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Woodbridge Town striker Matt Mackenzie, 26, advised to quit football after heart condition diagnosed

PUBLISHED: 14:00 20 December 2018 | UPDATED: 12:47 21 December 2018

Woodbridge Town’s Matt Mackenzie (centre) battles for possession in the 2-2 draw at home to Haverhill Rovers on October 20 Photograph: PAUL LEECH

Woodbridge Town’s Matt Mackenzie (centre) battles for possession in the 2-2 draw at home to Haverhill Rovers on October 20 Photograph: PAUL LEECH

Archant

Seven months ago Woodbridge Town’s Matt Mackenzie played – and scored – in a cup final at Portman Road. He tells Nick Garnham why he will never play competitive football again.

Matt Mackenzie with fiancée Becky Le Grice Photograph: NICK GARNHAMMatt Mackenzie with fiancée Becky Le Grice Photograph: NICK GARNHAM

The former Felixstowe & Walton United and Ipswich Wanderers striker describes the moment he was advised to quit football at the age of 26 as ‘devastating’.

Mackenzie has been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body, which can lead to heart failure.

He said: “I fainted a couple of times, although not while playing football, so I went for a check-up and luckily for me it was picked up.”

He underwent an ECG and then an MRI scan in London, before a final consultation earlier this week confirmed he has a mild form of cardiomyopathy.

He reflected: “It is absolutely gutting as I have never really contemplated not playing football, and I have absolutely loved playing at Woodbridge. Joining the club was the best decision I made and I have some great memories.

“When I was told all sorts of things were going through my mind, but I was not really in the right frame of mind to think about it. It was devastating at first, but I am coming to terms with it now.

“I have a lot of experience and would like to give something back to the game, so maybe later next year or the year after I will definitely take up coaching, but for now I am going to play golf.

“It could have been so much worse for me, so you have to look at it in a positive way as I could have carried on playing still not knowing.

“It is most likely genetic and I have probably had it most of my life and not known about it.

“What has happened is not known in the wider community so this will raise awareness, so if you do have any symptoms don’t think twice about getting advice.

“If any close relatives have the condition there is a chance you may do as well. Neither of my parents nor close family have any symptoms but they will all be checked out.”

‘Sorely missed’

Woodbridge manager, Jamie Scales said Mackenzie will be ‘sorely missed’ by everyone connected with Woodbridge Town.

It was Scales who signed Mackenzie from Ipswich Wanderers in November 2016.

He said: “He was a player that we had monitored during his time with Wanderers, and when I met with him and said how he would fit into our squad, I could see that if he agreed to sign for us he would contribute massively to what was our aim.

“His contribution of 67 goals in 89 games is some record, especially considering he was not playing in his favoured position (as a right winger, rather than a centre forward) for the majority of that time, but that’s a testament to him as player and a man.

Matt Mackenzie celebrates scoring what turned out to be his last goal for Woodbridge Town in their 5-4 FA Vase defeat at Histon on November 2 Photograph: PAUL LEECHMatt Mackenzie celebrates scoring what turned out to be his last goal for Woodbridge Town in their 5-4 FA Vase defeat at Histon on November 2 Photograph: PAUL LEECH

“Scoring the all-important first goal at Portman Road in the Senior Cup final is a fitting tribute to Matt, and I am sure he will say that will be up there among the memories of his career and Woodbridge Town.

“A very likeable person within our collective group, Matt was always willing to learn and develop more all the time. I have no doubt that Matt will have fond memories of his time with us and we will be indebted to his fantastic contribution.

“Although his career has now been cut short, I will say that even though he could’ve gone on to better things, whether with us or elsewhere, he still did things that others will never get the chance to do.

“He will be sorely missed by all connected with Woodbridge Town for his desire, second-to-none work rate and, of course, his goal-scoring ratio.

“Matt will have a new chapter in time and Woodbridge Town would welcome him to help out wherever, whether in a coaching or ambassador role, when he feels the time is right.

“He has been an honest bloke throughout his time here and that is why he probably detected that something wasn’t right, so that’s a clear message to others out there.

“It’s not the end, but for the interim period we all want to say a massive thank you to Matt ‘Macca’ Mackenzie from Woodbridge Town FC.”

Career highlights

Matt Mackenzie playing for Woodbridge Town against Bungay Town in last season’s Suffolk Senior Cup Final at Portman Road Photograph: SIMON MILLERMatt Mackenzie playing for Woodbridge Town against Bungay Town in last season’s Suffolk Senior Cup Final at Portman Road Photograph: SIMON MILLER

Mackenzie didn’t need asking twice when questioned about the highlight of his career.

He said the stand-out memory was last season’s CNet Training Suffolk Senior Cup Final in which he scored as Woodbridge Town beat Bungay Town 3-0.

Mackenzie netted the opening goal with a rising near-post drive inside the angle of the crossbar and post to put the Woodpeckers into a 36th minute lead at Portman Road.

Woodbridge’s win completed a league and cup double – the club had already wrapped up the Thurlow Nunn League Division One title by a seven-point margin.

Mackenzie said: “The biggest highlight of my career was last season, when we won the league and cup double and I scored at Portman Road in the final in front of my family on my granddad’s birthday – that was a great night.

“To play and score at Portman Road was awesome.”

Mackenzie played for Felixstowe & Walton United Under-8s and had spells with both Ipswich Town and Norwich City Academies, before returning to the Seasiders on both occasions, scoring 31 goals in 42 matches for the club in his last season at Under-18 level.

He continued: “Some goals stand out more than others, such as when I scored a last-minute winner for Felixstowe at home to Norwich United when I was still 16.”

Matt Mackenzie Photograph: PAUL LEECHMatt Mackenzie Photograph: PAUL LEECH

Another match-winning goal came in an FA Cup First Qualifying Round tie for Ipswich Wanderers versus Canvey Island at Humber Doucy Lane in September 2014.

He netted the only goal of the game as Wanderers shocked the visitors, who at the time were playing two steps higher up the non-league pyramid in the then Ryman League Premier Division.

Mackenzie has a framed copy of the back page of the following Monday’s Ipswich Star, with a photograph of him after scoring and an interview with him.

He is also proud of the fact he represented both Suffolk Schools’ and Suffolk FA, for whom he played at both Under-16 and Under-18 level a total of ten times.

During his career he made 61 first-team appearances for Felixstowe and a further 90 for Ipswich Wanderers, before joining Woodbridge Town.

Honour

Mackenzie will lead out Woodbridge Town ahead of Saturday’s Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division match at home to Brantham Athletic.

It will be an emotional afternoon for Mackenzie, who works as a design manager for Ipswich construction company Morgan Sindall.

Mackenzie, who lives with fiancée Becky Le Grice near Felixstowe, said: “Becky has helped me a lot recently and been a huge support.

“I would also like to thank my dad, Ian, who has put so much into my football, with all the travelling and extra training, so I owe him a lot too.”

Mackenzie’s displays for Woodbridge led to interest from other clubs, notably AFC Sudbury and also Brantham Athletic and Hadleigh United.

He said: “AFC Sudbury was the hardest to turn down because of the step up and the money they were offering, but I have always enjoyed playing for Woodbridge and so stayed loyal, and I am glad I did because we have achieved so much.”

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