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Kevin McDonald’s announcement this morning, via a sensitively conducted interview on Fulham’s website, that he will shortly undergo a kidney transplant was profoundly moving. Most impressive was his poise – even at a deeply personal and troubling movement – in explaining how he had played with kidney failure throughout his career and had made the choice to opt for a transplant as he contemplates the next stage of his life. Football seems very trivial at such grave moments, but it is how we’ve come to know McDonald and, having watched his performances over the year, his courage is not a surprise.

The educational element of McDonald’s interview should not be overlooked. His season has been a frustrating one, relegated to the sidelines after another promotion from the Championship, but the doubts surrounding those decisions can be placed to one side now. No one can diminish his contribution to Fulham’s success in almost five years at Craven Cottage and it is clear that the club hold him in high regard, given how he has been working with the youth teams as part of his progress towards his coaching qualifications.

McDonald makes the profound point that people only know footballers through their persona and performances on the pitch. You always felt with the him that what you saw on the field – however impressive – was only half the story. Here was a natural leader, a character for others to rally around, the voice to offer encouragement and inspiration or a quiet word for those who needed it. There was no doubt that these characteristics proved pivotal in Fulham’s successful promotions from the Championships. His strength of character can only be underlined by the fact that he has reached such heights in his playing career whilst battling a chronic condition.

Writers like me often use hyperbole to illustrate their points, but it is no exaggeration to say that McDonald’s impact upon arrival from Wolves in 2016 was massive. He moved to west London after Fulham’s year-long pursuit finally paid dividends and, after Slavisa Jokanovic deployed him in a deeper role that at any previous point in his playing career, made Fulham far harder to play through. It wasn’t that was a mere stopper in the classical mould, either. McDonald could nit the play together impressively, the perfect fit for a side that wanted to play out from the back and dominate possession, ensuring that his team could effectively utilise the considerable talents of his midfield colleagues, Stefan Johansen and Tom Cairney.

He was a vital part of Fulham’s most attractive side for twenty years and that midfield triumvirate took the Championship by storm as Jokanovic’s swashbuckling side surged to within a whisker of automatic promotion with a memorable 23-match unbeaten run. McDonald’s joyous celebrations after the final whistle on that gorgeous day at Wembley will live long in the memory. My favourite image of his Fulham career remains a private one, captured in the Wembley dressing rooms, with McDonald addressing his victorious team-mates following their moment of glory. I have no idea what he was saying but the faces transfixed on his words tell you just highly regarded he was as a leader.

Dressing rooms are unforgiving places. Players quickly discover who is a phoney and won’t excuse though who shirk challenges. You could never level such an accusation at McDonald, whose matter-of-fact manner rather lends itself to cutting through any confusion. Such qualities will serve him well when he makes the transition from playing into coaching. His contributions have already made quite an impression on some of Fulham’s youngsters and, although there’s an admirable desire to continue his career in the lower leagues, I hope he might be able to contribute to the club’s future in a coaching capacity. He certainly has plenty to offer – and at this difficult moment, as ever, McDonald is leading by example.