JAMIE Mackie’s time in the Scotland set-up may have been fleeting, but his football career has been anything but.

The striker cum winger who won nine caps and scored two goals for the country of his grandfather’s birth between 2010 and 2012 is currently preparing for his 17th season as a professional player. What is more, he is showing no signs of slowing up.

The 33-year-old has been away in Portugal this week along with his Oxford United team mates and has managed to keep up with even his youngest and fittest team mates during some punishing double training sessions.

“I’m not quite at the front of the running, but I have been holding my own,” he grinned as he looked ahead to the friendly against Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday afternoon.

Mackie’s work ethic has taken him a long way since his days at non-league Leatherhead in his native Surrey in the early 2000s.

He broke through at Wimbledon just before they became Milton Keynes Dons, went on to sample the dubious delights of Conference football with Exeter City and Sutton United and then stepped up to the Championship with Plymouth Argyle and Queens Park Rangers.

It was in White City where he really sprang to prominence. He helped the London club to win the second tier title in England nine years ago and then performed with considerable aplomb in the Premier League down south for two seasons.

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Mackie netted a memorable last-minute winner in a 3-2 victory over a Liverpool team which included current Rangers manager Steven Gerrard and had been leading 2-0 with 13 minutes remaining at Loftus Road in the 2011/12 campaign.

He also put QPR 2-1 ahead against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on the final day of the league season after his team mate Joey Barton had been sent off in the second-half to set up a finish of unparalleled drama. Agueroooooooo!

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The heights he scaled and the longevity he has enjoyed in the game are both testament to his total dedication to his profession. He is an example to every aspiring footballer.

“Everyone has different qualities and I figured out quite early that my game was based around hard work,” he said. “Doing that got me to where I wanted to be. Every time I have played well it has been because I have worked hard all game.”

Mackie’s paternal grandfather was born in Kilmarnock and he pledged his allegiances to Scotland in 2010. He was promptly called up by then manager Craig Levein for a Euro 2012 qualifying double header against the Czech Republic and newly-crowned world champions Spain. He played in both matches, but was powerless to prevent his side from slumping to 1-0 and 3-2 defeats.

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Goals in friendlies against the Faroe Islands and Cyprus followed. But he was unable to help his adopted homeland end their wait to reach the finals of a major tournament. He made his final appearance in Levein’s last game in charge against Belgium in Brussels. The lad from Dorking, though, looks back on his international days with fondness.

“I was extremely proud to play for Scotland,” he said. “It was a massive thing for me and obviously for my father’s side of the family. I played in some big games and loved the experience. We played Spain after they had won the World Cup. It was really disappointing not to qualify in the end, but I gained a lot of experience.”

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Mackie has never played at Ibrox before and is excited at the prospect of making his debut at the famous Govan ground this weekend. He travelled to Glasgow with his son to take in the Old Firm game for the first time last season because he was keen to sample the atmosphere his old Scotland team mates had told him so much about. It didn’t disappoint.

“I went there to watch Rangers play Celtic,” he said. “I took my little boy to watch it because I had heard so much about it and it is a massive fixture. One of the things I’d love to do when I finish playing is go to as many games like that as I can because you don’t get that opportunity when you are playing every Saturday.

“Rangers v Celtic was one of those games. Everything you have heard about the atmosphere was true. But just double it when you actually experience it. The hairs on the back of my neck were up. Now when my little boy comes to any other game he says ‘it’s not that loud here dad’. Games don’t come much bigger. I loved it and never thought I would get to play there, but it’s funny how things work out.

“Rangers will be right at it because they play in Europe next week so it will be a big test for our boys. We are a young squad and it may only be a pre-season game, but for some of the lads it may be their only opportunity to play there. Playing there is something I never thought would happen.”

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Mackie hasn’t been surprised to see his former opponent Gerrard make the move into coaching and expects, after an encouraging first season in the dugout at Ibrox, him to, as he did during his playing days with Liverpool and England, challenge strongly for silverware with Rangers in the season ahead.

“He’s one of the icons isn’t he?” he said. “As a manager he is part of that influx of top players getting a chance as managers and it is great that they want to do that after the success they have had in their playing careers. They obviously have the hunger to go on and challenge themselves as managers.”

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Mackie may decide to do the same himself in the not do distant future. But his immediate objective is helping Oxford United beat their hosts and enjoy a decent season in League One. His enthusiasm for football hasn’t waned in his fourth decade.

“I think it comes down to enjoying that feeling when you know you have done well and given it everything,” he said. “If you work in an office and you go out for a run you feel good about yourself. As a footballer that comes at the end of every training session or gym session or match.

“I am still loving training every day and the energy around this group of players is great. We have worked so hard in pre-season, but now all we want is for the first game to come around.”