Having had his playing career cut cruelly short at just 28 due to a knee injury, former Hearts striker Calum Elliot is taking his first steps into management much earlier than he could ever had envisaged.
Elliot was appointed as manager of junior outfit Edinburgh United this week, despite having no experience of coaching before and with no badges to his name.
It’s an abrupt change for the Edinburgh boy who just last season was plying his trade in Scotland’s second tier with Raith Rovers and nine years on from when he starred for the national team’s Under-19 side at the European Championships in Poland.
Having undergone a fourth knee operation in just eight years over the summer and faced with the possibility of having to get a knee replacement, Elliot called time on his career with his ability to walk properly on the line.
Rather than dwell on what might have been, Elliot is looking forward to life off the pitch and can’t wait to get started at Paties Road where he’ll be backed by coaches Jason Girdwood and Paul Cavanagh, along with his brother Ross Elliot as a player-coach.
“For quite a wee while I wasn’t enjoying playing football,” said Elliot. “Injuries take their toll and if you’re not enjoying it then you are never going to do as well as you probably should and that was possibly one thing that happened with me. I never properly enjoyed some places where I’ve played and I just wanted to get home.
“I’m looking forward to life after playing football, it will be an eye opener and I will do things I probably never would’ve done because you’re kind of stuck in your ways when your just playing football and you’re naive to everything else that goes on.
“I’ve always wanted to get involved with coaching and to be a manager and so the opportunity to work with a local team is ideal for me.”
Edinburgh are a club in transition, with their squad having been depleted in the summer after a ninth-place finish in the Premier League following promotion from the South Division the year before. The Capital’s sole Junior club had begun life in the second tier well, before their bid for a play-off spot tailed off as they won just four of their remaining 18 league games.
Elliot will have to get to grips with management quick as he aims to assemble his squad, given his opening game in charge is at home to Kennoway Star Hearts this Saturday.
He said: “We need to try and get a few players in because there isn’t that great a depth in the squad and the quality in certain positions isn’t what we’d want.
“It’s a mad rush. I’ve spoken to about 100 people to try and get players in and everybody is basically at clubs at the minute, so it’s just finding people that are available.
“It is going to take two or three months to get to where we want to be but we won’t use that as an excuse.”
Although he only announced his retirement last month, Elliot revealed that he had been fine tuning his management style while he was still playing.
“I’ve been planning for a wee while how, if I got the chance to be a manager somewhere, I’d do training sessions and how I’d want the team to play,” he said. “Everyone who is already at the club will get a chance to show what they can do and they’ll enjoy the training – that’s one thing I’ve always said that if I was ever going to be a manager you’d want an atmosphere in training that everybody would enjoy and not dread coming along. At this kind of level the players need to enjoy their football.
“I’ve worked under a lot of managers and you pick up different things off everybody. The thing I’m looking forward to most is doing things how I want them to be done.”
Hoping to make an impact after promotion from the South Division will be Haddington Athletic. Having made a raft of signings over the summer, including Whitehill Welfare trio Danny Noon, Wayne Sproule and Gareth Thom, many are tipping the team for successive promotions although manager Johnny Harvey isn’t setting his targets too high.
He said: “Our goal this season is just to go and enjoy it. The club has been in the bottom league for the best part of 12 years so there is no expectations within to be winning leagues or to be challenging. We’ll go and enjoy it and see where it takes us. As long as we do ourselves justice I’ll be happy.”
McBOOKIE.COM PREMIER LEAGUE 2015/16 – HOW THE LOCAL TEAMS SHAPE UP
Manager: Willie Pearson
Ground: King’s Park
Last season: Fourth in Premier League
New faces: David Hay, Thomas Cordery, Willie Kidd, Tadg Moriarty, Ewan Ralton, John Robertson, John Falconer.
Star man: Paul Tansey
Season prediction: Third
Manager: Calum Elliot
Ground: Paties Road
Last season: Ninth in Premier League
New faces: Rees Allan, Sean Cavanagh, Robbie Cunningham, Greig Dodds, Craig Edgar, Ross Elliot, Dawid Lyko, Paul Suddaby, Alan Rutherford, Andy Williamson.
Star man: Alan Rutherford.
Season prediction: Tenth
Manager: Johnny Harvey
Ground: Millfield Park
Last season: South Division champions
New faces: Chris Inglis, Paul Devlin, Andy Forbes, Liam Amos, Craig Hume, Ricky Miller, Danny Noon, Kayne Paterson, Wayne Sproule, Gareth Thom, Jerry Draper.
Star man: Michael Fairnie
Season prediction: Fourth
Manager: Jock Landells
Ground: Newbyres Park
Last season: Sixth in Premier League
New faces: Darren Leslie, Darren McTearnan, Kyle Doig, Guy Kerr, Dale Pennycuik, Connal Doyle.
Star man: Dale Cornet
Season prediction: Sixth