Harrogate Town v Portsmouth: Craig MacGillivray's debt of gratitude to old boss Simon Weaver

Portsmouth goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray has spoken of his debt of gratitude to Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver ahead of Monday’s FA Cup clash between the two sides.

Monday, 4th November 2019, 8:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 2:22 am
Portsmouth goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray. Picture: Getty Images

The former Boroughbridge High School pupil was given his first real break in senior football by Weaver, at the age of just 19.

MacGillivray joined Town in the summer of 2012 and initially found himself playing second fiddle to the experienced former Macclesfield number one, José Veiga, a graduate of Benfica’s academy system.

But, when Weaver’s first-choice stopper took a boot to the face in a Conference North fixture against Guiseley, MacGillivray was handed his opportunity. He has never looked back since.

“That injury to José was the turning point for me, it was my first chance. I did okay in my first match [an FA Cup tie against West Auckland] and Simon Weaver stuck with me. From there I barely missed a game.

“It would have been easy for the manager to go straight back to Jose when he was fit again because he was the more experienced goalkeeper, however he [Weaver] must have seen something in me.

“I was 19 years old, I wouldn’t have said I was playing perfectly, but he still gave me that chance and fair play to him for that.

“I 100 per cent feel grateful to him for putting his faith in a 19-year-old.

“It’s a feather in his cap too because he recognised my potential and I eventually went from Conference North, as it was then, to League One.”

MacGillivray jumped up three divisions when he joined Walsall from Town in 2014, spending three years at the Bescot Stadium before moving to Shrewsbury for the 2017/18 campaign.

It was however not until he signed for his current side Portsmouth that he began to enjoy regular first-team football again, going from strength-to-strength on his way to making 57 consecutive starts.

During that time he has helped Pompey qualify for the 2018/19 League One play-offs and featured prominently as Kenny Jackett’s side beat Sunderland in the Football League Trophy final at Wembley.

The Perthshire-born 26-year-old was called up to the senior Scotland squad earlier this year and while it was of course his form in a Portsmouth jersey that led to this recognition, MacGillivray has not forgotten his non-league roots.

“There I things I learned at Harrogate Town that I still do today,” he added.

“I took a lot from non-league and I would 100 per cent say to a young player looking to make it professional that it’s the way to go.

“It might be an opinion that not a lot of people share these days, but I’d say send young lads to non-league to learn something completely different.

“Yes, there are some brutes there who think ‘let’s see if this young lad can take a whack’, and it can be tough, but it makes you stronger and it makes you a better player.

“I have a lot of fond memories of my time at Harrogate Town.”

Monday's FA Cup first round proper clash, which is being broadcast live on BT Sport, kicks-off at the CNG Stadium at 7.45pm.

And although the game falls into an international week, MacGillivray is expected to be available to play despite the likelihood of him being called up once again by Scotland chief Steve Clarke.