by Rollercoaster Ranger

When Neil Warnock signed Jamie Mackie in May 2010 I’ll be the first to admit that I was thoroughly underwhelmed. Regardless of the fact that he only cost a reported £200,000 I couldn’t understand why we had signed a striker whose modest return of only 8 goals had not helped his previous club avoid relegation. Followed immediately by the signing of Leon Clarke I was not alone in wondering what Warnock was doing.

A promising pre-season where he featured strongly in Warnock’s new 4-2-3-1 formation was followed by a confidence boosting debut goal and the following 6 matches yielded a further 7 goals for him as we stormed to the top of the Championship. This incredible goal scoring run could not continue indefinitely, but he was still a vital component in Q.P.R.’s promotion bid as he not only linked up effectively with Adel Taarabt, Hogan Ephraim and Alejandro Faurlin but constantly closed down and harried opposition defenders and chased every seeming lost cause. His ceaseless efforts were rewarded with one more goal, the vital opener in Rangers’ Taarabt inspired demolition of Swansea City, before his season was cruelly cut short.

Neil Warnock had originally intended to leave Mackie out of the F.A. Cup match away to Blackburn Rovers, but, at Mackie’s insistence, he’d relented and played him. Disaster struck as he typically tried to retrieve possession and launched into a poor challenge on Gael Givet, the sickening collision leaving Mackie with a double fracture of his leg. The fact that Mackie tried to get back onto his feet speaks volumes for his character and the verbal tirade he had to endure from the loathsome El Hadji Diouf would have made a lesser man bitter, but not Mackie, he just vowed to come back a better player.

Q.P.R. duly won promotion to the Premier League with Mackie being one of the players that I expected to be replaced. Surely players needed more than wholehearted endeavour to succeed at this level? Warnock seemed to rush him back into the team with indecent haste and although it was good to see him on the pitch, his enthusiasm undiminished, his desire abundant and his energy boundless, he looked like he was out of his depth. His first touch was poor, his control indifferent and his pace lacking. Q.P.R. supporters were polarised in their opinions of him, some loved his work rate and determination, others focused on his lack of natural ability. Warnock persisted with him and every Q.P.R. supporter was thrilled for him when he scored his first Premier League goal against Sunderland; it was a well deserved reward for his desire and effort.

When Mark Hughes replaced Neil Warnock as Q.P.R.’s manager I again expected Mackie’s name to disappear from the first team sheet, but it didn’t. The more he played and the more his match fitness improved the better he looked. The goals started to flow again and with his last second winner against Liverpool his stature with the Rangers’ faithful was elevated to cult hero. Since then his displays have gone from strength to strength, his touch, control and pace have improved beyond all recognition and his confidence has soared.

Mackie hasn’t got the blistering pace of Walcott or the mesmerising ball skills of Nani but he does present a serious set of problems to any full back. During his lengthy layoff he worked on his upper body strength making him very hard to push off the ball and he has developed the priceless ability to smuggle the ball past defenders. His greatest attribute however is his determination. He will run and run all match long, always willing to take defenders on, beating them with desire as much as skill. Opposition left backs are now far less of an attacking threat as Mackie continually forces them deeper and deeper into their own half. To name just two, he gave Patrice Evra as torrid an afternoon as any winger has this season and last Saturday did exactly the same to Assou-Ekotto.

Through his bloody minded will to succeed Jamie Mackie now looks like a Premier League player.