Jon Daly has admitted he planned to extend his playing career by a few more years but found the temptation to begin his coaching career at Hearts too great to resist.
The veteran striker hung up his boots for good after a career spanning more than 17 years and almost 500 first-team appearances following Raith Rovers’ weekend defeat by Hibs adamant he only had one regret – that he’d be reporting to Tynecastle having failed to score the goal to knock their Capital rivals out of the Scottish Cup.
But joking apart, the 33-year-old insisted he has no regrets about his decision to quit playing, Hearts’ new Under-20 coach saying: “I’ve been fortunate to get the opportunity to finish on my own terms and not through injury, to be finishing in one piece.
“I enjoyed my career, I was privileged to have played for so long, to do that is a remarkable achievement. I am very proud of what I have achieved throughout my career. I wouldn’t say I am a remarkable player, but I have been a team player and I hope I can carry that on in to the coaching side.
“It’s something I am really looking forward to. There’s a lot of learning to be done having my first experience of it. It’s going to take time to get used to but I am fortunate to be going in at a good level with good players, Hearts have a good bunch of boys at this level. I am fully focused on trying to do the best I can for the lads and trying to help them as much as I can.”
Asked what he could tell his new charges about professional football, Daly, who played for a string of clubs in England such as Stockport, Bury, Grimsby and Hartlepool before becoming a familiar figure here in Scotland with Dundee United and then Rangers, said: “It takes a lot of hard work.
“You can have all the talent you want, but ultimately it comes down to that. If you do not put in that hard work at the start and lay the foundations then it is very difficult to progress.”
In his career Dublin-born Daly delighted in winning the Scottish Cup with United but also had to come through same dark days, suffering serious knee and ankle injuries during his time at Tannadice, experiences he believes he can use to help shape the young Jambos.
He said: “I still have great memories of winning the cup, the medal is framed and takes pride of place in my house. It’s great to look back and have good memories. Players have highs and lows but it’s about how you deal mentally with the lows that help you get through.
“Until I spoke to Craig [Levein} I had planned to play for a few more years but the opportunity has come about and, as I have said, to finish in one piece, to not waking up on a Sunday feeling like the Tin Man, and to get the opportunity to go to a club that is on the up is one I could not turn down and I am grateful to have it.”
Raith boss Ray McKinnon had suggested there could have been no better way for Daly to end his short spell at Stark’s Park than by scoring against Hibs, something the striker admitted he had dreamt of. He said: “The night before you try to imagine the game in your head and to see yourself scoring.
“I’d have taken an assist on Saturday, but it was about the team progressing, not me. It was unfortunate, we had a couple of chances first half and had we taken them it might have turned out differently. But we did not take them and were punished by two good strikes by Hibs.”