SELECT Member’s in a league of his own
SELECT Member Michael McKenna spends his Saturday afternoons playing for Arbroath FC. Last season was memorable for the club and for the midfielder, who’s hoping for a repeat in 2022/23
When the new football season kicked off in July SELECT Member Michael McKenna was hoping it would be another one to remember. A full-time electrician, Michael also plays part-time with Arbroath FC. In 2021-22 they were within two points of becoming the first part-time club to get promoted to Scotland’s top league.
Michael played a big part in their success and picked up numerous awards, including Scottish Championship Player of the Year.
“I went full-time for a year but, financially, it turned out to be a bad move. People think footballers are all well paid. That’s not true. The money available at Championship level isn’t high”
That’s impressive for someone who had given up on football when he was 16. He explained: “I failed to get a full-time contract when I was younger, so when I left school I decided to become an electrician. I did my apprenticeship with Macklin Electric, who carried out sub-contracting work for councils across Scotland.”
When he was 21 Michael met his future wife, Zoe. Originally from Edinburgh, she was living in Liverpool. He joined her, but struggled to find work. They stayed for a year and came back to Edinburgh when Zoe became pregnant.
That move was a turning point. Michael landed a job with PHS Compliance and he got back into football. He said: “I enjoyed working with PHS, which included a stint in Afghanistan. And I started training with my local team, Musselburgh Athletic.”
To his credit, he developed quickly. First, Musselburgh gave him a year-long contract, then in summer 2014 Livingston FC, who were in the Scottish Championship, offered him a contract.
“I went full time for a year but, financially, it turned out to be a bad move,” he said. “People think footballers are all well paid. That’s not true. The money available at Championship level isn’t high.
“I was earning a decent wage at PHS with opportunities to make bonuses and I was getting £75 a week at Musselburgh. However, at that time Hibs, Hearts and Rangers were in the Championship and I thought it would be a great experience.” In the end, his time with Livingston was short-lived, lasting just one season.
He signed with Berwick Rangers in League Two and got back to electrical work, joining Abbeyhill Electrical in Edinburgh. “It was mostly domestic and could see me taking on six jobs a day,” he said. “Two brothers, Kenny and Chris Cummings, had taken over the firm and they gave me a supervisor role.
“I’d dropped down two levels in football but that didn’t bother me. Berwick offered me a good deal. It was great to be back working and playing football and I stayed with Abbeyhill until I left to work for myself in 2017.
I’d always had that ambition and it seemed a perfect time since Kenny and Chris were selling the company.”
“I’d never change a fuse board in the afternoon. If there were faults I would never leave the customer stranded”
Things were changing in his football career too and in January 2018 he joined Arbroath. Michael said: “They were in a league above, and, although it made things a wee bit harder in terms of getting to training, which takes place in Perth, it’s been a great move for me.” In his first season Arbroath won League One and promotion to the Championship, where they’ve been ever since.
Playing at a higher level brings greater demands and Michael has to balance a full order book in his business with the standards that allow him to compete against full-time footballers. He said: “Workwise, I’ve got three main clients and get involved in all sorts of projects, from full house renovations to new builds, kitchens, bathrooms, attic conversions and so on. It’s a good balance of work and I have a few private customers I fit in when I can.
“We train on Mondays and Wednesdays and on a typical training day I need to be back in the house just after 4pm. I meet another few guys from Edinburgh and we head up to Perth, arriving at 6.50pm. They’re the days where I need to be conscious of the jobs I take on. For example, I’d never change a fuse board in the afternoon. If there were faults I would never leave the customer stranded.
“I’ve got a young apprentice and we don’t really stop for long breaks or lunches. We work right through and when we’re done, we’re done. That’s how I was brought up at Macklin and it works well.”
Being serious about his approach means eating properly at the right times and getting the necessary rest. Michael added: “Although my main job is being an electrician, I have to put a lot of thought into my football as well.”
Judging by last season’s success, he and his teammates are getting the balance right.
“The secret has been togetherness,” he said. “We have players who have come up through the leagues with the club. Also, we were very fortunate last year with guys we got on loan from other sides. Everyone pulls in the same direction and we’ve got a good manager in Dick Campbell. He’s been a working man and is always considerate when it comes to the pressures we face. If I’m running late for training he totally understands. He treats us like adults.”
“I’m quite happy. I enjoy my work and playing with Arbroath. I wouldn’t endanger that for a couple of years of full-time football”
Last season, Michael scored 15 goals and provided eight assists. He said: “Those are my best ever figures and I got the Championship’s Top Goalscorer and Player of the Year Awards from both the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and the SPFL. That was really special.”
That success has had football agents hovering, but Michael won’t be taking up any offers. “I’m quite happy,” he said. “I enjoy my work and playing with Arbroath. I wouldn’t endanger that for a couple of years of full-time football.
“The new season will be hard because people are expecting us to be near the top again. It’s good to have a challenge and we’ll be aiming for the promotion play-offs. I wouldn’t predict that we’ll win the league because it’s a very hard thing to do. But surprising things happen in football…”
SELECT membership scores for Michael
Michael has been a Member of SELECT for two years and he says it’s been great for his business. He said: “It’s a good feeling to be a Member and my technical adviser is brilliant if you have any areas of work you’re not sure about. They are there to help and it’s reassuring to have that expertise behind you.
“For peace of mind, a lot of customers will only use SELECT Members. That makes it much easier for me when I’m quoting jobs.”
During his time with PHS Compliance, Michael ended up being posted to Kandahar air base in Afghanistan.
As well as security concerns he was a little worried about the jobs he might have to tackle. He said: “I thought we’d have to work with large generators and industrial equipment and I only had experience in domestic work.
However, all over the base they had living quarters and accommodation for military staff. The job involved wiring these buildings with plastic conduit and single cable.
“It was straightforward and the rule was if you worked outside for 10 minutes in the 40oC heat you then had to rest for 50 minutes.”
Although the work was simple, being away from home was tough.
“My daughter had just been born,” said Michael. “That’s why I came back after just five months.”