Farewell piece: That fab Feb day when Rotherham United's Angus MacDonald became a first-teamer again

Angus MacDonaldAngus MacDonald
Angus MacDonald
“IF Angus scores we’re on the pitch, if Angus scores we’re on the pitch.”

The packed away end at AFC Wimbledon was in full voice as a figure in red and white prepared to put a nine-month nightmare behind him.

Angus MacDonald was fit again, Angus MacDonald was coming on as a substitute for Rotherham United.

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In the 79th minute of a League One clash on a cold, early-February night the song burst forth from the travelling Millers contingent.

The centre-half is no longer a Rotherham player, having been freed by the club last week following their promotion from League One, but wishes his old employers nothing but the best.

“I always felt a big part of the changing room,” he said. “It was such a great group of players to work with. It was a joy to come in every day. There were never really any bad eggs.

“I would have loved to have been offered something but it’s time for a new chapter. Hopefully Rotherham can stay in the Championship and make progress there.”

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The defender arrived at AESSEAL New York Stadium in the summer of 2020 having overcome bowel cancer at his previous side, Hull City.

His time in the Roundwood mile challenge was nothing to stir excitement but in every other respect he hit the ground running, becoming one of the most dominant figures in a second-tier survival battle the Millers took to the final six minutes of the campaign before slipping back into League one.

He was handsome, he was big, he had streaked hair, he’d had a spell in the celebrity magazines when he’d had a famous girlfriend.

Too flash for Rotherham? He was confident but turned out to not be flash at all. He certainly didn’t play flash. He was hard, physical, uncompromising, good at all the basics. Teammates liked Angus Mac, opponents didn’t mess with him.

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Now the 29-year-old is looking for his next challenge and hoping it involves a trip to New York next season.

“My agent has been having discussions with a few Championship clubs and a few League One clubs,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of seasons in the Championship and would like to be back there.

“It would be amazing to play against Rotherham in the Championship and come up against some familiar faces.”

In his second season, MacDonald was laid low in pre-season by an unspecified condition and it was the New Year before he was back in full training and closing in on being a first-team contender again.

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He fought his way back into the side but a March sending-off against Shrewsbury Town did for him. None of us knew it at the time but that would turn out to be his final Millers appearance.

“The ref killed me with that red card when I was just getting a run in the team,” he said. “Another game or two and I’d have been right back at the levels I needed to be at.”

His past suffering has seen him set up his own charity — the Angus MacDonald Foundation — to raise awareness of bowel cancer and highlight the importance of early diagnosis. It’s also given him a sense of perspective.

I texted him to ask for an interview on the day the news of his release was announced last week. Within 20 minutes my phone was ringing and he was opening up.

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“I’m gutted to be going,” he said. “It’s obviously been a frustrating year for me. I’ve been fully fit for a while and I’d have loved to have given more this season and helped the team more.

“I’ve come through much worse than not being offered a new deal. It’s how I look at things now: what’s the point in dwelling on something I can’t change?

“From the calls and conversations I’d been having previously, I expected to stay. Or I expected an offer at least. Look, it’s football. Some things are meant to be.

“There’ll be a club out there for me. It’s just about staying fit now and enjoying a bit of down time because as soon as the end of June comes it’s going to be busy again, I’m sure.

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“It’s been an immensely draining season for me, to be honest. Eight/nine months out is tough.

“The lads stuck with me, the staff stuck with me, the physios were great and the fans stuck with me as well.”

They were certainly sticking with him on that memorable evening in Wimbledon.

MacDonald ran on to the pitch, copped for a ball right in the face in his first couple of minutes and managed a smile despite the heat of the battle when he heard the chant.

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“I always felt their support throughout my time here,” he said. “They were good to me. I read a lot of nice comments on social media. You always have one or two who have a go. A couple accused me of costing the club three points against Shrewsbury, but that was never a sending-off.

“If I hadn’t been sent off, I’d have played until the end of the season. I have no doubt about that. I have no doubt about my ability. The fans backed me, they supported my foundation. I can’t thank them enough.”

MacDonald didn’t score at Plough Lane but Rotherham already had. They won 1-0, they took ownership of a little corner of West London, they stayed top of the table.

But that all paled into insignificance.

Angus was back.



“Circumstances conspired against him, unfortunately. He was probably our player of the season in the Championship in his first year with us.

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“To go through the difficulties he’s had and play again is testament to his character.

“Angus just wants to play every week now because of what’s happened to him. That’s totally understandable. We wish him all the best.

“He’s been brilliant for us and brought a lot of good to the club. He’s made everyone in the area aware of bowel cancer with his foundation.

“He’s just a really good lad who’s brought a lot to the community as well as the club.”



2020/21 (Championship):

39 league appearances, one FA Cup. One goal.

2021/22 (League One):

Seven league apps, one Papa John’s Trophy.