Conrad Balatoni has three good reasons to join Edinburgh City
The decision to make the move from full-time to part-time football is usually one made by players approaching the twilight of their careers.
At 27, Conrad Balatoni has perhaps taken it prematurely, but the former Hearts centre back has a plan in place after joining Edinburgh City on a two-year deal last weekend.
He spent the end of last season with Torquay United in order to remain full-time, but being more than 450 miles away from a young son, Theo, approaching his first birthday, was never going to be a long-term arrangement.
Now back in the city where he began his career, Balatoni is embarking on a new profession alongside football.
“If I’m being honest I would have liked to have stayed full-time for maybe another year,” he explained. “However, I think I’ll look back on this in ten years and think it’s probably the best decision I’ve made. I’ve got a few years to get a bit of experience before I finish football and I’ll still have that buzz on a Saturday. Having a family now meant it was important I sorted myself out for the future.
“Being down in Torquay I decided I wanted to be closer to home. Part-time was the best option for me because I want to pursue a career outside of football. When Edinburgh City got in contact it was a no-brainer.
“I’m hoping to become a financial advisor. I’m in the process of sorting out some meetings with guys from the company so hopefully that all goes to plan. If not I can re-assess, but that’s my priority just now.
“I’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of years. I’ve always enjoyed reading up on investments, all the financial news and things like that. It’s something that tickles my fancy and I thought it’d be good as a job. I’ve been looking into it and there’s aspects of that type of work that I’d really enjoy.
“Hopefully I can manage to get qualified and set myself up for a long career. The contacts I’ve built up over the years from football could stand me in good stead in terms of potential clients. I’m not going to look too far forward though, I just want to get on the course that I want to do and go from there.”
It wasn’t as if any part-time club would do, and City ticked a number of boxes for the Leeds-born defender. “Obviously they’re very close to home,” said Balatoni. “We train at Oriam and I stay in Corstorphine so it’s a ten-minute drive.
“We train later on as well, from eight o’clock until ten so it gives me the chance to come back from work or whatever I end up doing and spend time with the family and not be rushing about. If I was playing outside of Edinburgh I’d have to leave straight form work and you’re not getting back until later, so that aspect appealed.
“James [McDonaugh, manager] was at Falkirk when they brought me in but then unfortunately Peter Houston got the sack and James left as well. I kept in contact with him though and when I spoke to him that also swayed my decision, that I’d worked with him before and enjoyed it.”
Balatoni will also be reunited with former Hearts boss Jim Jefferies, now City’s Sporting Director, although their paths haven’t crossed again just yet. “I’ve not seen him,” he said. “We’ve only been back training Saturday and Tuesday but I’m sure I’ll see him, get an hello and a catch-up and I can ask him why he released me!”
Getting Balatoni in was seen as something of a coup for City when it was announced, and he revealed he had offers from higher up the SPFL. “A couple of League One teams in Scotland had phoned and I had a couple of offers,” he said. “I just wanted to make the right decision and I feel like I have.
“Something full-time might have come up, but when I thought about it, especially the money in Scottish football not being anything to write home about, there was no point in hanging around on x amount of money when you can go and sort a career out for yourself for the next 20-25 years.”