I know fans are divided over the merits of Levi mackin, but no matter which side of the fence you sit on over that particaular debate, surely you've got to feel sorry for the guy? Not for the first time, a chance to establish himself in the side has met with frustration.
Brian Little summed up his red card against Stevenage perfectly; it was probably the wrong decision, but Levi was rash to take that risk. Sliding in from behind is daft when you're on a yellow card already, especially considering it was the first day of the season when officials look to establish a disciplinary benchmark and the ref had already shown himself to be erratic, to put it kindly! However, he did seem to play the ball, and there doesn't seem to be much doubt that his intention was undoubtedly to do so.
However, the red card was shown, and Mackin suffers an abortive start to his season. Again.
This looked like his best chance of establishing himself as a regular in the side at last, as for four years he's been on the fringes without quite getting a foothald in the first eleven.
He had a run of seven late substitute appearances at the start of the 2005-6 season but never quite made the breakthrough into the starting line-up and faded away, despite establishing himself that season as an all-action captain of the reserves.
A similar scenario played itself out the following season, but last year it looked like a corner had been turned. He was a beneficiary of a strange team selection, but ironically his big chance was also thwarted in the same manner. Brian Carey rested most of his first team for a League Cup first round game at Port Vale and was rewarded with one of the few good performances of the season. We drew with our higher division opponents, winning on penalties, and even Richard Hope looked good! Perhaps the most notable performance came from Mackin, who bossed midfield and was rewarded with a run of starts in the team in which he showed off his key attributes of energy and tenacity to good effect and looked like he might finally be approaching that moment every pro encounters where he proves his worth or perishes.
Sadly, his cause wasn't helped by a second quixotic team selection. The reward for beating Vale was a home tie with Premiership Aston Villa, and the decision to once more rest key players was to have far-reaching, catastrophic consequences. We were hammered 5-0, the first of five consecutive defeats which, for me, triggered our dismal collapse to Conference. It was a silly, self-inflicted wound and it hurt Mackin badly.
He had established a robust partnership with Danny Williams, but Carey left the senior partner out, replacing him with Conall Murtagh. Now I rate Murtagh highly, but pairing two young lads in the centre of the park against a rampant Nigel Reo-Coker did neither of them any favours, not least because Murtagh had spent the afternoon in an exam and travelled to the game by train believing he would be a spectator! The damage to Mackin was catastrophic. His confidence looked battered and although he started the following Saturday he looked poor and was replaced with a quarter of the game left. Inevitably he lost his place in the side; after one more appearance on New Year's Day he was shipped off on loan to Droylesden.
Brian Little seems to be taken by Mackin though. Whether he gave him a few starts at the end of last season because he saw smoething in him or because he needed to establish whether he should be released we'll never know, but the manager was certainly pleased with how Mackin responded. And so, for the first time, he was in the starting line-up for the opening game of the season, but once more he was thwarted in his hopes of becoming a regular by suspension. Like Little, I've started to what Mackin can offer the side; I hope he can overcome this set-back, and start avoiding the accidents that seem to little his progress.