Brad McKay is fighting to revive his career right now. He’s gone from Premiership clubs Hearts and St Johnstone to League One Dunfermline inside seven months.
Challenges don’t frighten him in the slightest, but he didn’t expect to be battling for a footballing lifeline at the age of just 22.
Dropping down two divisions was a necessary move for McKay to avoid stagnating. He joined St Johnstone on a pre-contract agreement almost a year ago after deciding to leave Tynecastle to play more regularly. Four appearances in six months – and many more seats in the stand – wasn’t quite what he bargained for, hence a loan switch to Dunfermline three weeks ago.
McKay’s St Johnstone contract runs until June 2017 but he is unsure whether he has a future in Perth. Much depends on how he fares in Fife. A run of games will rebuild confidence in a player clearly capable of playing at a higher level. League One isn’t where he belongs but stepping down might just kickstart his career.
“It does concern you. It seems to be a slippery slope in terms of going down the leagues, but I don’t look at it that way,” said McKay, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “I see it as a chance to go and get games at a massive club. I have a really good feeling about this loan move. I think it’s exactly what I need. I’ve said that to a few folk. I feel valued here, I feel that Dunfermline need me and want me. Games are what I need to get my confidence back.
“Things have come to a standstill, frustratingly. I thought the move to St Johnstone would get my career going again but it hasn’t worked out how I predicted. I don’t know if I’ll be in St Johnstone’s plans for next season but I want to be. I want to have a future there. My focus will be fully on St Johnstone when I go back there but, for now, I’m concentrating on Dunfermline and getting them back to where they belong.
“The aim is to play as many games as possible for Dunfermline and help them win the league. Hopefully I can get another winner’s medal. Then I can go back and see what the future holds for me at St Johnstone, if it is going to be there.”
Being out of favour at McDiarmid Park left the centre-back agitated and led to repeated conversations with manager Tommy Wright. When a loan at Dunfermline was offered, McKay instantly headed for East End Park to a club clear favourites to win League One. His eagerness to impress new manager Allan Johnston went a little far, though.
“I signed for them on the Friday morning, then went out and split my head open in my first training session. The ball bounced at an awkward height and I just stuck my head in. They’ve had so many injuries to defenders so the manager couldn’t believe it. I put my hand on my head and there was blood all over it. Allan Johnston was like: ‘I really don’t believe this.’
“I got a couple of butterfly stitches and it was fine so I played against Ross County the next day. It was my first competitive start in four or five months. I was straight in, got a goal and gave a penalty away. You could say it was all-action,” smiled McKay.
“It wasn’t working out too well for me at St Johnstone in terms of game time. I played the first couple of games, I scored in Europe but I had the slip against Hearts in the first league game [allowing Juanma to score]. It hasn’t worked out how I planed because I hoped to play more and be involved more. When they brought Darnell Fisher in from Celtic, that meant we had seven defenders and I was getting left in the stand.
“I had to go and speak to the manager. He said to me: ‘We still want you here. Right now, you’re finding it difficult to get into the team because we’re doing well.’ They were on a great run at the time I spoke to him and had beaten Aberdeen 5-1. I kept knocking on his door and asking him what I need to do to play, if I was going to play or if I wasn’t. I was asking him questions all the time.
“In the end, we both agreed that the best thing for me was to go and play games. I obviously had to wait for a couple of weeks to find our who was interested. Dunfermline was the club that stood out most. I’m not someone who lacks confidence but your confidence does take a hit when you’re not playing. You’re training with no reward at the end of the week.”
McKay is now getting his rewards and has played every minute for Dunfermline since arriving there. The next few months may well transpire as the most important of his career.