BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_Sport
Jon Daly will hang up his boots in the New Year with ‘excitement’ after confessing he found the opportunity to cut his teeth as a coach under Craig Levein at Hearts too hard to turn down.
The former Dundee United and Rangers striker will see out his short-term contract with Raith Rovers first and is determined to make the most of the two months he has left by ending his playing days on a high.
It is a move into coaching he did not expect to arise until another couple of years further down the line but something he always planned would be the next step in a career that began as a trainee at Stockport County back in 1998.
And the 32-year-old is determined to now make the most of the chance to take his first steps into management as the under-20s coach at Tynecastle.
He said: “It’s a role I’m excited about getting into in January. I’ll just go and try and learn.
“Obviously, it’s totally different to being a player and something I’m going to have to get used to as quickly as possible.
“It’s a role I’m going to have to learn on the job, but it’s a fantastic club and a fantastic opportunity to go and learn from some good people that are behind the scenes there.
“Craig contacted me and asked if I could have a chat with them. We had a chat and he spoke to me about the role and how it was a fantastic opportunity for me to take the next step in my career.
“It was something I had planned on doing over the next few years, probably whilst still playing.
“But it’s a really good club and the opportunity was too good to turn down at this stage.
“But obviously I’ve got a few months of football before that happens, so I need to try and focus on that for now.”
After leaving Rangers at the end of last season, Daly joined Raith towards the end of August and has become an increasingly important influence on the Kirkcaldy side as his fitness has improved in recent weeks.
Hanging up boots
A return of two goals from 11 appearances does not tell the whole story and Rovers manager Ray McKinnon had been hopeful of convincing the Dubliner to stay on for the rest of the season.
Instead, Daly will call time on his time on his playing career to work under old Dundee United manager Levein and Jambos head coach Robbie Neilson, something he is hopeful that in time proves the right decision.
He added: “It has come a bit earlier in my career than I envisaged. I had maybe planned on playing for a few more years and trying to get into this over the next few years.
“But it’s a fantastic opportunity to go and work under someone like Craig and Robbbie, and to try and learn.
“As far as I know I’ll be hanging up the boots and just going in as a coach.
“So, the next two months with Raith is probably going to be my last time playing, so they’re games I want to do well in. I was delighted to get the opportunity to come into Raith after speaking to the manager here and I want to try and finish off on a high note for him and help the lads the best I can.
“I would like to leave Raith in a position where they’re cemented in the play-offs and they can go and kick on for the rest of the season.
“I could possibly have said I’ll play for another two years and knocked it back, but roles like this don’t come around too often.
“With the injuries I’ve had in my career it feels like the right time to do it. It’s an opportunity that might not come around again.
“In terms of playing, I’m sure I’ll have days when I miss it, but then there will be days when I wake up fresher than I do normally after games. There are days when you don’t miss it as much.
“It’s a hard question for me to answer because I don’t know until I stop playing how I’m going to feel about it.
“But it’s an opportunity I’m very grateful for and I’m looking forward to getting involved in it.”