'My joy when Mollie was born, pride at wearing the Glens armband and fears when my uncle Philip fought for his life after a horror injury.'
Released by Linfield after five years, Marcus Kane tells all about his rise to captaining derby rivals Glentoran and how he irks his fiancee's family by scoring against Portadown.
Q. What early football memories do you have?
A. It started at Shankill Juniors for me when I was about six. My dad Marcus senior took mini-soccer at the Shankill Leisure Centre and he was my manager through junior football. I wasn't the most talented and I was never made captain but today I'm honoured to to wear the armband for Glentoran. I think I played nearly nine years with Shankill Juniors and was due a testimonial! My cousin Kirk Hunter is a Crusaders legend. I have a signed ball from his testimonial against Rangers. I was into Premier League football until I moved to the Linfield Academy at the age of 16. I've worked hard to get to where I am now but back then I never believed I would make it this far.
Q. Have your family been very supportive?
A. My father has been my biggest fan and critic. That helped push me on. He was harsh but he wanted me to improve. My younger brother Mason plays for Shankill under-11s and my other brother Jonathan McCaw plays for Lisburn Distillery. My mum Lee McCaw and dad bought me a lot of gear. My mum and younger sister Megan and my dad would go to games.
Q. Do you have any regrets?
A. Maybe regret is the wrong word as I am happy now but I did have an opportunity to go to UCF which is the University of Central Florida just before I signed my first contract with Linfield. I was 18 and had just sat my SETs. We had a game against Cliftonville at Solitude on a foggy day and I scored the winner then got the news I passed my exams and Linfield manager David Jeffrey said the club was thinking about signing me. I was faced with a big decision and if I had gone to America I wouldn't have my fiancee Aimee and daughter Mollie now. I met Aimee not long after that. America was a good opportunity - it was a full scholarship at a good university after someone watched me score a hat-trick for Northern Ireland schoolboys against New Zealand. I was close to going but Linfield were going to offer me a contract and maybe I thought 'do I need to go halfway around the world to make it as a footballer?'
Q, How did you and Aimee meet?
A, The same story as my mate Jim Ervin, of Ballymena. We met in the old M Club, Belfast. I think it was my first year working in Argento Jewellery and I must have promised her a Pandora bracelet! Maybe that got me a date! She's originally from Portadown but has spent a lot of time in Ballysillan. Her dad John is a Portadown fan and we get on well because of football but every time the Glens play them I seem to score like in the 1-0 Irish Cup semi-final win. He texted me to say I wasn't allowed down for a month or two! Aimee works for Sure Start Childcare. We are getting married in a beautiful hotel in early June 2019 in Ayia Napa, Cyprus. We have invited 60 people but it's a big financial commitment. Of course it will cost us a fortune! We were in Florida on holiday in June but it was hard work, pushing the pram around those big parks, it kept me fit. Okay I had a beer or two but I deserved it from all the walking!
Q, Do you find it difficult to balance work, family and football commitments?
A, It can be hectic. When you are working full-time and playing this game it is hard, especially over winter time. I'm working for Argento, dealing with the Internet orders from 7am to about 5pm and going straight to training. I'm not home until 9pm and my daughter is already in bed. We have a house in Ballygomartin and Aimee has been a rock to me. Three out of five week nights I'm not in the house and the first year we had Mollie it was the hardest and Aimee had to do more than probably most mums. You play football for your family, the money goes straight to them. We are playing at Christmas and Easter and it's hard for young families. I was talking to Tiarnan McNicholl and he was saying the same but you have to be strong. I had a bad knee injury after Mollie was born and had to go through an operation. That was hard especially after it happened in a reserve team game and followed a period when my form was good. Mollie is coming four in April and starting to talk more. She knows daddy needs to train and is more aware, before then the stress was on Aimee. Players don't get the recognition they deserve for the time they give to football. Younger ones will go away on holiday in August and I think that's disrespectful to the club.
Q, What has been the best day of your life?
A, Without a doubt, the day Mollie was born on April 8, 2014. The day before we were going for a scan and Mollie was due a month later. The midwife told Aimee to phone me and the next thing she was in the ambulance as she had preeclampsia. It can be dangerous for a mum and child but Aimee was in hospital for a week and she was brilliant in the way she dealt with it. I nearly missed the birth as I went with Aimee's mum to get a coffee, then the midwife told us to come quick as it was happening. Mollie wasn't breathing at the start which was worrying, it was the longest 30 seconds of my life, it felt like half an hour. She was trying to breathe but the doctor treated her, she let out a yelp and it was a huge relief. I held her first and it was a special experience.
Q, What has been the worst day of your life?
