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Kilmarnock FC's Rory McKenzie: 'First-team football so important for young pros'

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Rory McKenzie is only 21, and is already showing his class at the top level of Scottish football, and like many professionals in the top tier of the SPFL, McKenzie’s first experiences of the game were at youth level.

McKenzie’s career at youth football was hugely important to his development, playing against youth teams from Celtic and Rangers boys that McKenzie told Youth Football Scotland 'were always thought of as head and shoulders above everyone else'.

Joining Kilmarnock at under-13 level, McKenzie started his career in football out in Ayrshire, playing firstly for Caledonia FC before joining up with Troon Thistle, where he played alongside names such as ex-Stoke and Rangers midfielder Jamie Ness. 

Following on from his career at youth level, it has been three years since Kilmarnock FC’s McKenzie burst onto the mainstream Scottish football scene. While on loan at League One Brechin City the then 18-year-old scored seven goals in 17 appearances for the Angus-based club. 

That spell on loan was followed by a break through into the Kilmarnock first team squad, with McKenzie getting the oft elusive first team football at a young age. 

"It was massive," McKenzie said. "At the time I didn’t expect to break through that young. The biggest thing was going out on loan…that was a turning point for me I think."

Now McKenzie is a first-team regular at Kilmarnock, and is relishing the chance to join up with Kris Boyd after the ex-Rangers striker signed for Kilmarnock for the second time in two years. "He was massive, not just for my development but for the team in general," McKenzie said. "last time he was here he scored 22, 23 goals, so for the team he was really important. For me as well he is great to play alongside. He makes myself look good, if I put the ball in the box for him he’ll score goals.” It’s no surprise then that McKenzie is looking forward to the forthcoming season.

Despite a quick detour to the world of golf, McKenzie knew that football was always going to be his main focus. 

"[Golf was] perfect me playing golf outside of football, if I’d took golf too serious it would get to me too much. At the time I’d have liked to have gone and studied and played golf in America at the same time, but I don’t think I was ever good enough to turn professional," he said.

Conor Matchett | YFS Radio Presenter/Journalist
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