‘Started coughing up blood': The moment that railroaded Maclaren's PL dream
It was a football game like any other for the English Premier League prospect Jamie Maclaren, until a header gone wrong left him coughing up blood.
Maclaren was 15 when he joined Blackburn’s Under 16s before proceeding to their Under 21s where he was able to train alongside fellow Socceroos Vince Grella and Brett Emerton.
It was the 7 May 2012, Blackburn lost to Wigan, relegating them to the Championship with one game left of the premier league season. This brought an 11-year stint in the top league to a halt for Blackburn.
Maclaren - 18-years-old at the time - had one more chance to make the first team.
“He (coach Steve Kean) pulled me under his wing and into the office one day and said, ‘look we are playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It’s the final game of the season, it’s an away game, you’ve got a chance to be on the bench,” Maclaren told the Fox Football Podcast.
“Tomorrow you are playing Swansea Under-21s, you have to impress me.”
As the clock struck 3pm Maclaren lined up to face Swansea under-21s for a chance to be on his first Premier League team sheet. The dream was short-lived as 10 minutes into the match the striker leaped into the air for a header on goal.
He, along with his chance of playing against Chelsea came crashing back down.
“I’ve connected with it and on my way down I’ve landed on my rib cage with no arms, I started coughing up blood,” Maclaren said. “I said to the physios ‘I can’t breathe.’”
He was then subbed off and taken to hospital in an ambulance, later finding out he had a punctured lung and cracked his ribs.
He said: “I remember just sitting there and Steve Kean looked me in the eye and without saying a word you could see that he was gutted for me, that he knew that ‘ah well, there’s that young boy’s chance that has just flown by.’"
The following day he found out his recovery time could be 6-8 weeks, ruling him out of the Chelsea match.
“I remember sitting there going ‘surely not, this isn’t happening’, and they said ‘no, you can’t even fly home to Australia (at season’s end)," said Maclaren.
“I said I don’t give a f*** about flying, I’m thinking about Saturday afternoon if I’m on that train down to London.”
“That’s something to this day where I always look back and think that I was so close to, not saying that I was going to play, but so close to just travelling with the first team.”
Following the disappointing end to the 2012-13 season for Blackburn, manager Kean was resigned, with the Scot saying his position had become ‘untenable’.
Maclaren parted ways with the Rovers because he “saw his chance starting to fold”. The club were injecting a lot of money into signing strikers.
Maclaren attracted interest from fellow English club Norwich, who offered a developmental Under-21s contract.
He opted to return home to Australia, where Perth Glory offered him a playing contract and he proceeded to kick 11 goals from 38 appearances from 2013 to 2015. The following two seasons he scored 40 goals in 53 games and won the NAB Young Footballer of the Year Award twice at Brisbane Roar FC.
Maclaren then went on to have successful stints German club SV Darmstadt 98, and Scottish team Hibernian FC before returning to the Hyundai A-League to join Melbourne City FC.
This season he scored 18 goals in 20 games to go with his four goals in two FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying games for the Socceroos.
'Tonight, we will make history': Deng & Mabil reflect on making historic debuts together
Reliving Milos Degenek's journey to the Socceroos to celebrate his birthday
How 'lunatic', 'red-headed kangaroo' Slater became Ligue 1 club fan favourite
'Killing the infection before it killed me': Paul Wade opens up on health battle with epilepsy