Gary McGowan hopes his switch to Banks o’Dee will be the perfect marriage of bootroom and classroom.
Former Huntly schemer McGowan is studying a full-time construction project management degree, alongside his job at Cala Homes.
It had appeared that he would call it a day this summer at 35, walking away from the last year of his contract at Formartine United as the travelling had simply got too much.
But his friendship with Dee boss Jamie Watt persuaded him to give football one more try, albeit dropping out of the Highland League into the juniors.
With more priorities now, McGowan reckons it feels like a better fit.
He said: “One of the biggest thing with leaving Formartine United was because I felt I was taking on too much.
“It’s a full-time degree but it’s all online. My nights are taken up with writing essays and reports. At the grand old age of 35, I never thought I’d be doing that.
“This is my first time at university. I’m a joiner by trade and I wouldn’t say I’m the most academic man in the world. But if you put your mind to anything, you can do it.
“Jamie said if I’ve got essays and reports that need doing and I’m struggling for time, I can train once a week. It gives me that bit of flexibility.
“There’s going to come a time when I’m not fit to play football but while I can, I should keep playing.”
A lack of game-time at Formartine and his increased commitments had made him think this was the end of the road.
He had been travelling around the north of Scotland for the best part of two decades and was looking for something that fit his life better.
McGowan added: “I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted to play and I’d taken on a degree as well as my job. I felt it might have been the right time to step away, being 35.
“When lockdown had started I was doing a lot of running – I’m probably fitter than I’ve have ever been. I had a bit of interest, asking if I would consider playing on, and Banks o’Dee were keen.
“I spoke to Paul Lawson and he didn’t ask me to leave. But if I wanted to leave, he would have to put me on the transfer list. Banks o’Dee managed to strike a deal and I’m looking forward to it.”
He has been impressed with the squad Watt has assembled at Spain Park, which includes former Aberdeen, Caley Thistle and Dundee United midfielder Stuart Duff, as well as Cove Rangers alumni Dean Lawrie and Hamish Macleod.
McGowan trained for the first time with his new team-mates this week, with the North Superleague side splitting two groups of 10 into Monday and Wednesday sessions, restricting five players to each half of the pitch.
He added: “The facilities they have got and the pitch, it’s all set up in a good way. They’ve done really well in the juniors in the last four or five years and competed well in all the cups they’re in. It’s a club that’s got good ambitions.”