Rewind to 2017 and find Tim Clancy openly regretting "10 years" of wastage as a professional footballer. Failure to "upskill" for the afterlife drove his career into a cul-de-sac.
“I should have had my coaching badges long ago and I was offered to do them for free, but I said, ‘sure, I’ll do them next year,’” said Clancy back then and again this week.
At 33 years old the Bray Wanderers centre half honestly admitted to “chasing my tail” in the race to get an A licence before his body yelled “stop”. Yet within six months Drogheda United turned Clancy into a manager. Opportunity knocked once more last winter as St Patrick’s Athletic asked him to replace Stephen O’Donnell (don’t mention the war).
Ahead of Derry City’s visit to Richmond Park, Clancy is well placed to run the rule over the increasingly treacherous leap from player to manager as, all the while, the best coaches in the game – Pep Guardiola and Xavi aside – have a 15-year head start when it comes to developing the skills needed to exist in modern football.
"As a player you don't see anything that happens upstairs and around the club, so it was definitely an eye-opener," Robbie Keane told Sky Sports on Monday of working as assistant manager under Mick McCarthy at Ireland – where he remains under contract – and Jonathan Woodgate at Middlesbrough. "Going forward, I've done the assistant and [now] want to do my own thing. I've had a few opportunities but they didn't feel right for me."
As much as Frank Lampard has become the shining example of how a great Premier League midfielder does not automatically translate into an elite manager, Clancy is carving out a sustainable career.
"Somebody you can relate to and is honest with you as well," said St Pat's defender Joe Redmond of what makes a modern coach attractive to players. "I don't mind criticism. I am probably my own biggest critic. I like watching games back and picking through them, and so do the lads here. I think that really helps and it is not just 'you done well' when you know yourself you haven't. That's very important. They put in the hours, doing a lot of video on teams to break teams down and fix our own problems."
This sounds more constructive than Lampard questioning whether Everton players have the “bollocks” – we believe he meant courage – to avoid relegation.
“If you have had the career that Robbie Keane has had, certain doors will open that certainly I haven’t found yet, never mind opening them,” Clancy opined. “No disrespect to myself or a dig at players who have that career behind them, [but] to play at that level, to even get to that level requires an unbelievable understanding of the game as well.
“Career paths for everyone are different,” he added. “You always end up where you deserve to be.”
Friday’s previews (7.45 unless stated otherwise)
Bohemians v UCD, Dalymount Park
The Collingwood Cup winners are plunged back into reality as Andy Myler must somehow steady the ship following last Friday's 7-1 defeat in Derry, but Bohs, following a 3-1 loss to Shamrock Rovers, will be in no mood to gift anything to these winless students.
Dundalk v Drogheda United, Oriel Park
Round two of the Louth derby, Drogheda having won the St Patrick's Day encounter 1-0, and considering Steven Bradley's unavailability for Dundalk there is a chance to do the double. A slim chance. Dundalk must win to keep European qualification in reach.
Finn Harps v Shelbourne, Finn Park, 8pm
Now comes the acid test for Damien Duff. Harps sit second from bottom, five points adrift of Shels, with defeat here plunging one club or the other into crisis. Ollie Horgan brands Duffer's men the "fittest side in the league" and, despite Harps losing skipper David Webster to injury, they simply must outwork the Dubliners to have any chance of avoiding relegation.
Sligo Rovers v Shamrock Rovers, The Showgrounds – Live on RTÉ 2
Another interesting call for live television, especially with Derry visiting St Pat's, although the champions are beginning to motor with five wins on the bounce as Rory Gaffney holds ball for the overlapping quartet of Andy Lyons, Jack Byrne, Richie Towell and Danny Mandroiu to wreak havoc.
St Patrick's Athletic v Derry City, Richmond Park
With year one of the Ruaidhrí Higgins era in the books, Derry needs a win to remain top of the table in a week when rumour of St Pat's reuniting with Alfie Lewis, or any creatively minded midfielder if Tim Clancy's men are to hold pace in the title race, is becoming increasingly important.