Basford United striker and ex-Stag Liam Hearn has spoken of his dream to be a Football League manager after re-joining Mansfield Town as their academy’s head of performance.
The 33-year-old striker, who will continue to play for Basford and stay on their coaching staff, said he still felt he could do a job as a player at Football League level.
But, after a taste of the hot seat when he spent the last two months of the season as interim manager at Basford, and seeing John Dempster’s progress to first team boss at Mansfield, Hearn knows what he wants to do.
He said: “I will still be playing for Basford. I’ll still get the boots on after I’ve dusted them off a little. I am looking forward to this year. I feel great. I am in really good shape at the minute.
“I think I have now learned to look after my body a little bit better and not just go diving in as I used to.
“I am really excited for the season ahead. I am excited to be playing - but my future is in coaching.
“I can learn from all the coaches at Mansfield – there are so many knowledgable people you can bounce ideas off. I am in a great position.
“I want to see how things work, take it all in, and progress as a person, progress in my qualifications, and see where it takes me.”
On his playing career, he said: “It’s not my future.
“Don’t get me wrong. It would be a dream to get back out there in the Football League.
“I look at a lot of players now and the age is going up. And I do genuinely think I could still do it. But I would be stupid if I thought that was anything other than a distant dream now.
“The dream of mine is to be in Demps’ position in five or 10 years – that would be amazing.
“I take my hat off to him. He deserves it, and later on down the line, hopefully that will be me.”
Hearn enjoyed his brief time in the Basford manager’s chair, saying: “It was really good. We went 15 games unbeaten, which was a luxury as I know it can get difficult.
“We spoke about potential coaching jobs at Basford with the first team, but I was very reluctant.
“Even though I’m too young, the chairman spoke to me about it but I said I’m not ready for that yet. I need way more experience.
“I think Demps has gone the right way about it at Mansfield. He has learned his trade in the academy and built it up.
“You look at what he has achieved and it’s fantastic to see him get the opportunity with the first team. I think he thoroughly deserves it.
“Maybe my time will come. But not for a while yet.”
Hearn remembers Dempster showing future managerial qualities when he was a played, adding: “He had that calmness and he is not so hot-headed to just dive in there.
“He will sit back and think about it. He is a great guy – deceivingly funny – and a very positive person. When you’ve got those attributes it always helps.
“I think he will bring something new to the game which I think is much-needed.”
Hearn is loving his return to Mansfield, where he spent a year as a player – mostly sidelined with a knee injury.
“I think everything happens for the right reason. I’ve grown so much since my time at Mansfield and have just finished my residential on my A licence.
“I’ve walked into a really good academy and I want to repay the faith the club had in me through my injury as a player.
“The club supported me then and since and it’s great to come back in another capacity and help the academy grow even stronger.”
At Mansfield, Hearn will be working alongside the U18s and U21s coaches and also also aim to improve players in specific positions within the academy. He was delighted to get the nod for the job, saying: “With the gaffer moving to the first team, Coops (Richard Cooper – new academy manager) then stepped up and a few people got promotions which opened up this position for someone else.
“Through the work I have been doing and the relationship I have always had with Mansfield I was fortunately the one to be offered it and gladly took it.
“It’s great to see the chairman has retained everyone I knew from when I was here as it’s a family and it’s great to be part of it.”
He added: “I will be based between the ground and Brooksby College, helping the coaches, working off Coops and trying to keep things very structured.
“Coops is big on delegating. Mansfield have got massive plans for the academy and he has so much work to do.
“So I have been invited in to help him with the load a bit. I am loving the challenge and it’s now all systems go. This is now a really good academy.
“I think this year we can get promotion to League One with the gaffer and I think the academy is in the right place to kick on as well.”
Manager Dempster said: “Liam has come back to the football club to work alongside Richard Cooper in the academy.
“He’s done a really good job at Basford academy in recent years, developing players not only through their football but also their education.
“So he is somebody we’ve brought in who we think will strengthen the academy.”