Mark Fotheringham is in no rush to say auf wiedersehen to Germany.
However, the fiercely proud Dundonian hopes his compelling coaching career will one day lead him back to Scotland.
The former Dens Park and Dundee United midfielder further boosted his burgeoning reputation last month by helping Ingolstadt win promotion to the second tier, serving as assistant to Tomas Oral.
A whirlwind 72 hours then saw Fotheringham whisked back to the club’s stadium on a private jet to lap up a champagne-drenched party in front of supporters — before Oral QUIT after failing to agree terms on an extended deal.
Fotheringham’s future at Ingolstadt will depend on talks this week but, for the moment, looks likely to depart.
Ultimately, he will take a breath, reflect and consider his next step following three years, comprising two spells, with Der Schanzer.
“I’m just a wee guy from a council estate in Charleston — the son of a scaffolder — and I don’t mind saying that I’m pretty proud of myself,” smiled Fotheringham.
“I’ve been out in Germany working for several years, learning the language, improving my coaching and now I’ve got a promotion on my CV.
“Maybe, being over here, that can go under the radar a bit back in Scotland.
“I think we [Fotheringham and Oral] will have some interesting options. It’s only a matter of time before we are working in the Bundesliga. That’s my honest opinion.
— FC Ingolstadt 04 (@Schanzer) May 30, 2021
“But maybe we did need a little bit of rest because we gave every ounce of energy we had last season.
“We didn’t have a coaching staff of 10 people at Ingolstadt. That was me on the grass every day, working with them and — along with Tomas — bringing success to a really big club.”
To achieve promotion was a moment of pure catharsis for Ingolstadt, who lost in the playoff final against Nurnberg (‘a monster club’ as Fotheringham put it) one year earlier courtesy of a 96th-minute goal.
It also represented the zenith of Fotheringham’s ongoing love affair with Germany, having played for Freiburg, coached at Karlsruhe and worked under Felix Magath at Fulham.
“When I played over in Germany, it changed my career and my outlook,” he continued. “From being a young player in Dundee, I came over here and learned to become a top professional.
“It changed my mindset. I love the German attitude; the philosophy on football; the winning mentality. Even when I’ve been in England, I still got a taste of that when I worked with Felix Magath.
“The players are a dream to work with and so receptive to your ideas and the points you are trying to put across.”
Fotheringham, however, is remaining open-minded about what is to come.
As well as his exploits in Bavaria, he briefly worked with Gary Bollan at Cowdenbeath in 2019. As he puts it: “There is not a level of the game that I haven’t either played or coached at, now.”
And an opportunity to manage in Scotland is something he very much sees in his future as more clubs become amenable to young, ambitious bosses.
“I’m not pigeon-holing myself in Germany and I do have a dream to bring my style of football back to Scotland as a manager,” continued Fotheringham.
“However, the reality is: that would take an owner or sporting director who is open-minded and strong enough to look outwith the bubble of candidates in Scottish football and bring in a young coach like myself.
“I’d like to build something at a club in Scotland; develop a style of play to entertain and kill teams off. But, at this stage of my journey — which I’m loving here — maybe that opportunity isn’t out there yet.
“Maybe there’s a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, but if I wasn’t any good, then I wouldn’t have got the roles I’ve had — nothing is being handed on a silver platter to a Dundee boy in Germany!”
The Special One
There is no rest for the wicked. As the German season ended, Fotheringham was straight onto the Scottish FA’s Pro Licence and lapping up the lessons of iconic manager Jose Mourinho.
Andre Villas-Boas was another all-star guest speaker on the programme.
Yet it was Michael Beale, Steven Gerrard’s number two at Rangers, who stole the show for Fotheringham.
“Jose Mourinho was unbelievable. He brings such incredible experience and speaks with such and authority,” he continued.
“The Pro Licence has been brilliant for that in the last few weeks, with Jose Mourinho, Andre Villas-Boas and Michael Beale who, in my opinion, was the best of the lot.
“He actually dropped me a message afterwards saying that he’d love to catch up and have a chat about my experiences in Germany, which speaks volumes about his attitude.
“I would love that because there is nothing better than sharing ideas and talking about the game.
“I’ll always appreciate the fact I can pick up the phone and go for a coffee with Felix Magath or Michael Henke [Ingolstadt sporting director], who won two Champions Leagues as assistant to Ottmar Hitzfeld.”
Fotheringham will spend his summer back in Tayside as his family renovate an old farm house outside Dundee. Wife Amy is expecting a baby boy — a brother for Mason, 6, and Conor, 4.
How long they stay there will be entirely dependent on the phone ringing. One suspects that will not take long.
On and off the pitch, there are exciting times ahead.