The connection Thomas McHale felt with his local team during his upbringing will never be lost on him.
That gives the Elgin City goalkeeper a driven determination to give something back to the Moray community.
Englishman McHale hails from Cornwall, and grew up in Torpoint, which has a population of around 8,000.
Although the seaside town is situated close to Devon neighbours Plymouth Argyle, the absence of a professional Cornish team meant McHale grew up idolising Torpoint Athletic, who play in the South West Peninsula League Premier Division East.
With local football in his roots, McHale has embraced the duty of being a role model since joining the Black and Whites from Truro City in 2018.
McHale has played an active role in contributing to youth and schools training around the Elgin area, and set up goalkeeping coaching sessions along with City’s community manager Craig Stewart during the lockdown period.
McHale says his community involvement stems from his early footballing memories.
The 25-year-old said: “There is no professional club in Cornwall, the highest team was Truro, so it was all about local football and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“When I used to watch my local side Torpoint Athletic, it was obviously a different level to what we are playing at, but the players were these figures that I looked up to and got excited to watch on a Saturday.
“I used to have a game in the morning and then go down and watch them in the afternoon with my mum, dad, brother and all my mates.
“Over the years I was lucky enough to play with some of those players and ended up being one of the players that people were looking up to.
“I like to give something back. I feel the bond between us as players, the fans, the youth and the community needs to be strong.
“It’s something I’m so eager to be involved with. I’m happy to step up and help to deliver sessions, and help young goalkeepers and players progress as best as I possibly can.
“There are a lot of coaches who have been here for many years and are doing a brilliant job, but it’s a different relationship between the players and the youngsters. They will try and take on board the things we are doing if we can set a good example for them.”
McHale hopes his work can help the development of some of Elgin’s goalkeepers of the future, including his 19-year-old understudy Oliver Kelly.
He added: “Oli has been brilliant. He has been here a lot longer than I have been, and he’s someone we are trying to bring on as best we can.
“He wants to learn, so we are willing to help him.
“Ultimately they are going to be the future. This is no disrespect to players coming from afar, but when you are a local side you want to be bringing through local talent. That’s what is going to bring the community together.
“It’s not a case of me getting plaudits for it, that’s not why I do it. As players I feel we are probably the best people to help them along the way.”
McHale signed a new deal with Elgin earlier this week, which will keep him at Borough Briggs until 2023.
We are delighted to announce our NO 1 GK Thomas Mchale has signed a 2 year contract extension which will see him at the Club to Summer 2023 🤩🖤⚽️ pic.twitter.com/ryMMpQUfG0
— Elgin City F.C. (@ElginCityFC) November 25, 2020
McHale will face Cowdenbeath in today’s League Two encounter, in which the Black and Whites will host a crowd of 220 fans for the first time this season.
The former England C international feels his spell with Gavin Price’s side has brought the best out of him, adding: “Through the whole of my football career this has been probably the most consistent place I have been.
“This is my third season now. It’s just nice to have a little bit of consistency, so it’s good to be able to settle down and set a few foundations in terms of work and family life.
“It was something I couldn’t turn down. The club have shown great intent in wanting to keep me and I hope I can repay that with the next few years of service.”