There was something special about watching Kevin McDonald playing for Dundee United after his brave return from a kidney transplant.
For 73 minutes of United’s 2-0 midweek with over Motherwell, McDonald was back where he belongs.
Football is all he’s ever known and he looked right at home.
McDonald dreamed of making it as a footballer as he came through the ranks across Tannadice Street at Dundee.
The game he loves took a back seat for 19 months as he underwent a life-changing operation, with elder brother Fraser his kidney donor.
McDonald has had a long and illustrious career in English football.
And he played in front of over 85,000 at Wembley in 2018 as Fulham beat Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final.
But, given what he has been through, it’s understandable that Wednesday’s clash with Well means more than any showpiece final.
“It was an unbelievable night for me,” McDonald told Courier Sport.
“I’ve played in some massive games of football like play-off finals and in the English Premier League.
“I could never forget the feeling of beating Aston Villa with Fulham at Wembley.
“But from a life-perspective, this is one of the best experiences I’ve had.
“The Dundee United fans were patient with me.
“I had a couple of misplaced passes but they showed a lot of respect in not getting on at me.
“They understand that I haven’t played for almost two years. I thank every single one of the fans for their attitude.
“They gave me a great reception coming out and even gave me a big applause when I was just warming up.
“It’s a massive boost to play football in front of fans again.
Kevin McDonald thanks his family, fans and the football community
Kevin McDonald was forced to put his football career on hold to tackle a life-threatening kidney condition.
After juggling major surgery and becoming a father, he’s back in training and hoping to play again 💙pic.twitter.com/OCNNTnN185
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) October 13, 2021
“I appreciate all the support from the football community and I’ve felt support throughout the world.
“It comes together for things like this and that’s the way it should be.
“Football fans can be very supportive and I now have some very supportive fans at Dundee United.
“This is now my home and I’ll make it up to these fans with performances for United.”
McDonald’s friends and his United-daft sister-in-law watched his debut.
His Carnoustie-based family are likely to be Tannadice regulars but mum Liz missed his match as she was abroad.
“My mum is on holiday,” added McDonald. “She’s on a 60th birthday trip in Lanzarote.
“She’ll know I played. I’m sure my family will have filled her in.
“I don’t think my family will be too bothered about the performance or result.
“They will just be happy to see me out there again playing again.
“A football pitch is my home. It’s all I’ve ever known. It’s incredible to be back.
“Can I do better? Absolutely.
“But it’s not the time to look at that. It’s time to feel proud that I’m playing again.”