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Former Cove boss John Sheran: Stuart McKenzie’s role has been crucial in club’s rise up the ranks

Cove Rangers goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie greets the fans after the win over Dumbarton
Cove Rangers goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie will be centre of attention today

Cove Rangers director of football John Sheran insists Stuart McKenzie has been an integral figure in the club’s rise from the Highland League to the Championship.

The 34-year-old goalkeeper celebrates his testimonial today against Dunfermline Athletic at Balmoral Stadium (1pm).

Sheran, who signed McKenzie twice during his two spells in charge at Cove, believes McKenzie has played a major role in the club’s progress.

He said: “Stuart joined at the right time and contributed a lot to the development of the squad.

“He has been a key guy in terms of getting us into the leagues but equally a key guy in getting us up through the leagues as well.

“With 19 clean sheets last year it shows he is getting better with age and that experience makes a huge difference.”

Players should be proud of what they have achieved

McKenzie is one of the original members of the Highland League squad to have made the rise up the ranks of the SFPL and Sheran believes all the players who helped the club win promotion to the SPFL in 2019 should be proud of their accomplishments.

He said: “The players have adjusted to it really well. We made a decision in 2017 to try to get players with Scottish league experience who we felt were capable of taking us into the league and up through the leagues.

“The players have gone on to prove we were right to do that. If you are going to go and compete at SPFL level you have to have that quality in the squad.

“We had six or seven ex-Highland League guys starting last season. Stuart is one of them and they’ve all done really well.”

Sheran signed McKenzie twice

Former Cove boss John Sheran

Sheran signed McKenzie from Montrose twice, in 2009 and again in 2015, and the former Cove manager says it is not hard to see why he was so keen to bring the shotstopper back to the club seven years ago.

McKenzie is more than a safe pair of hands, however. He has the honour of scoring for the club in their win at Peterhead on January 2 and was also on penalty kick duty in cup shootouts during Sheran’s tenure.

He said: “Stuart is a fantastic goalkeeper and you know what you are getting with him.

“He’s not flash, he’s just a really good, solid goalkeeper who is a fantastic kicker of the ball.

“Not only have you got a goalkeeper you have somebody who can start a lot of moves from the back as well because he is such a good passer of the ball.”

Sheran added: “When we were in penalty shootouts Stuart was always one of the penalty takers because he strikes an unbelievable ball.

“When you look at his longer passing he’s very accurate with that and the way the game is today having a goalkeeper who can do that is key for starting attacks from the back.

“The fact he can switch the ball from side to side is really crucial these days and Stuart has always had that in him.”

McKenzie can play on for years to come

McKenzie may have more than a decade of service under his belt at Cove but Sheran sees no reason why he cannot continue as first choice number one at the club.

He said: “Goalkeepers can play to a ripe old age. Stuart’s a clean living guy, a family man now and he looks after himself.

“He gets good coaching to keep himself fit so I would expect him to continue to play for a number of years.”

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