Eamonn Bannon says he is amazed, looking back to his football career, at how players of his vintage were treated and often abused. Bannon has run a guest house in Edinburgh for the last 18 years, and his career as a hotelier was in part his way of escaping what he calls “the craziness” of professional football.

I wanted to talk football, Jim McLean, Dundee United and sackings with Bannon – and I did. But first it was important to glean his own wider perspective on our existence.

“Being in football is a funny life – and it can be pretty difficult to adjust to something else once it’s over,” he says. “For one thing, nothing is even half as much fun as your playing career. Football is so enjoyable – anything after that is downhill.

“I’m always jealous when I see professional golfers today. These guys can play professionally from the age of 20 to 60 and beyond. Look at Colin Montgomerie – into his 50s and still raking it in and playing the best golf courses in the world. Football is nothing like that. It’s all crammed into 15 years if you’re lucky.”

Bannon was always a little bit different – and not just in his thoughtful playing style. This was the Hearts footballer who, back in 1978, amazed the club by telling them he wanted to drop down from full-time to part-time in order to complete a PE degree at Jordanhill College. That was, until Chelsea came along and offered the part-timer “a whopping signing-on fee” which duly changed Bannon’s life for the next 15 years.

“It was a strange, weird world being a footballer,” he says. “It was like being in the army. Here are all these guys, roughly in the same age-bracket of 20 to 30, in the workplace together every day, being shouted at, being abused. And yet, the playing side of it was tremendous. It was the other parts that were crazy.”

In October 1979 – talking of bawling and abuse – fate dealt Bannon an unforgettable hand. He signed for Jim McLean and Dundee United for £165,000, to embark on one of the most compelling chapters in the history of Scottish football.

McLean was a football genius. And also a tyrant.

“It amazes me looking back to it now,” says Bannon. “This was all pre-Bosman, pre any players’ rights. You were tied to your club for years – you were virtually locked-in. The club controlled your life, there was no escape.

“In the case of Dundee United under Jim McLean, it seems bizarre now that every single Saturday grown men could be harangued and verbally abused, and called every ‘effing B’ under the sun. But it’s the way it was. It seems totally wrong now, but back then you just accepted it, it was water off a duck’s back.

“Under wee Jim, if you survived all that stuff then it made you stronger. Some players did survive it and some didn’t. The other thing that happened was, because we were all tethered to the club, you sort of grew together as a team, you bonded well. I was at poor Ralph Milne’s funeral the other week and I saw most of that old Dundee United team again. It reminded me again of what a great bunch they were. They were all great lads.”

The sacking of Jackie McNamara this week at his old club has caused Bannon a world-weary smile. He has been there – sacked as a coach and a manager back in the 1990s – before he made good his escape to his B&B.

“I got sacked twice, the first time at Hearts when I was Tommy McLean’s assistant, and then a bit later when I was the manager of Falkirk, and it went to court and got a bit messy. So I know how Jackie McNamara must be feeling.

“The thing I found out about football management – and this is directly relevant to Jackie – is that you are not a good manager if you don’t have good players. It’s not rocket science – that’s how it is. So, in Jackie’s case, the club has sold all its best players and – surprise, surprise – Jackie’s team is not as good.

“I don’t blame the Dundee United chairman [Stephen Thompson] – he has to sell the players, he has to balance his books. But it can be no surprise to anyone why Dundee United are no longer as good. And it has rebounded on Jackie.

“I just hope Dundee United do him right. I hope they say to Jackie, ‘right, here’s your money, fair’s fair, now piss off.’ No excuses, no letting it drag on. That is how a club should do it. That’s how Chelsea do it in England and it’s how Rangers used to do it in Scotland. I hope they see Jackie right.

“In saying that, it’s a results-driven business. It’s very simple – if you don’t get the results you get sacked. That’s why Jackie got the bullet.”

In the quest to find the next Dundee United manager, and who might fit best, the cerebral Bannon swiftly warned me off asking him.

“I haven’t a clue,” he said. “I’ve given up trying to guess who will be a good manager or not. I’ve played with guys who I thought would be great managers, and they weren’t, and other guys I thought would be hopeless, and they did well. So don’t ask me.

“There is so much luck involved in football management. For instance, you might come along to a club just when there is a good crop of players coming through, and they had nothing to do with you. So I’ve got no idea who Dundee United should go for, or who might work for them. But I can guarantee there will be a queue of guys wanting that job.”

Did Bannon ever wish he could have been longer in management himself?

“Not really. I had no illusions about becoming a Jim McLean or an Alex Ferguson and being in the role for 30 years. Football is too crazy for that. It hardly ever happens. Invariably, you get a wee shot at it, like I did.”