While admitting it was a huge wrench to leave Livingston as they struggle in the Championship, former captain Simon Mensing says the lure of a new adventure in America was one he simply he had to fulfil.
The 32-year-old Englishman called time on a 14-year career in Scotland in January to sign a one-year deal with US second-tier outfit the Atlanta Silverbacks, who open their season against Indy Eleven in less than three weeks time.
The former Hamilton and St Johnstone defender captained his new side to a 2-1 win over Charlotte Independence last weekend and is hoping for a similar outcome when the Silverbacks host University of Alabama Birmingham in another pre-season fixture tomorrow.
But as his thoughts begin to turn to his debut in the NASL (North American Soccer League), Mensing will continue to hope that Livi’s Championship identity will still be intact come next season. And while some may feel he has abandoned ship at a time when the West Lothian club needed him most, the German-born player insists he could not reject one of his life’s burning ambitions.
Speaking from his new home in Atlanta, Mensing said: “I was contracted with Livingston until June and I would have loved to have seen the season out and make sure the club stayed up. But I don’t feel as if I have abandoned them as it’s not as if I’ve signed for another club in Scotland or another Championship side, so for me it’s life changing. It’s something myself and my family have wanted for years so it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
“In ideal circumstances I would have left the club in a much better position. I was club captain, I had come back from injury and was playing week in, week out and enjoying my football. But Mark [Burchill] said to me he wouldn’t stand in my way and could understand my position as he had done the same and had moved to Cyprus and loved every minute of it. Moving to America was always an aspiration of mine so I was delighted with the way he handled things.”
Mensing was thrilled by the news his former team-mates had taken a point from Ibrox last weekend and still retains a belief there is far too much quality within the dressing room to allow Livi to drop down to Scotland’s third tier.
“I think they just need that one win which will pull them in close to Cowdenbeath and Alloa and as soon as they get that the better,” he said. “As soon as they get those the points on the board then those other teams are going to have to start really look over their shoulders.
“They’ve also got the added bonus of having a far superior goal difference as well. They’ve also done extremely well to get to the final [Petrofac Training Cup] and still have that to look forward to. I’m still in contact with a lot of the lads there and I wish them all the best.”
Atlanta’s English head coach Gary Smith was recruited just before Christmas and was a big cog in the deal that ultimately took Mensing to Georgia.
The Silverbacks are in the midst of a transitional period with the majority of the 2014 playing staff having moved on to pastures new. And pastures new is just what Mensing feels he needed, the opportunity to immerse himself and his family into a new, but exciting way of living.
“There has been a big turnaround in players as there are only three of four here from last season but I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far,” Mensing explained. “I’m the oldest in the changing room at the grand old age of 32 so I’m certainly the most experienced here. But I think with the amount of professional games I’ve got under belt, I can help the other guys a lot.
“Another big part of why I wanted to come over here is to experience the country as a whole and on away days, getting to visit so many different cities. You don’t just go there, play the game and come back, we’ll get to spend the night there as well so after the match you can take in the city and make the most of it. I can’t wait to get started really.”