A. I got a phone call from my uncle Darren who said my other uncle Philip had been in an accident. I heard on the news there had been an explosion in Edenderry Lofts, Crumlin Road. He was cutting into an oil drum with a saw but it exploded. The saw went into his jugular. It was a freak accident but the doctor still can't believe he survived. When he got knocked down he discovered his neck was wide open but his friend Dean Moore, who was outside when the explosion happened, lifted Philip, got him into the van and drove him to the Mater Hospital. He was rushed into emergency with the doctor applying pressure on the wound. My uncle said he should be dead so it was very traumatic. His neck was stitched all the way across and the doctor said it was probably the biggest stitch they did across a jugular. He must have lost about three pints of blood. Dean was a family friend and we are very thankful to him. Over one year on, Philip is speaking again and he is a Christian now who attends Whitewell Church. He will share his testimony in churches and it's an inspiring story I was lucky to hear one night in a church on the Shankill. He believes God was looking after him at that terrible moment. I'm not a Christian but I have respect for those who have faith and share it with others.
Q. Where does the nickname 'Moko' come from?
A. My uncle Philip, who was an assistant for my dad, heard a song and started calling me it for some reason. It stuck and the lads enjoyed it. For the first while I thought 'what is this?' but I don't mind it now.
Q. What has been the best moment of your career?
A. The two Irish Cup wins and being made captain this season. The Irish Cup Final is a huge spectacle while the captaincy is something I cherish, it's a big honour. We aren't the best team in the league but the fans are loyal and I'm humbled to captain the club.
Q. How do you reflect on your time at Linfield?
A. I was there for five years. I loved my time there and it was the beginning of my Irish League journey. I was disappointed to leave and felt a little hard done by in terms of not getting a chance. It is cut-throat and all about meeting the standard. It's another reason why I give it 100% at Glentoran. If someone tells you they don't have extra motivation after being let go by a club, they are lying. I give it my all against Linfield but they are the one club I haven't scored against! I felt down and a bit disillusioned at not playing.
Q. Who has been your toughest opponent and best player played with?
A. I played against Rangers' Steven Naismith while at Linfield. I played five minutes and really wish I hadn't played them. He was the fastest and sharpest player I've faced. There was a video on Sky Sports, which a lot of my friends shared, of Naismith racing past me. Steven Davis was fantastic while, in the Irish League, the best battles are with Crusaders captain Colin Coates. I'll go for headers and he's got that desire which I have when I'm marking him. Best team-mate was probably David Scullion, one of the biggest professionals in the game. It was so hard to get the ball off him and Paul Heatley, who I played with at Carrick, was also good enough to play across the water. Winkie Murphy was a standout defender, someone who can help drag you through a bad game.
Q. What is the best advice you have received?
A. Aimee is good at that, she knows I'm a good player and when she sees I'm struggling for confidence she's the first to dig me out a hole and remind me why I play the game, for the enjoyment of it. If you don't experience the lows you can't really appreciate the highs as much. Winning the Irish Cup in 2015 and beating Crusaders, who won the league that year, in the semi-final was special as the club had been through a difficult time. We showed heart and passion to beat them and ultimately lift the trophy.
Q. What sort of captain are you?
A. I'm more of a lead by example than shouter, though this season I have lost my cool. Sometimes you need to have a word with the team and being in midfield I need to do that. I wasn't used to doing that at left-back.
Q. It's well documented Glentoran have been through difficult times on and off the pitch. What has it been like for you?
A. It has been a rollercoaster. When I was younger my good friend Jason Hill kept me away from some of the difficult things. There was a time when the players weren't paid for a month but we got through it. We probably played the best football before we got paid! It was hard but I was just in the team and trying to prove a point. Money was never my motivation and the fans gave me a great welcome which you might think is strange with my Linfield background. I put my stamp on the team and it's a family orientated club where I felt I belonged. If you look at Coleraine, they have turned things around with the help of talented young players and hopefully we can follow that model but patience is needed and we have had a tough time with injuries. Manager Gary Haveron was given a one-year contract which is up at the end of the season but my own view is that if you buy into a manager he should be awarded a two-year contract and allowed time to build.
Q. Have you enjoyed any great holidays?
A. I went to France for the Euro 2016 finals and took in the Poland and Ukraine games. It was a totally different atmosphere to the Premier League games in England and the Northern Ireland fans were brilliant.
Q. Can you tell us something about you we don't know?
A. I'm a big Doctor Who fan and have been since I was about 14. I think I was just sick of watching Match of the Day on Saturday nights! I enjoy the Christmas Day special and, yes, I get stick about it. Mollie shows a bit of interest which helps me out. I've seen all the new episodes but the BBC lost a lot of them, which annoys me.
Date of birth: December 8, 1991
Place of birth: Belfast
Previous clubs: Linfield, Carrick (on loan)
Glentoran record: 180 appearances, 20 goals