DAVE Mackay has hailed his St Johnstone team-mates – and Scotland manager Gordon Strachan – after he enjoyed heartfelt tributes at Saturday’s 1-0 win over Hearts.
Mackay was forced to announce his retirement as a player on Thursday because of a troublesome hip injury that has kept him sidelined since January.
The 35-year-old was in the stand at McDiarmid Park to watch as Graham Cummins’ second-half strike earned the Perth men all three points.
And, despite being comfortable with the decision he has made, the club captain has admitted to being moved by seeing his colleagues hold aloft his number two jersey during their celebrations in the aftermath of the winning goal.
He said: “It was a nice wee touch from them. I don’t know who planned it, but I appreciated it.
“That’s the sort of boy we have in the dressing room. We are all close and good mates and work for each other. It was a nice touch.
“Was it emotional? It was a little bit. I’m not an emotional kind of person. I didn’t expect it so I didn’t get time to think about it.”
Strachan was at McDiarmid Park to take in the match and took time out to have a word with Mackay before leaving shortly before the full-time whistle.
Mackay added: “That was great. He does not have to do anything like that, to someone like myself, but I appreciate that.
“He just had a quick word, said he was sorry to hear that I was having to retire and that I had been a good ambassador for the club. I really appreciated it.”
Mackay is confident Saints will enjoy another successful campaign without him this season and, hoping to carve out a career in coaching, insists he has come to terms with having to hang up his boots.
The 2014 Scottish Cup-winning captain went on: “Maybe if I’d broken my leg and it had ended suddenly, (it would have been difficult). But I’ve had months to think about this, I’ve known it was coming for a long time.
“I did my best to get back but it was not worth it, to be honest.
“I probably could have got back. I’ve joined in a few under-20 sessions. I feel okay for 20 minutes but my body is not up to playing full-time football.
“It is the long term that I am worried about rather than trying to play for another six months. It is the right decision for myself and the club.”