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Neil Cooper: Darren Mackie is the perfect example of a loyal player

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ABERDEEN spent six years turning Chris Maguire into a Scotland player and got a measly £400,000 compensation just four months after he picked up his first cap.


That's the fee the Dons received from Derby County when the striker agreed a move to Pride Park in May - and even then they had to threaten to report the Rams to FIFA to get them to stump up the cash.


Losing promising players they've reared in return for small sums is the major downside of the Bosman ruling for clubs but on Tuesday night there will be one of the best examples of why rearing your own talent can be so beneficial.


Because for every Chris Maguire, there's a Darren Mackie. And he has more than paid back the endless hours spent on developing his talent since he joined his boyhood heroes straight from school.


He moved to Pittodrie in 1998, made his debut as a 17-year-old against Dundee the following year and is to be rewarded with a glamour testimonial against Villarreal on Tuesday night.


Mackie has spent his entire career with the Reds - except for a short loan spell with Inverness - and the club's top SPL scorer has plenty more to give.


The 29-year-old suffered a knee injury that wrecked the second half of last season for him but has returned during preseason in perfect time to take centre stage for the visit of the Yellow Submarine.


Mackie has played under no fewer than six managers at Aberdeen but Neil Cooper was the very first coach he worked with and the former Dons player is still rearing the rising stars of the future.


Cooper will be in the crowd on Tuesday night for what will be a pride-filled evening for the Dons frontman and his family and the talent spotter is delighted his former pupil is being rewarded for his service.


Coops said: "I'll be at the game but I won't think about my part in Darren's career - it's all about him and the service he's given the club throughout the years.


"There aren't many players who will last that long at a club now.


"Unfortunately the way the game is going with the Bosman ruling it's the players who hold the aces. We develop them but unfortunately in the case of Chris Maguire, for example, Derby County came in and took him.


"We got some compensation but it's not a lot of money for the time and effort the club has put into developing the player. It's disappointing we didn't get more as I think he's worth a sizeable fee and he will prove that.


"It makes you all the more grateful for the fact we've had Darren for so long. If you can get your local youth players through then obviously it saves you having to buy in so many players.


"Darren supported the club as a boy and his family are the same. He had the chance to move to other clubs before but he wanted to stay.


"We should reward these players because with the Bosman ruling, unfortunately, it doesn't mean the same to every player. However, Darren has been brought up at Aberdeen and the club is in his blood.


"Russell Anderson was another who managed to get a testimonial but there are plenty others who came through the ranks during my time here who are still playing like Kevin McNaughton, Michael Hart, Darren and Derek Young, Dennis Wyness and Stephen Glass.


"We have had Zander Diamond and we've now got to Peter Pawlett, Michael Paton and Richard Foster and we had Chris Maguire since he left school as well. The list is endless - Chris Clark who is back with us and Ryan Esson at Inverness.


"Lots of players have come because we have a good system in place.


"Aberdeen provide the opportunity for players to develop and get into the firstteam squad.


"Darren is Aberdeen through and through and the fans appreciate the service he has given. I hope that's reflected in the attendance on Tuesday, especially with a club the size of Villarreal playing in your testimonial.


"The game should be a great attraction both to pay tribute to Darren's service and for the chance to see a leading La Liga team in action."


Mackie's lowest point at Dons came in 2004 during the ill-fated Steve Paterson reign when he fell out of favour and was farmed out to Caley. Instead of letting it get him down, he stuck it out before proving himself at Pittodrie all over again.


He went on to score one of his club's most crucial goals in recent years when his header against Dnipro in 2007 booked a place in the lucrative Europa League group stages.


It was a moment of glory Mackie might never have enjoyed had it not been for his determination to battle for his future.


Cooper said: "He had a loan spell at Inverness but if you look back at most managers then you'll see they've played him because he's a team player.


"Darren could have let the move to Inverness get him down but he didn't because he's a fighter who always gives you 100 per cent in every game and the fans appreciate that.


"I laugh and joke with all the boys I had at a young age and recall times when we were hard on them to keep up standards. But it's not a game or a goal I remember when it comes to Darren - it's his effort.


"He always puts in a shift and in the dressing room he's a bubbly character who's well liked by all his fellow professionals. He's from a nice family and this testimonial is great for him after the service he has given."

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