KEVIN McDonald has thanked Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson for resurrecting his career.
McDonald was facing an uncertain future in the game after leaving Burnley at the end of last season.
But the 23-year-old has flourished since completing a protracted transfer to South Yorkshire in August and has been identified by Birmingham City as one of the biggest threats to their hopes of winning today’s FA Cup tie at Bramall Lane.
Admitting a series of well-documented problems with Brian Laws meant he “couldn’t wait to leave” Turf Moor, McDonald drew comparisons between Wilson and Laws’ Burnley predecessor, Owen Coyle, now manager at Bolton.
“They’re both really similar,” McDonald, who excelled under Coyle, said. “Don’t get me wrong, they can both go pretty mental at times, but they also encourage you to play freely and that’s something I really enjoy.
“They want you to try and express yourself with the football and they don’t put you under any pressure about being scared to make a mistake.
“Danny’s team talks are short, sharp and straight to the point. He doesn’t fill up your head with all sorts of stuff.
“We work hard in the week and are really thorough but when the time comes it’s pretty much ‘just go out there and play your football’.
“It’s good to have a manager who wants you to play. He can give you a kick up the backside from time to time – I’ve had a few from him myself – but that’s no bad thing because it keeps you on your toes.”
“I had some really good times at Burnley,” McDonald added.
“But in the end I wasn’t playing much and, although there was a contract on the table, it wasn’t a big decision not to sign.
“It’s a breath of fresh air to come here, to be at a place where you’re wanted.”
McDonald’s performances have drawn praise from colleagues and opponents alike. Speaking ahead of this afternoon’s fourth-round tie, he set his sights on ending a goal drought stretching back to November 2010.
“I’m happy with how I’m doing but I can do better. I’m not at my peak because I keep getting little knocks,” he said.
On his midfield partnership with Michael Doyle, McDonald added: “He’s the complete midfielder. He does the dirty work, but he doesn’t get recognition for how good he is on the ball.”