Life has slowed down but, at times, it can still come at you fast.
That truth is something we have all learned during the coronavirus pandemic and Dundee United’s unlikely lad Thomas Courts is no different.
Back in February, prior to the world being turned upside down, Courts last spoke to the media to introduce himself as the United academy’s head of tactical performance.
When I say ‘the media’, I mean solely this writer, with no other regional or national publications covering the press event.
Fast forward to this week and he’s the centre of attention at Tannadice as he prepares to lead a Covid-stricken Terrors into the Lions’ den as stand-in boss.
Due to an outbreak of the virus in the Tangerines coaching staff, nine players and the whole first-team backroom team have gone into isolation, including manager Micky Mellon.
That means the 39-year-old will step in for tomorrow afternoon’s trip to Livingston, but just who is Thomas “Tam” Courts?
Typical but not traditional
In many ways, Courts’ life in football is fairly typical for a Scottish coach.
His playing career began, funnily enough, at Livi where Courts cut his teeth as a young centre-half.
Although West Lothian is where he started out professionally, Courts found success throughout his career at home in Fife in the lower leagues and junior football.
The Kirkcaldy-born man enjoyed a fruitful loan spell at Cowdenbeath, two stints with Hill of Beath Hawthorn, a season at East Fife and Kelty Hearts on three separate occasions.
Two were as a player but there were also five years as player-manager of the Lowland League champions from 2013-18, taking the club from languishing in the juniors to the cusp of league football.
With rumours he was hoping to take on a managerial role in the SPFL, Courts resigned, ending an 11-year association with the club to be replaced by Rangers legend Barry Ferguson.
In the 12 months that followed, he interviewed at Sheffield United, West Ham and an opportunity in Holland at NAC Breda was considered, too.
To the surprise of some, he took up a role at Andy Goldie’s United academy at the start of the year and began to prove his upbringing in the game was anything but traditional.
In his own words
From taking age group football with kids as young as nine to instructing the United top team at Almondvale tomorrow, it’s quite the change for Courts.
However, you feel he will be able to apply what he learned at Kelty to the occasion. After all, despite his lack of experience and notoriety at Premiership level, this is a seasoned coach.
He is composed, confident and intelligent – very much the modern manager with a vision about how the game should be played. He will not be overawed or flustered in the dugout.
A Uefa A Licence coach, Courts’ role at Tannadice is geared towards shaping modern footballers and potential stars of the future for United by helping them understand the tactical side of the game.
And it’s something he takes great pride in.
Speaking back in February, he said: “I think within the academy set-up what we’re trying to do is give them a technical and tactical framework that can allow them to maximise their potential.
“It’s actually also about surviving and thriving domestically and playing within Scotland.
“We’re taking them down to the elite level in England and overseas in Europe for games and learning.
“We want to design a game model that allows them to go into different environment and feel they have the skillsets to actually fulfil their potential.
“It’s a club on an upward trajectory again and they’ve got a phenomenal reputation historically for developing young players.
“There’s a blueprint and something ingrained within the club.
“If you look at the profile of the type of player this club tends to produce there’s a creative flair but we want to help by giving them as much information as possible.”
What do others say about him?
Albeit tomorrow won’t be about Courts, nor his work in the academy, it appears the United ship is in safe hands, even if temporarily.
Training has gone well, he has senior players around him to lean on and the club have shown faith in him by confirming today that he will be in charge at Livingston.
Indeed, Courts has even scouted fellow-caretaker Davie Martindale’s men four times this term.
One man who has always believed in Courts’ abilities is academy chief Goldie.
Speaking at the time of Courts’ appointment, Goldie said: “We made a conscious decision that we didn’t just want your typical football people, we wanted people with different skillsets, backgrounds and experiences.
“The majority had worked in education, have come through university with degrees as well and that helps them understand the pathway the players are going through.
“They understand how kids learn and interact with people as well. We put all these things together without even thinking about the football initially.
“I think, if you’ve got that, you’ve got a solid foundation you can build upon.”