The AFC Telford midfielder admits his somewhat nomadic football existence since opting to leave boyhood club Manchester City at under-16s level has, more often than not, been ‘just to play with mates’.
But the Manchester-based attacking midfielder, who has two goals in two starts for the Bucks since becoming a father just over a week ago, is proud to say he has matured and those days are behind him, writes Lewis Cox.
“Since leaving professional full-time football and going into non-league it was just for playing with my friends,” said McHale, who played one League Cup game for Barnsley as a youngster before dropping into part-time football for fun.
“I knew playing higher was what I wanted to do but the stress of full-time football was heavy on me at the time.
“I’ve always gone from club to club because I’d never put 100 per cent in. Now, being here at Telford with what I’m around with the gaffer, staff and players and at home with my new daughter, it has matured me.
“You can’t miss a week, you can’t miss a session, you’ve got to be on it 100 per cent every game and training session. Joining Telford and my daughter being born has definitely helped that.”
McHale is likely to be central to Gavin Cowan’s plans as Telford tonight host National League North basement boys Chorley, who are without a win in five league games, but into the second round of the FA Cup.
McHale’s previous clubs read Salford, Trafford, Hyde, Southport, Ashton, FC United, Oldham, Romford and South Shields, all since 2017 alone – after returning from a spell playing in Cyprus.
“Some of them I’ve gone with friends and my friends have moved on and I’ve gone with them,” he added.
“There’s some really low clubs, where I never thought I’d have been. When you played professional football for a while – it was too much for me, I just wanted to play and enjoy with my friends.
“You might think it weird to say but the stress of working as a football at a young age was tough and I’m not ashamed to say that.
“I earned decent money but found it difficult, and not playing killed me, sitting on the bench or in the stands I wouldn’t accept so I’d move on to another club. It wasn’t great.
“I look back now and think ‘what were you doing?’ Half of them I probably signed up for just to play one game. At the time you don’t think it’s going to be on your CV or Wikipedia page, but at the time it was just playing, I just love to play, it was all I wanted to do.
“I think now it’s time to crack on.
“I understand it was a risk to take me because I’ve been known to jump around clubs and take my foot off the gas but I’ve not done that and have no intention of that whatsoever, it’s on the up now.”
He added: “I went to Barnsley at a very young age and was straight into the first team, a lot of things happened to me at the time.
“I had a car, a bird, good money, it was a lot. I took my foot off the gas if I’m brutally honest, doing things young lads do, partying and drinking.
“Now it’s not like that, regardless of full-time or part-time, it’s 100 per cent for football. I work within football, coaching under-18s, and play myself.”
“My life is just about football and hopefully I can get back to the level I want to.”
After earning a Telford deal as a trialist in pre-season, McHale really introduced himself to Bucks fans watching on a stream with goals against Gloucester and Darlington.
“I’ve always needed to be somewhere like this, where the demands of performances and levels of work-rate has to be 100 per cent,” he added. “I’d love to work with this gaffer forever, I say it all the time, he’s bringing out a side to me I never thought I’d see again.”
On being an inspiration and drawing motivation from the recent birth of his daughter Malaya, McHale added: “I can’t just chill out anymore or take my foot off the gas, I’ve got to give my 100 per cent.
“I want to play in the team and improve us and help us to get promotion and hopefully at some point be full-time. That, for me, would be unreal, as well as doing that for my daughter. For her to at some point come to watch me play for Telford, the stadium that she’d walk into, it would be unreal for her to see that.”