Ex-Hearts full-back Adam Eckersley gives up full-time football and trains for new career

Adam Eckersley is finished with full-time football after signing a pre-contract agreement to stay at Forfar.

Thursday, 31st January 2019, 5:30 am
Adam Eckersley has decided full-time football is not for him any more as he prepares to become a qualified gas engineer

He joined the League One club on loan from St Mirren this month and, with his deal in Paisley expiring in May, has signed up for another year as a part-time player.

The former Hearts defender begins training to become a qualified gas engineer next month and intends to manage his small property portfolio in future. Still only 33, he insisted he won’t play for another full-time club after being frozen out at St Mirren.

In an exclusive Evening News interview, Eckersley revealed his regret at being denied the chance to sample Scotland’s top flight having helped both Hearts and St Mirren gain promotion in recent years. He explained why now is the right moment to go part-time.

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“That’s me done with full-time football. I signed a pre-contract to stay at Forfar for another year after this, so I won’t be returning to a full-time club,” said the full-back, whose career began at Manchester United 15 years ago. “I was getting a little bit stressed with it all at full-time level. These last few weeks since I’ve been playing part-time, I’ve been at home with the kids and it feels like a massive weight off my shoulders.

“I’m back in control of my life again. I’m not being told I have to turn up here and there at the drop of a hat. I know I’m training Monday, Thursday and playing Saturday. It works for me and my family. I probably should have done this a while back but my love for football just kept me going.

“I get the best of both worlds now. I get to work towards my future goal and still play football, so I’m happy.

“I’d been speaking to my wife and my family about this for the last year. I’ve struggled for motivation with the way things have gone at St Mirren. I decided to try to get out on loan to a part-time team and take this gas engineer course. It fits perfectly. I still love football and want to play. I didn’t want to leave the game altogether.

“I still feel I have plenty to give. I’ve looked after myself over the years, I’ve never drank a lot and I’ve always watched what I’m eating. I feel in good shape and I feel I could have done a job in the Scottish Premiership for a couple of years. I just wasn’t given the chance. Sometimes football throws obstacles like that at you.”

Inspired by his builder father, Eckersley invested in property after turning professional at United in his teens. “Property is the thing I want to do long-term and this is a step in that direction,” he added. Nonetheless, it is a step he did not expect to take this early.

His last game for St Mirren was nine months ago against Livingston – the day promotion was secured. “When we got promoted, I wanted a real shot at the Prem. I didn’t want to be fighting relegation. Maybe that game at Livingston was a good way to go out with a medal round my neck. It wasn’t going well for me after Alan Stubbs came in. He didn’t see me as part of the plans. I’d done well in the Championship and the year before but then the manager changed when Stubbs replaced Jack Ross. I didn’t play under Stubbs at Hibs so I don’t think I was going to play for him at St Mirren, which was disappointing. I was really motivated to play in the Premiership.

“Stubbs’ reign didn’t last that long and the new manager [Oran Kearney] came in. My relationship was a bit strained after dealings with the board regarding me trying to get away when Stubbs was there. I didn’t feel I was going to play under the new manager. I had surgery and was rehabilitating my ankle when he came in, so I was already behind. He put Ethan [Erhahon] in at left-back and stuck with him. That left me out in the cold.”

Eckersley decided he had to execute his long-term plan. “I wanted to stay local at first, like Dumbarton or Airdrie. I needed a part-time team to let me do this gas engineer course. I didn’t even explore full-time teams,” he said.

“Those two teams were interested but, financially, couldn’t offer what I wanted. Then Daz Whyte [ex-St Mirren, now at Forfar] gave me a call and said: ‘The Forfar manager [Jim Weir] is interested in you.’ He called me and right away we got on. There’s nothing like a manager wanting you that badly that he’ll do anything to get you. I went to St Mirren and asked them to speak to Forfar and it went from there.”

The Mancunian became a cult hero at Tynecastle Park and remains popular there despite a brief spell with Edinburgh rivals Hibs. He was a key player in Hearts’ record-breaking Championship title win in 2014/15 before being released. He also played in Canada, Belgium and Denmark and is grateful for the life football has given him and his family. One of few regrets is not getting experiencing Scotland’s top league.

“I had a good relationship with the Hearts fans. I gave everything for Hearts and St Mirren. Managers get paid to make decisions but I can’t help feeling hard done to because of the seasons I had for both clubs. I felt I deserved the chance of a crack at the Premiership but those clubs didn’t give me that opportunity. I don’t think I could have done much more. In that respect, it’s disappointing.

“However, I can’t be too disappointed with the career I’ve had. How do you measure success? I helped two clubs get back to the Scottish Premiership, played a lot of games in the top league in Denmark and gave my family a good start in life. Some people look at financial gains or trophies won. I look at it as: I needed to help two clubs get promoted in Scotland. They were the goals I set and I achieved them.

“I’ve won some trophies along the way and made a bit of money doing it. I’m not going to complain too much. Will I push my own lad into football? I’m not too sure. If he wants to, maybe, but the industry is tough. At times you don’t get treated how you should be treated as a human being.”