Ciaran McKenna will always feel he has unfinished business at Hamilton Accies but the defender is determined to get one of his former club this afternoon.
The 23-year-old spent a year at New Douglas Park in 2019 but his time in South Lanarkshire will always be tinged with a sense of frustration.
Following a positive start to the season, McKenna required knee cartilage surgery that would severely hamper his progress before the UK went into lockdown.
His first-team opportunities were limited thereafter and the centre-back opted to take the risk during a time of real uncertainty and terminate his contract.
Fortunately, McKenna wasn’t out of the game for long, joining Partick Thistle in August last year.
Reflecting on his time at Accies, McKenna said: “It was a little bit frustrating, to be honest.
“I went in there and had a good pre-season and started all the cup games and, in my opinion, I was playing well and getting my feet into it.
“But then I started the first league game and did the meniscus in my knee inside the first 10 minutes.
“We tried to rehab it without an operation, which took six weeks. I came back and played a few games, but it didn’t feel right and then two months on from that injury I got my operation in November.
“You just feel like you have wasted time because you’ve tried to do it maybe the more natural way and it hasn’t worked. That made it even more frustrating because it kind of doubled the injury time almost.
“I came back in the January, started training again and got back in the squad but then the lockdown happened, so that season was almost a write off.
“The start of the following season, I was feeling pretty good about things, but I just felt I wasn’t getting much of a chance as I wanted and that is when I decided to leave.
“It was unfortunate. I have no ill feeling towards the club or anything like that. Hamilton are a good club and they’ve got a lot of good young players there.”
Now in his second season at Firhill, McKenna returned to the Jags starting line-up against Ayr United last weekend after a recent stint on the bench, helping his team-mates keep a fifth successive clean sheet.
He admitted: “The back four and the goalkeeper get a lot of credit for that (keeping clean sheets) but I think you need to credit the whole team and it’s something we all pride ourselves on.
“We don’t have the biggest of squads but it’s certainly very competitive. You need to work hard to keep your place in the team and I was happy to get my chance on Saturday.
“Winning 4-0, you can’t really ask for much more when you come back in after being out of the team for a few weeks.
“The gaffer prides himself on putting out a team that can be very attacking, that score goals and entertains the fans.
“I think that is something we tried to do a lot last season and we certainly did it towards the end of the season when we won the league.
“We have just taken that attacking style of football and goal scoring into this season. We had a few 0-0 draws after the Hamilton game but have kicked on again recently.
“The Ayr result just shows that every week we are capable of scoring goals. I think keeping the back door shut relieves a bit of pressure on the strikers, they can maybe then start playing with a bit more freedom.”
Thistle dismantled Hamilton 6-1 last month and McKenna, who replaced the injured Kevin Holt after 10 minutes, admitted: “It really helped when we were shooting towards the goal with the Thistle support behind it.
“Every time we scored they just erupted. That’s the moments in football that you play for, the moments you love seeing, all the fans going crazy and the whole team celebrating in front of them.
“You just want to keep trying to recreate that moment, I think that is how all the boys felt, we just wanted to keep driving on.
“From our point of view it is brilliant. You don’t get many games like that so when you do, you just try to enjoy it as much as possible.”
Away from football, McKenna started up a podcast (@BroPod1 on Twitter) with roommate and current Ayr defender Markus Fjørtoft in December 2019.
The duo kept a growing band of listeners entertained by co-hosting regular episodes during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Explaining the idea behind the podcast, McKenna said: “It is something we have done for almost two years now.
“A lot of professional footballers I think are privileged in the sense that a large part of your job is recovery.
“You come in in the morning n and you’re working hard but when you leave training and the stadium you’re tasked with recovery and you shouldn’t really be going out much.
“Then you are kind of confined to your home and you’re trying to stay occupied. The two of us live together, so it was just something we thought would keep us occupied when we’re finished after training.
“It is not something that we obsess over. We usually do an episode maybe every two or three weeks and we get a decent number of listeners but for us it is more about connecting with people who have had really good careers and life experiences and asking them questions borne out of curiosity on our part and trying to get as many cool stories and answers from them.
“You end up connecting with some really interesting people. We have been pretty fortunate to have been able to get some really good guests.
“Last week we had Derek Rae on, the commentator, he had some great stories, we had Michael Stewart on before that, talking about his career, politics, we had a little 20-minute episode with Fabrizio Romano a few weeks back.
“It’s usually always tied to football, whether it be former players, coaches or journalists. We even had a couple of CEOs on from football clubs in America!”