Tam Courts departed Scotland anticipating a relaxing fortnight of sun, sea and sand in Turkey.
However, the subsequent deluge of calls, Zoom meetings and dispatches back to Dundee United proved anything but tranquil.
“I was getting on to WhatsApp audio to make calls, logging into Zoom, having interviews and updating Dundee United,” smiled former Tannadice head coach Courts.
“It became a pretty stressful holiday!”
Speaking from his new base in Budapest, the Honved manager is discussing his shock United exit in detail for the first time.
Croatian side Rijeka were the first club to declare an interest in Courts’ services after he led the Tangerines to European qualification last season.
Full and frank talks with United sporting director Tony Asghar followed.
“I wanted to be as honest as possible with the club when the interest from Rijeka emerged,” explained Courts. “Because of my relationship with Tony [Asghar], I spoke to him right away.
“Tony prides himself on developing and selling players — but he also wants to develop and promote staff.
“So, when he said it could be good for my development to have that interview [with Rijeka], I wanted to see if I could command the respect of that size of club. I was just as surprised as anyone.
“As you start to go through that process, different conversations need to happen. Things just started to develop from there.”
A change of plans
Talks with Rijeka were protracted, circuitous and, ultimately, did not result in Courts heading to the Adriatic coast.
Instead, Budapest Honved’s sporting director Chris Docherty — an erstwhile Tannadice colleague of Courts — made his approach.
In the meantime, Courts had formally departed United ‘by mutual consent’.
“They [Rijeka talks] probably dragged on for a wee bit too long,” continued Courts.
“That allowed Honved to step in. I know Chris Docherty from our time at Dundee United and the more I researched what they’re trying to do here, there are a lot of similarities with United.
“They have a very good academy and are a club that should be performing better in terms of their league position.”
He added: “It was never my intention to leave Dundee United. But when the Rijeka opportunity started to develop, and subsequently the Honved one, I got excited about the prospect of working outside Scotland.”
A training ground ‘up there with the best in England’, complete with cryotherapy chambers, multiple pitches and dormitories; a brand new stadium; a swathe of youth internationalists; the mouth-watering away-days to cities he never imagined visiting.
Nevertheless, leaving United — especially with the draw of European football next term — was tough.
— Gaby 🇺🇦 (@DjGabyG) March 23, 2021
“It was difficult to leave because, first and foremost, there is Europe to look forward,” he continued.
“Next season, there was further opportunity to put my own stamp on things, with five or six new signings. It was a wrench leave the club. But I believe I have definitely left it in a better place.
“The pleasing thing from my perspective is, in the aftermath of it all, Dundee United have appointed a very good manager in Jack Ross, who I think will have success there.
“And my relationship with everyone at the club is still intact.”
Courts on Dundee United dugout turnover
Addressing the turnover in managers at Dundee United, with Jack Ross the club’s third permanent boss since Robbie Neilson departed in 2020, Courts added: “The club has been promoted from the Championship, consolidated in the Premiership and then finished fourth.
“So, although the managers have moved on after a season — which is pretty unique; I have to concede that — the club is still progressing positively.”
Courts’ young family have already been to Hungary to visit and intend to return once Honved have completed their upcoming training camp in Slovenia.
Allied with getting know his entire staff, the players and the city, Courts is steadfast in his determination to ‘throw himself in’ to this challenge. However, mastering the local lingo will be a step too far.
“I was actually told right from the outset not to bother learning Hungarian,” he laughed. “Statistically, it’s one of the most difficult languages to learn. Aside from some pleasantries and football language, I’m going to stay away from it!”
While his linguistic ambitions remain modest, Courts’ coaching aims are lofty.
From Kelty to Tannadice to Budapest, the Fifer hopes his intriguing career path is one that will lead to the upper echelons of the game.
“I want to grow, I want to develop and experience different things,” he added. “And everyone harbours ambitions to manage at the highest level.
“I am still relatively young. I have time on my side, which is why I decided to come here.
“So yes, I am an ambitious guy — but I recognise I need to do a good job here.”