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Digby pays tribute to ex-Town star McDonald
FRASER Digby has paid tribute to the ‘great character’ Alan McDonald, who died on Saturday aged 48.
Centre-back McDonald, a member of the Town side that just escaped relegation from Division One in 1997/98, collapsed while playing golf in Northern Ireland.
“I have a lot of good memories of Al and to hear the news was a massive shock,” said Digby.
“He was a great character and a very honest bloke who would help anybody.”
During Swindon’s tricky 1997/98 season, McDonald famously replaced Digby between the sticks against his old club, QPR, after the goalkeeper had been harshly sent off.
Swindon held on for a 2-1 win, which ultimately proved hugely important in their battle against the drop.
Digby continued: “The best bit was when I got sent off at QPR and Al went in goal against a club he had played more than 400 games for.
“He was tremendous and we ended up winning 2-1, and he was probably man of the match.”
The former Robins goalkeeper added that McDonald was as good as any centre-back he had the pleasure of playing alongside during his spell at the County Ground.
Digby continued: “I had some great centre-backs in my time at the club, the likes of Shaun Taylor and Colin Calderwood, and when big Al came in he was the same.
“He was never in a rush and knew what he wanted to do. I knew he would hold a good line and would be there to protect you.”
Belfast-born, McDonald had great success on the international stage as he represented Northern Ireland 52 times, scoring three goals.
He played his country when they drew 0-0 against England in 1985 to qualify for the World Cup finals the following year, where he featured against Algeria, Spain and Brazil.
McDonald hung up his boots at the end of the 1997/98 season and moved into the backroom staff, before leaving the Robins following the sacking of Jimmy Quinn at the end of the 1999/00 season.
Elsewhere in club football, McDonald had his longest playing spell at QPR and also represented Charlton on loan.
His untimely death drew multiple tributes on Twitter, with former Town defender Kevin Watson saying: “Cannot believe my old Swindon team mate Alan McDonald has passed away. A lovely man and I'm sure will be sorely missed. RIP big man”.
Celtic boss Neil Lennon tweeted: “Really saddened at the passing of Alan McDonald. Big loss to N Irish football. Thoughts with his family”.
Former Manchester United man Norman Whiteside added: “Very sad news about Alan McDonald. My thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. #RIPAlanMcDonald”.