St Mirren defender Gary MacKenzie has opened up on a difficult 12 months as he gets ready to face Motherwell in a crunch relegation clash this afternoon.

The 33-year-old travelled to La Manga with the rest of the Saints squad for pre-season in June only to be told he wasn't first choice by then boss Alan Stubbs before learning a recurring achilles problem would require surgery which would render him out of action for several months.

The former MK Dons and Blackpool centre-half has battled back to fitness since that setback, however, firmly establishing himself in boss Oran Kearney's plans with the Buddies' three-game unbeaten run coinciding with his return.

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Speaking ahead of the trip to Fir Park today, he said: “Football is a matter of opinions. Alan had a conversation with me and said I wasn’t going to play as much and I wasn’t in his plans as much. 

"But he could have said anything to me, the point was that I had a contract here and I wasn’t leaving. I was prepared to knuckle down and show him that I should be playing and make him change his mind. I think if I hadn’t been injured then I would have had the chance under him and he’s said that himself. Then I had the injury which ruled me out for six or seven months.

“That’s football, it’s a matter of opinions and if you listened to what everybody thought of you then it won’t always be good. You need to be a bigger person and take criticism or setbacks, it’s a bit of character to show there’s more to you than just accepting it and moving on. 

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"Anyone, in any aspect of life, would get their back up but you should aim to prove people wrong when they doubt you, no matter what you do. I always had belief in myself that I could play here so I just got on with it. I knew I would play under Stubbsy, he told me I would have, so I managed to turn his head around as well.”

With Saints sitting seven clear of Dundee at the bottom and now just two behind Hamilton in safety with three matches remaining, MacKenzie remembers the relegation run in of 2017, where under Jack Ross St Mirren went on a run of just two defeats in the final 14 games, to somehow avoid the drop to League One.
And the centre half says it would have been a disaster if the Buddies had plummeted out of the top two divisions.
That, however, does not make relegation this season acceptable. 
MacKenzie added: “I remember saying at the time that season was the toughest and most testing period of my career. And I’ve played in both Scotland and England. The magnitude of going down to League One for a club of this size would have been much worse than if we go down just now. It would have been disastrous.

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“But that season was very similar to this. We had been written off and there had been a lot of changes with Alex Rae leaving early into the season. But I think the consequences would have been much worse. That’s by no means saying that going down this season is acceptable, we will do everything we can to stay up.”

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