home leg against Crewe than the score line suggested (lost 4-2). It was so deflating to have  lost in the play off semis after all the hard work we had put in." It was still a good season for him as he netted 13 goals in in 48 games. There was one misdemeanour this season - a Boxing Day dismissal at Torquay.

Rod gave his thoughts on Kenny Hibbitt.  "He was an all round good manager and approachable.  I was a bit of an hot head though and I thought I knew it all and at times didn't give me much leeway. I remember one time he left me out and wanted me to play in a reserve game at Chesterfield. I told him I'm not playing for the reserves I want to play in the first team! He left me out of first team action putting me on the bench a couple of times before giving me the shirt back. I then said to him, I can I play for the reserves instead!" 

"Then the was the time I fell out with Derek Statham, I think away at Darlington.  It came to blows and we had to be separated.  I did apologise to Derek  as we got on the coach in front of the other lads."  In what turned out to be his last season, 1993-4 saw Rod score 9 goals in 43 games and following an incident during the final game of the season at home to Mansfield it signalled the end.  He was substituted and despite being injured didn't want to come off.  the fans saw his reaction which gave some hostile chorus of abuse hurled at Hibbitt and manager and chairman condemned the player to the local press afterwards.

"I was at the end of my contract and Paul Taylor rang me on the night of the 1994 world cup final between Italy and Brazil to say I was being released. .Barry Fry wanted to sign me for Birmingham City.  He seemed really keen on signing me saying let's shake on a deal. But it never materialised I distrusted all managers after that.  I signed for Partick Thistle. We were playing Rangers and at half time I blessed myself, just like I had always done in games. As I went in at half time I was surrounded by police and one 6ft 4 inch copper tried to lecture me about incitement.  I was booked for a foul in the second half and so was sent off as was Billy Mc Donald in a bad tempered game which we lost 2-1"

"The incident was on Sportscene and headlines in the Scottish papers I couldn't believe the impact it had in the media. The useless referee resigned a few days later and never refereed again! My red card was later rescinded. A couple of weeks later we played Celtic at Parkhead and all their fans were singing my name all game. It was incredible and I loved it! 

"I had a couple of seasons at Chester. We reached the play offs in the second season and Rod Thomas and I were the leading scorers and the manager was Kevin Ratcliffe ex-Everton and Wales player. I wondered why Rod  Thomas and I were never in the same team at the same time. He swore and used the 'n' word against a young black player in training and was reported to the Race Relations Board.  There was a court  hearing and Ratcliffe was found guilty."

And finally going back to his Walsall days, Rod remembered one fan who was always supportive of him - dear old Kitty Lyons. ..

"I remember Kitty., who always stood to the left behind the goals and used to shout out to me, 'How many you going to score today, Rodney?!" Rod has three sons who have all become footballers and is very proud they have followed in his footsteps - Clayton, Rodney and Dylan. 

Rod is looking forward to coming down to connect with the fans again at the Railway Club when things get back to normal and Saddlers fans are looking forward to seeing him again and he gets what ISSA is all about and the work they do in the community.

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