Former Northern Ireland winger Paddy McCourt says he has ‘definitely not’ hung up his boots.
The 33 year-old is without a club after leaving Glenavon last month.
He only joined the Lurgan club during the summer but his spell at Mourneview Park was cut short by mutual consent. Now, he’s keen to get back onto the pitch.
“I want to continue playing,” he said. “I have definitely not hung up my boots. I am in good condition physically. I am just taking a bit of time to decide what I want to do next. It has to be the right move.
“Glenavon simply did not work out, unfortunately. I had a chat with Gary Hamilton (Glenavon manager) towards the end of the year and we agreed it was probably best for me to move on. It was an amicable split.”
For the time being, McCourt is keeping himself busy and is creating quite a stir amongst the young players on the JD Club NI elite development programme.
McCourt spends a couple of hours every Tuesday night coaching at The Vale in Greysteel and on Thursdays he can be found at St Columb’s College in Derry-Londonderry.
Martin McCann, the regional head coach for JD Club NI, said having someone of Paddy’s calibre working on the programme can only benefit the young participants.
Paddy is coaching 2005s (under-12s) and 2006s (under-11s) in his native North-West – and he is loving it.
When he moved back to Northern Ireland last summer for family reasons - his wife was seriously ill but is now, thankfully, on the road to recovery - he was invited by the director of the Irish FA’s elite developmentprogramme, former international Jim Magilton, to attend some JD Club NI coaching sessions.
Initially, when Paddy was playing part-time football with Glenavon, the Derry Pele, as he is known to fans of his former club Derry City, could only commit to coaching one evening per week.
But now that he has severed his ties with the Irish Premiership side he can be found coaching the JD Club NI boys two nights a week alongside fellow coaches Martin McCann, Craig Lynch and Malcolm Ritchie.
“I had no second thoughts when Jim Magilton first approached me about doing some coaching, and I am really enjoying it. It is really helping me to build up my coaching experience,” he said.
Paddy is currently working towards his UEFA A Licence after completing his B licence with the Irish FA a couple of years back when he was moving clubs, between Barnsley and Brighton.
“When you get a bit older you think about the game more. I would have been about 26 or 27 when I first considered taking up coaching and I firmed up my interest when I hit the 30 mark,” he explained.
Martin McCann revealed when Paddy first appeared at JD Club NI coaching sessions only about 10% of the participants knew who he was.
“I told them to go and watch Paddy’s skills on YouTube, and now everyone knows who he is. His presence has even boosted our attendances,” he quipped.
“Having someone of his calibre, who has had the experiences he has had, such as playing in the Champions League and winning titles with Celtic, and who has gained a lot of knowledge, can only benefit the boys.
“He has played under managers like Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan and, of course, Michael O’Neill and he is keen to pass his knowledge on.
“And it’s not only the playing side. He wants to help the kids become better human beings. He is helping them with lifestyle choices, such as eating habits, and explaining how it takes hard work and dedication to succeed.
“Having him here has brought a real feelgood factor to our programme,” he added.