Recently retired defender David Elebert reflects upon a playing career, which has taken him to the UK, Iceland and both sides of the domestic border. Unfortunately, as David tells ExtraTime.ie, the latter years, troubled by injury, have finally taken their toll.
A youth career spent at Preston North End never developed into a Deepdale first team appearance, which meant Elebert made his senior debut while on loan at Conference side Scarborough in 2005. The following year, the young defender joined Hamilton Academical, where he was part of a very talented team, who captured the 2007/08 Scottish Football League First Division.
“They have a great policy going there. Even now, they keep turning out young players. They're quite happy to be down near the relegation spots, as survival is the main aim. We got relegated in my last year there and they have again since, but keep bouncing back up almost straightaway. It's a credit to the club that they're not afraid of relegation and stick to their principles. To churn out young players and mix it with a bit of experience has held the club in good stead and proven to be successful over the last decade or more.”
After five years at the Accies, the Irishman unexpectedly ended up playing the 2012 campaign for Icelandic outfit Fylkir: “I was looking for a move away from Scotland. I went on a couple of trials, but injured my hamstring during one. My agent had a lot of connections and asked me if I wanted to go to Iceland for a season. My wife got a job in London and we were living in Windsor. She was over once a month and I, the opposite way. Fylkir were such a family-friendly club and the whole community uses their facilities. They accepted me from the word go and it was a real eye-opening experience. They focused on playing football and not blood-and-thunder like some of the UK clubs. I remained free of injury in Iceland, which made it even more enjoyable.”
Returning home to Ireland, the Dubliner linked up with Trevor Coly's Shamrock Rovers, winning the 2013 League Cup and Setanta Sports Cup during his solitary season. However, fitness struggles made for a frustrating year, despite the aforementioned successes.
“I played in one of those finals (League Cup) and was on the bench for the other, but didn't play enough games for the club. Even though I won those trophies, I felt like a personal failure. It would be interesting to read the stats to see how many games I was available for and played in. The strength of the squad meant that if you got an injury, it was difficult to get back in the team. It was frustrating at the time because it was a club I really wanted to do well for. Trevor, as a coach, was probably the best I worked under. The attention to detail at training, even down to the colour of the cones was unbelievable. At the same time, I wish I had more minutes on the pitch and influence in the dressing room for Trevor and the club.”
Another injury-hit season (with a Roddy Collins-led Derry City) preceded David being signed by Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton in early 2015. The Lurgan Blues went on to capture the next year's Irish Cup, but Elebert missed out on contributing come the final.
“I was at the club for 18 months before we won the cup, so still felt part of it. That bunch of lads had great team morale and camaraderie. For that occasion I wasn't in the squad, but played a lot of games that season. Leading up to the final, I was coming back from an injury, so knew in advance that I wasn't going to be involved and swallowed that brick early on. I just enjoyed the day with the lads in the dressing room because we were such a tight-knit group, it made me feel part of it.”
Exchanging Glenavon for Ards in the summer of 2017, David has only lately announced that his playing days are over at 32 and concludes by explaining why: “The injuries just took their toll. Throughout my career, I wasn't blessed with a lot of pace for the level I played at. I always found myself having to train at 100% to keep up and used to be tired going into games. At Ards my appearances per season wasn't good, when the club needed everybody pulling their weight. They managed me well and I was able to play 25 games last year … This year, I was only involved in around 12. The last four or five years, I was doing rehab to get myself ready for matches and in the end, it just got too much for me.”