How a Sky Sports reporter helped Hebburn Town make a key signing - Long read with Hornets midfielder Mark Mcleod
Sky Sports News reporter Keith Downie can often be found relaying the latest transfer news on and around deadline day at training grounds around the North East.
But the Scot has played a more active role in transfer business after helping Northern Premier League East Division club Hebburn Town with one of their latest signings.
Downie is good friends with former Darlington and Sunderland RCA midfielder Mark Mcleod and was able to put the 34-year-old in touch with the Hornets after covering the club ahead of last season’s FA Vase Final meeting with Consett.
Mcleod moved back to the region following spells with Southern-based non-league clubs Chipstead, Harrow Borough and Uxbridge and penned a one-year deal with Hebburn after featuring as a trialist during pre-season.
The experienced midfielder revealed the events that led to his move to the club and revealed how much he has enjoyed the first month of his time at the Energy Check Sports Ground.
He told The Gazette: “Keith knew the director of football here from the FA Vase Final stuff and he put me in touch with Stephen Rutherford.
“I messaged to say I was looking for a club, came down for training a few times during the summer, played in pre-season and then got offered something by the manager just before the season.
“I am really enjoying it, the facilities are really good, the management are good and I just want to play as much as I can.
“It feels like a club on the up.
“Keith has been down a few times since I signed and he was raving about the place too.
“I’m not sure about agent’s fees, he’ll be after a few beers probably.”
McLeod's role in the heart of the Hornets midfield is that of a destroyer, providing strength and drive alongside what he describes as “the more technical players”.
It is a role he is happy to embrace - and feels that it is one he that can extend his career for years to come.
“I’ve enjoyed getting stuck in in midfield, maybe that’s because I’m not as skilful as our other midfielders,” he joked.
“I have to do that role for the team, I am up for the battle and I want to compete in midfield.
“I am 34, I am one of the older players, but I still think because I am not that quick, I can play until my late-30s.
“It depends on the legs but we will see how we go, but I feel good, I feel fit and it’s a case of so far, so good.”
Following their historic promotion from the Northern League into the new look Northern Premier League East Division, Hebburn have struggled in their opening month of the season.
Their first four league fixtures returned just one point with a home draw against Pickering Town smothered between defeats against Frickley Athletic, Ossett United and former Northern League rivals Stockton Town.
A first win came on Tuesday night as a disciplined, energetic and controlled display against Yorkshire Amateur was rewarded with a 4-2 win.
Mcleod epitomised his side’s work-ethic as he provided the midfield ballast that allowed the likes of Olly Martin, Robbie Spence and Callum Bell to shine in front of him.
The full-time whistle brought an obvious sense of celebration, but it was tempered with a hint of relief that a first league win of the season and finally been secured.
“We really needed it to be honest,” he explained.
“We have been really good in most of the games, but we haven’t got the results that we have deserved.
“Nobody has battered us, nobody has really outplayed us and we feel as if we have been in every league game we have played so far.
“Hopefully, that is the start of many wins for us because it’s taken a little bit of pressure off.
“The first one is always the hardest one, it’s better to get it sooner rather than later and hopefully we can kick on from this now.”
Their attempts to kick on in the league will be put to the test over the next week as they visit Worksop Town and North East rivals Shildon in the space of just four days.
The Hornets players could be forgiven for having one eye on next weekend’s FA Cup second qualifying round tie at National League North club York City.
The competition has provided Hebburn with plenty to celebrate so far this season after a 7-0 demolition of Yorkshire Amateur was followed up by a shock win at Northern Premier League Premier Division side Ashton United at the weekend.
Their reward is a trip to face a York City side managed by former Newcastle United favourite Steve Watson on Saturday week.
McLeod admitted he has put the visit to the LNER Community Stadium at the back of his mind as his side focus on an important spell in their league campaign.
“We aren’t really thinking about it, we just want to get to the next game and worry about going to York when it comes around.
“It will be a great experience at their place, there’s not doubt about that.
“We will try and enjoy it and hopefully we can go there and get a result.
“But we have some important league games before that game comes around and that is where we are focusing,” he added.