Pollok Football Club's Assistant Manager, Stewart Ralston, has announced that he intends to retire from football at the end of this season. The 55 year old coach informed the players and committee of his decision shortly after the Scottish Cup final.
Speaking to pollokfc.com, an emotional Ralston explained his decision: "It's been one of the hardest decisions I've made in my life. I love football, and I've been involved in it in one way or another for most of my adult life. Working as a coach consumes hours and hours of time behind the scenes--it's like a second full time job, and I feel that now, with my children grown up, it's time to let that go and try to enjoy the game as a spectator!
"I'm hugely proud of what I've achieved in my career, and I decided in January that I was going to go at the end of this season. Obviously I would have loved to have bowed out with the Scottish Junior Cup, but alas, it wasn't it to be this year.
"I'd like to thank everyone at Pollok for making me and my family welcome at Newlandsfield, and for their support throughout my time. It's an honour to serve a club of Pollok's stature, and I hope the fans are happy with my efforts over the last 3 years."
Stewart has indeed a lengthy history in the game. In 2001, he managed Dalziel High School FPs to Scottish Amateur Cup success (a team containing Bryan Whelan in goal and Brian Sheldon at full-back!) In Junior football he has worked at Maryhill, Lanark, Cumbernauld United and Shotts, with whom he famously won the Scottish Junior Cup.
Speaking of his departing lieutenant, Tony McInally told pollokfc.com: "Stewart and I were talking at the turn of the year when he quietly mentioned to me that he planned to retire at the end of the season, due to various family and work circumstances changing in his life. Although I tried to convince him to change his mind, his mind was made up that this was his last season having given the best part of 30 years to football in a coaching capacity. He felt at his age he wanted greater freedom to holiday when he wanted, go weekends away with his wife Alison and generally, give himself a better work/life balance on his terms; without the 24/7 commitment to football. As you can imagine, Stewart and I have been working together for the best part of 11 years, and I've probably spoken to him every day during that time about football by phone, text or email.
"My trust in Stewart is absolute, and we have complimented each other very well over the past 11 years together. He has been a phenomenal help to me during this time and have personally learned many things from him having started out as a rookie manager at 36 years of age. His motivational skills, tactical nous and coaching skills are first rate and although we have had our fair share of verbal jousts about team selection, player recruitment and training, I have always respected his opinion which has helped me immensely to develop as a manager. To lose a man of Stewart's abilities on the training ground, in the dressing room and as part of the management team is a massive loss to the club and his replacement will have very big shoes to fill.
"Stewart is a diamond of a guy and a great friend, and I hope supporters appreciate how much work Stewart has done behind the scenes since arriving at the club. He'll be missed in the dressing room, but I've got a feeling we'll still see him around Newlandsfield on occasion cheering on the Lok!"
Club President, Iain McFarlane also took time to speak to pollokfc.com: "Stewart has been an absolute pleasure to work with, and on a personal level, I'm going to be very sad to see him go. His committment to the club has been enormous and he has played a huge part in re-establishing Pollok at the top end of the junior game. Stewart already knows that he's welcome to come to Newlandsfield any time he likes, and I suspect it won't be long before he takes us up on it.
"On behalf of the club, I'd like to thank Stewart for everything he's done, and I wish him all the very best in his retirement."