Loaning out Darryl McHardy was the right thing for the former Elgin City captain, says manager Gavin Price
EXILED Elgin City defender Darryl McHardy still has a big future at Borough Briggs if he rekindles his full commitment to the club.
That's the message from City manager Gavin Price to his former captain, who was loaned to Highland League Rothes in a shock move last week.
Price explained how he took action after McHardy went on two holidays, one during pre-season and the other mid-season, then failed to show for training in the new year.
The manager said he grew tired of giving the player second chances, and made the decision to strip him of his captaincy and farm him out to the Speysiders for McHardy's own good.
He is challenging the popular stopper to use his time in Highland League football to re-evaluate his career and work hard so he can return next season with renewed appetite.
"First and foremost, I’ve got a lot of time for Darryl as a person," said Price. "I really like him. He’s a charismatic guy but he has to understand what football at this level involves.
"Ultimately I want him to get the hunger to be back at Elgin and play a big part at his local club.
"I fully want him to be involved in my future plans but equally he needs to have that 100 per cent commitment and passion for what he does.
"If we get that, we get the real Darryl McHardy back for next season.
"I still believe that Darryl has got the attributes to play at a higher level than Elgin. That’s why he is at a crossroads just now.
"If he turns one way or doesn’t want to give the professionalism, then I think the writing is on the wall what will happen.
"But if he can come back and show what he’s capable of and give the proper commitment to the game then it can be at Elgin and beyond. I really mean that.
"Getting regular game time at Rothes is hopefully going to help him get his hunger back."
McHardy (24) has made more than 200 appearances for his hometown club, scoring 35 goals and becoming a firm favourite with the Black and Whites' support.
He was appointed club captain by Price last summer, but dislocated his shoulder in a Betfred Cup tie at Arbroath in July and spent the next three months on the sidelines.
On returning to fitness, McHardy found himself on the sub's bench due to the form of central defensive pair Stephen Bronsky and Andy McDonald.
Price believes the player became frustrated by his absence from the team, and his no-show for training was the last straw as far as the manager was concerned.
"It’s a wee bit of tough love but it’s what’s needed for him, it’s what’s needed for the club and it’s what’s needed for the dressing room at the minute.
"It’s just been a combination of things this year that have hampered Darryl's season, some due to ill luck for him in terms of his injury but other things that could have been avoided.
"He missed the first two weeks of pre-season through choosing to go on a holiday, so he has always been playing kind of catch-up since the start of the season.
"He was unlucky enough to get injured in his first game and was out for a good three months, but he probably missed the chance to get himself in at centre half because of the performances of Stephen and Andy in that position.
"Then, frustratingly for me, when he’s back to fitness and ready to play games he’s choosing to go on another holiday at that point. He missed an under-20s fixture that was important for match fitness, again through his choice.
"It reached the finishing point when I’ve got 24 players from all over the country making the effort to be at training on the 2nd of January and he’s the only player that doesn’t make it.
"I have to do what is right, what I think is right for Darryl McHardy. I think with me skirting over it all the time and ignoring the issue, I’m not doing him any favours.
"He knows I like him and I’ve got a lot of time for him, I like his personality and he can be very infectious and is fantastic with new players that come to the club. He’s got so many qualities about him but I just need him to see what it means.
"I’m not wanting to hang him out to dry here. I want him to understand what it means to play at Elgin and to have a proper commitment that lasts the course of the season, not fits and starts.
"It's entirely up to him. He has reached a crossroads and needs to make a decision now, if he wants to live the life of a professional footballer and do everything he can to be there. He’s got the ability to do that.
"I’m sure if he sits down and evaluates what he’s given, what he’s doing, if he’s honest then hopefully we get the real Darryl back. There’s no doubt that I want him back, but I want a better Darryl McHardy back, the real one and not what we’ve had this season.
Price, who himself played for a number of Scottish clubs as well as a stint in Dutch football, said he was watched fellow players let promising careers slip down the drain and doesn't want his own player to go down the same road.
"I’ve seen too many times in my own playing days and as a coach and manager that people have wasted that opportunity through not giving the proper commitment.
"I know it’s part-time football but everybody has got to make sacrifices. I’ve seen it so many times with people who have got ability way above myself as a player or whatever but they’ve fallen by the wayside because they weren’t prepared to make that commitment.
"I don’t want Darryl to become one of these people. I want him to see a harsh reality of what could happen and it’s up to him.
"Hopefully the penny drops and he comes back giving his full commitment. If he does that he can be a big, big player and a big personality at Elgin for the next seven or eight years."