“THE Barnet is alright, to be fair...” Blair Malcolm laughs down the phone when asked how one of his most distinctive features is getting on during the pandemic. “I had a haircut just before lockdown and it’s still going strong.”

It’s nearly five months since Malcolm, in many ways the ultimate utility player, has taken to the pitch. On that day, a left back for nearly an hour in Alloa’s 2-1 defeat at Ayr United, and it’s safe to say he’s just as “itching” as anyone to get back.

“You are playing football because you love it,” the former Ross County youngster told Advertiser Sport. “When you are done at your work you are straight to training and just buzzing to go. Everyone buzzes off each other.

“Everyone is just itching to get back and looking forward to getting started again.”

Malcolm, talking to Advertiser Sport for the first time, has never been one to look for the spotlight. He was happy to leave Glasgow as a teenager to move to Dingwall and instead commit fully to his football.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Blair Malcolm in action for Alloa last season Blair Malcolm in action for Alloa last season

“I went up to Ross County for three years and that was my first senior team.” he added.

“I loved it. I am not the going out kind of person and I don’t drink. It was not as if I was missing out on the social life. I like my own space and loved it up there.”

A league debut finally arrived for the Staggies in May 2017, a left midfielder that day, before he moved onto Cowdenbeath later in the year.

In his time with the Fife side, he found himself in defence, holding midfield, and, again, on the wings, even playing an hour in the centre of the park when the Blue Brazil welcomed Rangers for a Scottish Cup tie in early 2019.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Malcolm keeps a close eye on Rangers star Jermain Defoe during a Scottish Cup tie Malcolm keeps a close eye on Rangers star Jermain Defoe during a Scottish Cup tie

But, it’s not unfair to say his time with the League Two side will probably be best remembered for a fiery play-off against Cove Rangers.

Cowdenbeath secured their safety that day but the home-leg was marred by an “explosive touchline punch-up” and three sending offs for the Highland League club. Malcolm played the full 180 minutes of the tie.

“They were huge, huge games,” the 23-year-old, who earned a place in the SPFL team of the week for his performance, said. “Being a young guy at the time they were my first back-to-back appearances and that’s what attracted me to the move to Cowdenbeath; the different experiences I could get.

“It was just a case of doing everything to win. Pretty football went out of the window.

“Cove were a great side and they were relentless, but our experience just shone through.”

A permanent move to Cowdenbeath followed and he spent another season with the Central Park team before Peter Grant arrived at Alloa and soon came calling.

It didn’t take long for the former Scotland assistant boss to convince Malcolm to take the step up and follow him to the part-timers.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Back in his Ross County days Back in his Ross County days

“He’s a very good manager and very good in terms of playing one-touch, keeping the ball, and it’s all very possession orientated,” Malcolm continued. “He’s a good man as well and very fair with everyone.”

Malcolm made his long-awaited debut away to Queen of the South, playing the full 90 minutes and impressing as the Wasps secured their first win of the Championship season. Injury soon struck and a frustrating spell on the sidelines soon followed, however.

This is where Grant really came into his own and Malcolm is keen to point out how understanding the former Celtic captain was.

Malcolm recalled: “When I was out injured, he was very fair with me when some managers in the past would maybe have expected me to play though.

“He recognised that it needed some time and let me get fully fit before I came back to the team.

“As a player, you always want to play no matter what, but sometimes you need to learn to know your own body and realise when something isn’t right.

“The gaffer was very good at telling me to hold on and rein myself in. That certainly helps, especially when you, as a player, are just itching to play.

“You know how much time he spends at the stadium working on the team and he is basically a full-time manager. He puts in so much for time to prepare us and he’s never out of control.”

Much like his time elsewhere, Malcolm has found himself filling in a number of places on the Recs pitch. Advertiser Sport lists them off and he laughs.

“I’ll play wherever the gaffer needs me to play for the team,” he insisted. “With injuries and having a small squad, I will slot in wherever required. I am comfortable playing either side of the pitch. Just not the goals.”

When asked if he has to prepare for a match differently than teammates such as Neil Parry or Andy Graham, who always know where they will play, he replied: “That’s a good point.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser:

“The manager usually walks me through it and I always have an inclination. I get what you mean that people can hone in and envision themselves somewhere.

“I just have to prepare for games as if I am going to play. Having played these different positions, you get a different appreciation and understanding for the different places on the pitch. I’ve always been used to shifting about positions from a young age.”

Malcolm joined a host of last season’s squad in signing up for another year with the Wasps ahead of football’s long-awaited return and he can’t hide his delight.

“It’s good to seal my fate for another year,” he said. “Alloa were keen to get boys signed up.

“I am delighted to be coming back. They are a very well run club, so it was an easy decision.”