Steven Gerrard walked away from a secure job coaching youngsters at the club he loves to strike out on his own — and he became a Rangers hero.
Kevin Thomson is adamant now is the right time for him to do the same.
He is the first to point out that Kelty Hearts are hardly comparable in size and stature to the Glasgow giants, nevertheless the risks are the same.
Thomson, 36, was a highly-regarded coach of the under-18 at Ibrox — the same age group Gerrard bossed at Liverpool — but, in order to reach the heights he fully intends to scale, he reckons New Central Park is the perfect launchpad.
“This is not a decision I took lightly,” said Thomson. “I’ve left a wonderful club that were incredibly good to me and, in turn, I’d like to think I was a good ambassador for Rangers.
“But ultimately, if I want to be the Rangers manager in the future — or a manager at the top level — then Kelty Hearts is a brilliant place for me to learn my trade.
“The manager [Gerrard] was brilliant with me when we spoke and he understands that I’ve got my own journey.
“His own journey was a huge step and a difficult thing for him. He left Liverpool, a club he loved and was close to his heart. He never knew anything different from Liverpool but still walked away from an academy job there for an opportunity elsewhere.
“Of course, he was joining Rangers, which is a different proposition from me joining Kelty Hearts. But I’ve also made a decision to leave a club I love, where I was respected by the players, staff and — I’d like to think — the fans.
“That’s my journey, my path. I always believed that I had the right demeanour and mentality to be a top manager one day, and I’m not sure I can get there by spending too long in an academy.”
He added: “It’s a risk but everything is a risk in life — and I’m a risk taker. I’m not scared of that.”
That aspiration to one day return to Rangers, for whom he played 107 games and won five major honours between 2007 and 2010, is evident, despite his laser-focus on the job in hand in Fife.
“Everyone has dreams,” he added. “I’m not thinking ‘I’m looking for the Rangers job’ when I’ve just joined Kelty Hearts. I want to be the Kelty Hearts manager.
“But, I’ve got aspirations to get as far as I possibly can as an individual — and I want my players to feel the same.”
‘Barry’s endorsement is probably the defining factor’
Thomson did plenty of due diligence prior to taking the helm of the Maroon Machine, bending the ears of his former Ibrox teammates Barry Ferguson and Bob Malcolm, the management duo which led the club to League 2 prior to leaving for Alloa Athletic last week.
“The foundations Baz [Ferguson] and Bob [Malcolm] have laid speak volumes,” he lauded. “I’ve had a good few chats with them, and have obviously been talking to Barry for a long time.
“Even when Barry was still the Kelty manager and no-one knew he would leave, I was speaking to him about the job was doing here and what a great club and structure is in place.
“I’d say Barry’s endorsement is probably the defining factor in me coming here.
— Kelty Hearts Football Club (@KeltyHeartsFC) May 23, 2021
Thomson has wasted no time in putting his stamp on the side, snapping up his former Hibernian teammate Jordon Forster on Saturday — a fine coup given he was on the books of Championship Dundee as recently as April.
Ex-Dunfermline favourite Joe Cardle is also a transfer target.
Coach Kevin McDonald has left his role as Musselburgh Athletic boss to become Thomson’s assistant, while Nathan Austin, Michael Tidser, Darren Jamieson and mercurial forward Kallum Higginbotham have signed new contracts.
‘Players aren’t coming here for the money’
And Thomson has a crystal clear idea what he wants from his charges.
“This is a working class town with people with good morals, and we want the team to reflect that,” said Thomson. “I’m a winner and I want the players to have that same honesty and drive to win, too.
“The way I work — in a humble, respectful way — is the sort of team I’ll put on the pitch and for the supporters to be proud of the way we go about our business would represent success for me.
“We’ll try to play football but I’m not naive. I know the leagues and we’ll have a bit about us, when required.”
He added: “Players aren’t coming here for the money — like you might hear on the street — they are coming here to achieve what I want this club to achieve and because of the journey we can go on.”