AS the old Glasgow phrase goes, some folk fall into the Clyde and come out with a salmon between their pearly whites. In footballing terms, Neil Alexander may just be one of them.

The 38-year-old goalkeeper is spending this week in the salubrious surroundings of St Andrews on Scotland’s east coast. As a veteran of the Scottish game, the man who once made it all the way to the UEFA Cup final is readying himself for another crack at Europe next week, a goal he has been working to all season. The only thing is, it’s not with the Hearts.

Alexander was the experienced and safe pair of hands in the Tynecastle goal last season, playing a key role in not only helping Hearts adjust to the Ladbrokes Premiership but guide them to third place. After months of negotiations, it seemed a stick on for the former Rangers and Scotland keeper that a deal to extend his stay with the Edinburgh club was all but done, only for the offer of fresh terms to be withdrawn at the last moment.

It was a shock that left his future in turmoil as the former Cardiff City player faced up to the prospect of dropping down the divisions or even moving to England to prolong his playing career. That was, of course, until Aberdeen came calling, meaning Alexander is training at the home of golf this week with last season’s Premiership runners-up, rather than third-placed Hearts who will play them in St Andrews tomorrow.

"Everything was great,” he said. "But things change quickly in football and you just have to move on.

"The contract was just pulled off the table. Robbie [Neilson, the Hearts manager] had his reason and, whether I agreed with it or not, he's sticking to his guns. It was his gut feeling and he wasn't going to change his mind.

"It did, of course. We were done, we had been negotiating for six months, everything was fine, there were never any problems, and then at the last minute, after the season, it was pulled off the table.

"So, obviously, it comes as a shock. It doesn't matter how old you are, if you're an experienced professional like myself or a young boy.

"It's never nice. I was settled at Hearts, I enjoyed it there, and had done well. I was looking forward to the next season, in Europe, and then suddenly I go from having a contract to not.

“It’s hard, very hard. There’s no loyalty, emotion or sentiment in football. It’s dog eat dog and you have to look after yourself at some point.

“At the same point you have to learn from it, gain experience from it and move on. If you hold grudges it’s difficult to forgive and forget.

“Luckily, I feel that I’ve maybe moved on to bigger and better, you never know.”

As fate would have it, Hearts manager Neilson spoke to the media just two hours later a short stroll away from Aberdeen’s Old Course Hotel base where he gave his account.

He said: “We had spoken with Neil about the plans for the future but in football things change quickly.

“There comes a point you have to make a decision and sometimes these decisions can make people feeling they’ve been hard done by or they’re not happy about it but if I was to keep everyone happy at the football club I would have 120 players. I have to make the decisions that is best for the football club.

“Neil is still a very good goalkeeper and will do very well, but I had to make a decision for the football club.”

Back to Alexander, and the Edinburgh native is readying himself for a European assault with Aberdeen, kicking off next week with a home tie against CS Fola Esch of Luxembourg, and he added: “European nights are amazing and you want to play at that level. It’s not the Champions League but it’s the next best thing and the lads have done brilliant to qualify.

“So we just want to get going and see where it takes us. Europe is a very big attraction for players coming here and also for the players already here. We want to get going in the competition and show everyone in Europe what Aberdeen is all about.”