He is heading into the veteran stage of his career but Stuart McKenzie has no intention of hanging up his gloves anytime soon.
The Cove Rangers goalkeeper will be honoured with a testimonial on Saturday when Dunfermline visit Balmoral Stadium (1pm).
The Cove custodian is celebrating 12 years of service in two spells with the League One winners but the shotstopper, who turned 34 in January, believes he has a good few years ahead of him.
He said: “I’ve no plans on stopping. I feel I had a pretty good season and I want to keep going as I still feel pretty fit.
“A lot of goalies peak in their later years. It’s an unforgiving position in that if you make a mistake more often than not it’s going to result in a goal being conceded.
“The more you play and the more experience you gain it stands you in good stead for big games and big moments later in your career.
“I’ll go until my body says I can’t go any more.”
McKenzie now rivals club legend Watson in medal haul stakes
McKenzie has done it all in his time with Cove, with his side’s League One win last season giving him the 14th winners’ medal of his tenure with the club.
The landmark win puts McKenzie level with the haul of former captain Eric Watson and the goalkeeper is honoured to be in such esteemed company.
He said: “I counted up my medals and the League One winners’ medal has taken me to 14 in my time at Cove.
“To join Eric, who is obviously a club legend, at the top of the table so to speak, is an honour.”
“When told his accomplishments put him firmly in the legend bracket too McKenzie replied: “I don’t think I’ll think about that until I finish playing.
“It’s when I hang up my gloves I’ll really look back on the journey I’ve been on with the club, especially the last four or five years coming from the Highland League to where we are now in the Championship.
“I’ve been fortunate to be in a lot of good changing rooms in my time here. There’s been a core group of boys who have been on this journey.
“Last season there was eight of us from the Highland League days but it’s down to six now that Harry Milne and Ryan Strachan have left although that’s pretty good going when you consider where the club is now.”
First title and most recent league win are treasured memories
With a trophy-laden haul from his time at Allan Park and Balmoral Stadium McKenzie has memories to last a lifetime from his Cove career.
McKenzie started his career at Elgin City before short spells at Caley Thistle and Montrose prior to his first spell at Cove in 2008.
Former boss John Sheran was the man who brought him to the club and the first season at Cove provides one of his best memories. His most recent medal after helping the club win League One is also a treasured one.
He said: “My first Highland League win in 2009 was special.
“Cove had won the league when I was at Montrose so to come in and be part of a side which won the league back-to-back up at Wick with Barrie Stephen scoring the goal was brilliant.
“It’s nice to get your first one but moving up the leagues has been special too.
“Playing during the Covid-affected spell with no fans was tough so to be able to play a full 36 game season and get the League One trophy in front of the supporters last season was brilliant.
“The season didn’t start as I had hoped as I didn’t play the first five games but I kept working hard and managed to take my chance when I got back into the team.
“The season speaks for itself. We had a ropey start but once we got our momentum going we showed a bit of form and to go 26 games unbeaten is something we’re all proud of.”
Cove’s ambition continues to burn bright at Balmoral Stadium
Cove’s rise from Highland League challengers to Championship debutants has been a rapid one but McKenzie is not surprised at the incredible progress being made by his club.
The ambition was clear for all to see when Sheran came calling for his services for a second time to bring him back from Montrose in 2015.
That same ambition burns bright which is why McKenzie is relishing a new challenge in the Championship under new manager Jim McIntyre.
The goalkeeper said: “John signed me for Cove twice and I’ll always be grateful for that.
“He has given me two spells at this club and they have been not just successful but hugely enjoyable.
“The ambition of the club was the big reason why I came back from Montrose.
“The introduction of the play-offs gave the club a route into the SPFL and it was a big attraction for a lot of players at the time.
“Having been there before I knew how well the club was run.
“Being able to start from the bottom and work our way up as we’ve done has been special.
“Now we have the Championship to look forward to.
“It’s another exciting chapter and we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing and see where it takes us.”
- Tickets are available for Stuart McKenzie’s testimonial at £10 and £5 from the Cove Rangers website or on the day from the ticket office at Balmoral Stadium. A race night will also be held at the stadium following the match. Tickets, priced at £20, are available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org