STEVEN HISLOP wondered at first whether he had made the correct decision in dropping down to the juniors after a career in the professional ranks, but it’s proved a shrewd move for the veteran striker, who’ll take his place in the dugout at Gayfield Park for the first time this evening.
The 36-year-old will begin life on the senior coaching ladder when he assists new Arbroath boss Todd Lumsden in the first leg of their League One play-off semi-final against Queen’s Park, an opportunity that arose thanks to his position as player-coach at Bonnyrigg Rose this season.
Not that he’s finished with his duties at New Dundas Park just yet. Hislop will juggle his new role in the Red Lichties’ promotion bid with leading the line for Rose as he plays out the final few games of his career.
He’ll back on the pitch this Saturday at home to Newtongrange Star – while Arbroath take on the Spiders in their second leg at Hampden – in a match which could be his last should his new club negotiate their way to the play-off final.
Hislop revealed he always planned to hang up his boots this summer – he turns 37 next month – but didn’t expect such an opportunity to come up so quickly alongside with Lumsden, with whom he played at Raith Rovers.
“I only started my B licence in February, so it has certainly come about a lot quicker than I expected,” said Hislop.
“I never even thought I’d get the opportunity so to get it a few months after starting my B licence is great. Sometimes you get opportunities that you can’t turn down and I couldn’t knock this one back. It’s definitely the right time for me to take the move.
“They are in League Two at the moment, but they’ve got a great chance of getting promoted. It’s a challenge, but the game can’t come quickly enough and I’m really excited for tonight.
“I had already made the decision that I was going to retire at the end of the season. You get all the wise guys that say ‘I thought you retired years ago’, and maybe I should’ve, but it was definitely time, regardless whether this opportunity came up or not. It’s unfortunate that I’ll miss the game on Saturday, but I’ve got my commitment with Bonnyrigg. My wee boy will be there and I’m sure he’ll know the score. He’ll be able to give me a wee signal to let me know how they are getting on.”
The surroundings of Gayfield aren’t unfamiliar to Hislop, who spent a season with the club in 2009.
That brought his first and last experience of the play-offs and, although it doesn’t bring back special memories, Arbroath did beat Queen’s Park on their way to the final. A good omen, he hopes.
“I played with Arbroath for a year so I know what to expect.
“In my one and only season at Arbroath we got relegated to the Third Division in the play-offs when we got beaten by Forfar. It’s a wee bit of a different situation this time around as we are trying to get up, whereas at that time we were fighting to stay up.”