McGuinness: Winning and a Clean Sheet - a Perfect Debut
Wednesday, 28th Oct 2020 11:57
On-loan Arsenal defender Mark McGuinness hailed his Town bow as the perfect debut after the Blues beat Gillingham at Portman Road while keeping a clean sheet.
Teddy Bishop’s 87th-minute goal saw Town to a 1-0 win maintaining their 100 per cent home record in League One without conceding.
McGuinness joined Town on a season-long loan just over a month ago having impressed for the Gunners’ U21s in the EFL Trophy tie against the Blues earlier in September.
The 19-year-old has had to wait for the opportunity to make his Town debut - and his first league appearance - and relished the chance when it came.
“It was great to get out on the pitch and make my debut, and even better to get the clean sheet and the win,” he said.
He admitted that he had been champing at the bit but understood why Toto Nsiala and James Wilson had been getting the nod at centre-half prior to yesterday’s match.
“It’s been a good few weeks since my last game, so it’s been a bit frustrating,” he said. “But the boys have been playing well, so I’ve just been biding my time and it’s been good to get out on the grass, especially when you’re back to winning ways.
“I think the philosophy here is that if you’re playing well, you’re staying in. It was tough when the boys were playing well, but I was happy for them and I was just working away. And my opportunity came today and I like to think with the result I’m on my way.”
He added: “It’s a good incentive to keep performing and playing well. If you’re getting the results and you’re playing well then you know you’ve got that security of starting again. It’s a good philosophy.”
The Republic of Ireland U19 international says he got an inkling he would be making his debut in training.
“I think it was a few days ago we did a bit of shape work, so you get a little glimpse of who’s in the squad,” he continued. “I was prepared anyway for the last couple of weeks.
“[My emotions were] a mixture of everything but mostly excited with my last game having been a few weeks ago. It’s good to get out on the grass playing football, that’s what I’m here to do.”
McGuinness felt it was a good game in which to make a debut with the teams playing contrasting styles.
“It’s even better when we’ve got an opposition like Gillingham who gave us a lot of time and space,” he reflected.
“It was a mixture because they’re quite direct, so it was a great battle. I think it was a great game to come into for my debut, a mixture of everything.”
Did you worry that the goal might not come? “I think we were dominating the whole game and it was just a matter of time. We had some great opportunities, we were defending really well, so it was just a matter of when we were going to score and it was a great result in the end.”
Asked how he found his first taste of league football he pointed to a newly-acquired war wound.
“You can see the cut on my head!” he laughed. “It was great, it was just what I needed. U23s football is a decent standard but it’s nothing to compared to men’s football. This is where I want to stay and be now.”
He says he enjoys the physical side of the game: “That’s what I love, that’s my job and I love it, I love heading, tackling, that’s my job and I love it.”
Family members and friends were watching the game on laptops at home: “I think there were a few people, mum, dad, a few friends. Hopefully I did them proud. I’ve had a few texts, I’ll answer them after this.”
Had some of the boys at Arsenal been in touch? “Yes, Zech [Medley] and Trae [Coyle] obviously play on loan for Gillingham, and few of my mates back home have been in touch too, which is nice.”
The London-born defender, who has been with Arsenal’s academy since he was 10, was particularly delighted with the clean sheet.
“I was buzzing with that, that’s my job,” he said. “Winning and a clean sheet - a perfect debut for me.”
McGuinness had praise for veteran full-backs Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward who he says talked him through the game, along with centre-half partner Luke Woolfenden.
“Wardy and Chambo, and even Woolfy, they’re all experienced fellas, so it was good to have a solid back four there, and it showed with the clean sheet today,” he said.
“We’ve a few young lads but with Wardy and Chambo there are experienced lads in there as well, which helps the young lads and I think that’s vital.”
He felt he and Woolfenden dovetailed well in their first game together and that their partnership shows promise: “I think we worked well together today so we’ll see.”
One debut regret was not finding the net but he says he expects to claim his fair share over the course of the campaign.
“I should maybe have scored a couple today, I was a bit unfortunate. Dozzer puts great balls in,” he said. “Hopefully I can get a few goals this season.”
Manager Paul Lambert missed the game having taken a Covid-19 test and assistant Stuart Taylor was in charge but McGuinness didn’t feel that made a significant difference on the day.
“I think the philosophy’s the same no matter what, we’re on the pitch and we’re playing the same way as we always do,” he said. “If the gaffer’s there or not we play our way of football.”
Games are coming thick and fast with Saturday’s home match against Crewe Alexandra followed by next Tuesday’s trip to Sunderland and then the FA Cup first round tie against Portsmouth at Portman Road.
“This league’s relentless,” he said. “We just have to be ready and recover and go again on Saturday. Let’s keep this run going.”
McGuinness says it was important to put to bed the back-to-back defeats at Doncaster and Lincoln.
“Definitely, we started so strongly that those two results knocked us down a bit but the result today has just picked us right back up where we left off," he insisted.
“I think it was great to get back to winning ways. We’ve dropped a few points but hopefully I’d like to think we’re back in winning ways now.”
Photos: Matchday Images
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