Keith Mackie had to let his head rule his heart after leaving Belper Town to take up the perfect opportunity of joint managing Houghton Main.
Mackie loved his time with Belper as a coach under Grant Black, one of the brightest young managers in the Non League game and someone he worked with for five years.
But with the travelling in the NPL Division One South East set to become worse, Mackie felt the chance to manage Houghton in the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League Premier Division with joint manager Nathan Simms was one he had to take.
“I’ve worked with Grant and (Belper assistant) Micky Norbury for about five or six seasons, first at Ossett Town and then Belper,” Mackie told Non League Yorkshire.
“Grant’s been a fantastic manager and he’s going to go a long way in the game.
“He’s still learning, but he’s a good motivational manager and a strong manager. He knows his stuff and he played at a good level.
“He’s a good coach as well.
“He may be still new to the job, but he’s had some notable achievements already.
“We (Belper) played Notts County in the FA Cup (fourth qualifying round) and nearly got a draw.
“He kept Ossett up when nobody gave them a chance (in 2016) and then took them to the play-off final the following year, again when nobody gave them a chance.
“I throughly enjoyed working with them, but I’m not getting any younger. I maybe have two or three seasons left in me. I don’t think I’ll go anywhere after Houghton – that’ll be my football done and dusted.
“I’m 64 now. I’m still fit and active and I’ve done football since I was 14-year-old. It is a lifetime, but I’ve got grandkids now and you want to spend time doing different things.
“But I’ve still got the buzz for football and the motivation to do it.
“With Belper there’s a lot of travelling involved and looking at the predicted league there’s going to be further to travel (to away games).
“I have three foster kids so it was becoming too much.
“It was sad to leave, but the travelling got too much. You’re training twice as well so it is three times a week plus the long away journeys.
“It is a shame because I think Belper are going to go places. They have fantastic facilities with great people running the club. It was a big decision for me.
“I spoke with Grant about it and I said didn’t want to leave until something came up.
“Going into the County Senior League I wanted somewhere I felt has good potential, decent facilities, a decent pitch, good people and when Houghton knocked on the door it fit the bill for me personally because they have all that.”
Mackie, the former Barnsley head of academy recruitment who scouted and signed the likes of John Stones and Mason Holgate, joins the ever-increasing list of people who have stepped down to Step 7 since last summer.
Wombwell Main and Dodworth Miners Welfare were two clubs who benefited massively from the exodus of players to the County Senior League and Mackie is not surprised players have chosen to go more local.
“The travelling is a lot (in the higher leagues) and a lot of players are dropping down from higher leagues to lower leagues for that same reason,” he said.
“Sometimes you’re leaving home at 9.30am on a Saturday morning and not getting home until 7.30pm.
“They are long days.
“I think the players who have dropped down already were fed up with the travelling.
“That is especially true for the older players who have family and work commitments.”
Mackie managed Goole AFC with Alan Semley in the mid-2010s and even spent a few seasons managing North Gawber many years ago.
That was his last experience of the County Senior League which he believes is in great shape compared to yesteryear.
“When I was in it before which was a long time ago, a lot of teams had players who were mates who just wanted a game of football and to get p***ed afterwards,” he said.
“That’ll not be the case at Houghton.
“Training once a week was unheard of as well (20 years ago) and the mentality of some of the players; they didn’t want to train, not in a proper way anyway.
“It used to be a Saturday gathering and get drunk with your mates.
“The league and the clubs has made big strides in moving towards having very professional environments.
“I wouldn’t have dropped down if it hadn’t.
“The league has definitely improved over the years, without a doubt.
“There’s some good players in the County Senior. There’s some good up-and-coming teams like Wombwell Town who have put a great squad together.
“It is not an easy league.”
Mackie and Simms will have to wait a while to find out just hard the County Senior League is as Houghton are not competing in the highly-anticipated League Cup.
The pair are instead busy talking to potential new signings for next season.
“I used to coach Nathan when he was a player as I was with North Gawber for two or three seasons a long time ago,” he said.
“He was my centre-back so I’ve known him a long time. We get on really well and I think we’ll make a good team.
“There’s been a really positive reaction (to our appointment) and we’ve had some really good players contacting us that we both know and who are wanting to come.
“It is looking positive that we’ll have a decent squad.
“We’re talking to some well-known decent players. Obviously I’m not prepared to mention names, but we will hopefully have some players coming who may shock the odd person by the fact that they’re willing to come.”