New Harrow Borough signing is more than a 'midfield enforcer'
PUBLISHED: 22:51 29 July 2015 | UPDATED: 22:51 29 July 2015
Mark McLeod has rejected the idea that he is Harrow Borough's new 'midfield enforcer'.
The former Darlington man refused to take on the tag despite being drafted into the Earlsmead ranks to beef up the engine room ahead of the new season, which kicks off a week on Saturday.
Borough have lacked a dominant physical presence in midfield since the heady days of David Howell’s final season in charge, when the imposing figure of David Ijaha helped lead them to the play-offs.
But while McLeod admits he loves a tackle, he associates the expression ‘midfield enforcer’ with those whose talents are limited to the ugly stuff – and he insists there is far more to his game than that.
“I would not call myself a midfield enforcer. I’m too skinny and too pretty for that,” he told the Times. “I’m definitely a sitting midfielder, not really a box-to-box type. I’m good at breaking up play, but I don’t play football just to run around and make tackles.
“I do like to get on the ball and play a bit as well, so the part where we actually have the ball is my favourite bit.”
The Sunderland-born 28-year-old, who is half English and half Scottish, admits his love of the game has come full circle over the last eight years.
A first-year pro at Darlington following a successful YTS with the Quakers, he turned his back on football when he was released at the start of the 2007-8 campaign after six league and cup appearances.
He sought solace in a degree in economics at York University where, despite the odd game with his fellow students, academia was very much the focus.
It was not until he was down in London working as a civil servant in the Cabinet Office that a friend asked him down to play for Walton & Hersham and the boots came back on seriously.
Two moves later, both orchestrated by Borough boss Steve Baker – who was in charge the day he arrived at Stompond Lane – McLeod now cannot cram enough football into his busy life.
“I was disillusioned with football after Darlington, but by the time I came down to London I found I was missing it and now I’ve come around to the point where I’m absolutely loving it again,” he said.
“Now the only question I’m asking is ‘how many more years can I play?’”
So why has he responded to Baker’s summons to link up with him for a third time?
“As a manager the best thing about him is he’s really straight with you,” said McLeod.
“He’ll let you know if you are not doing well or if he thinks you are good. He is really honest with you and I’m a person who really appreciates that. You know exactly where you stand with him.”
Despite joking “I can’t get rid of Mark McLeod – I’ve changed my number four times, but he keeps tracking me down,” Baker is clearly happy to have re-signed his former stalwart. Despite McLeod’s protests about that ‘enforcer’ tag, Baker is clear it is his ability to put his foot in which will give Borough something extra this season.
“We needed a little bit more physicality in midfield. We are a good footballing side, but there were certain games where I thought we were a bit lightweight,” Baker said. “One thing Mark will do is bring physicality. He can play, too, which is great, but he can put his foot in, he’s physical and every other team seems to have one like that, so we want one here. Mark will give us something we haven’t got.”
McLeod’s next chance to shine could come in Saturday’s Middlesex Senior Cup final against either Ashford Town or Cockfosters. The game was held over from last season by the Middlesex FA, a decision Baker criticised at the time.
But with the way the fixture has fallen, Baker knows it offers not only the chance for silverware, but also a game which raises the intensity just seven days ahead of the big Ryman League kick-off against Hampton & Richmond Borough.
“It is effectively like a Community Shield game,” he added. “At the time last year, when it was cancelled, I probably moaned the most about it and said how wrong it was, how out of order it was and that in pre-season it would be a waste of time.
“Now I’ve completely U-turned on that – we have got a big cup final to look forward to where there is a lot for all the boys to play for.”