From the Isle of Lewis to Nashville - meet the Scot helping to build a club in the US
Ally Mackay left the Isle of Lewis with grand plans to make it as a footballer in America. Injury ruined that dream, but now he finds himself centre stage of football's big breakthrough in the country music capital of the world.
The Scot is Nashville Soccer Club's new assistant general manager and his feet have barely touched the ground since his appointment in January as he attempts to build a club from scratch.
Nashville play in the USL, the second tier of US football, but will step up to the MLS next year. The club was only formed in 2016 and Mackay, 32, is thrilled to be in at the ground level.
He is working under former Liverpool CEO Ian Ayre, who hired Jurgen Klopp at Anfield, as the franchise from the self-styled "Music City" bid to turn their short history into a hit.
"It is a big task," he says. "We're essentially building a club from the ground up. We're going through a number of processes right now just to get staff into the building.
"There is a lot of parts that need added. For example, we've been talking about building an academy, how we're going to build it and who we have to hire. That's just one element, and that doesn't touch on the first team, so it's a massive job.
"It's exciting to think that down the line, when I might not be here, something will be left in place that I played a big part in."
'Playing Championship Manager has paid off'
Mackay moved to America in 2007 on a football scholarship but a broken leg ended his dreams of carving out a playing career above college level. "I tell my family it was a blessing in disguise," he says.
After a sports business management degree at Stirling University, he returned to the United States to work for Stellar Group in Florida as a football agent. The company have the likes of Gareth Bale, Jesse Lingard and Gylfi Sigurdsson on their books and Mackay's expertise in identifying talent prompted Nashville to move for him.
Having spent the last 10 years negotiating deals for his clients, Mackay now sits on the other side of the table. And his early years in Lewis in front of a computer screen are no longer a misspent youth.
"I've actually had this conversation with my brother," Ally said. "We used to play Championship Manager for hours on end, so finally I can tell my mother it was for future benefit.
"There is a bit of overlap from my work as an agent in terms of negotiating contracts. But you do have to think about lots of other things now. In MLS, there is a salary cap, so you have to think if I sign this guy, how does it affect signing the next one."
Long-distance travel has become the norm for the Scot, although swapping sun-drenched Florida for the cooler climes of Tennessee has presented challenges. "We've been all over scouting," he says. "I've recently got back from Florida - that was a great conversation with my wife, telling her we've moved somewhere 40 degrees colder and I'm going back to Florida."
And he's not ruling out plucking talent from his homeland to join Scotland striker Johnny Russell, of Sporting Kansas City, in the MLS.
"Scotland is a market I know very well. My dad is a big Rangers fan and we talk a lot. The European market in general is interesting. You're only allowed eight internationals [non-US players] on a roster for MLS teams so you have to make sure you get the right guys."