Next up in our ‘Top Boyos’ series is the most capped player in Wales U21 history and a Swansea boy who left his beloved hometown club for first team football on the south coast. Bournemouth fan Adrian Lee, who runs the Cherries blog Red ‘n’ Black Snack, tells us why he has so much respect for Shaun MacDonald.
In April 2011, Shaun MacDonald was just a ginger t**t in the opinion of AFC Bournemouth fans, after scoring a 93rd minute equaliser to halt the promotion push of their club. Roll on a couple of months and the midfielder was signing a two year deal with the Cherries and helping them on their next push for promotion.
Shaun started his career at local club Swansea City and spent around 6 years there. He was sent out to gain experience with west country side Yeovil Town, where he became a huge fans favourite after spending 5 separate stints there on loan. He made over 60 appearances in the green and white shirt and was starting to make a name for himself in the lower leagues. Shaun still holds the current record for the most Wales U21 caps, which stands at 35 and this shows that the Welsh set up had a lot of faith that he would have the potential to play at a decent level. In October 2010, Shaun was called up to the full Wales squad to play Switzerland and made his international debut in the 4-1 defeat. He made 9 appearances for his hometown club and in August 2011, Swansea accepted a bid from AFC Bournemouth whilst Yeovil tried to get him on loan again. It was an extremely tough decision for Shaun, to leave the club he loves, but he was determined to get first team football and agreed a deal with the Cherries.
Nicknamed ‘The Ginger Zidane’ by Yeovil team mates, the signing of Shaun Macdonald excited the Cherries faithful. A lot of potential, whilst having plenty of experience, the £80,000 initial investment looked very shrewd after remarks from Swans and Glovers’ fans. His calmness on the ball, ability to take on players and vision to find a team mate was evident in his opening games. A great strike in a JPT game against Hereford, showed glimpses that he could shoot from distance too. Add this to an immense engine and willingness in the middle, everyone could see why Yeovil fans were gutted to miss out on him. Shaun leaves everything on the pitch, giving 110% every performance. Paul Groves took charge at Dean Court and managed to make most of the Cherries’ players look clueless. Despite the manager doing his utmost to coach any bit of talent out of the players, Shaun still put in everything and was a shining light in a dark period for the club, who despite spending a lot on transfers, were hanging around the relegation spots of League 1.
Once Paul Groves was relieved of his duties, Eddie Howe came in and tried a different approach with Shaun. With Eddie’s attacking style and use of full backs getting forward, Shaun was given the responsibility of a more holding role. The way he reads the game and his quickness to adapt to a new position and mind-set, meant the Cherries were an attacking force, without fear of being left wide open. Forming a formidable partnership with a rejuvenated Harry Arter, Shaun was doing the stuff that nobody likes or notices and he was doing it well. This helped the Cherries start their 18 match unbeaten run, Shaun unfortunately picked up an injury that would keep him out for a short while and the influence Shaun had on the team was noted by fans who feared his absence would be detriment to the team. However, despite the injury, Eddie saw enough to reward the Welshman with a new 3 year deal. Everything about Shaun underlines Eddie Howe’s team ethic and spirit. He is hard working, a good passer, calm in possession and a good influence in the dressing room, the ultimate team player. He returned late into the season and will be looking hit the ground running pre-season.
Many footballers can be a nightmare off the field, but Shaun is far from. He is never in the news for anything bad, he interacts with fans often and is easy to approach off the field. Shaun’s girlfriend is also well respected on the social network and the two of them are a delight to interact with. There is no big ‘I am’ with Shaun and I think fans appreciate and respect this. It hasn’t taken very long for Shaun to become a Cherries fan favourite too. Whether it is his style of play or his gentlemanly attitude, I have yet to come across any fan with a bad word or dislike for him. Shaun is clearly delighted to be a Swansea boy born and bred, however, he definitely has green and white and red and black blood too. He looks out for his previous teams results and always wishes them well, this epitomises what Shaun is like.
His addition to the Cherries side on and off the pitch has been a master class. At a time when fans were becoming disillusioned with the players on it and the club off of it, Shaun, amongst others, has help bring some solidarity and togetherness. The fans feel like we are all in this together and everyone was rewarded with a successful season last year. Promotion to the Championship for only the second time in AFC Bournemouth’s history.
This season will see Shaun take to the Championship with a chance to prove himself at this level. He is clearly capable and with his willingness to succeed he could be a very important player in the Cherries push for survival. I have no doubt that Shaun will relish and embrace this opportunity. There is a wider audience in this league and a run of decent performances could see him push for another international cap. I feel Shaun has the ability and attitude to do this and he will hopefully add to his collection. Once he has done that, I’m sure he will win many Welsh fans hearts too. Shaun is definitely a ‘Top Boyo’.
Adrian Lee (@Adr1anLee)