JIM Goodwin is on a booking. It is for a taxi that will shortly take him from Glasgow city centre to speak with clients at the airport, the latest adventure in his new life in the real world. Twenty minutes earlier he had jogged in full of apologies, his previous meeting having overrun.

After spending the best part of two decades as a professional footballer, a summer switch to the part-time game with Alloa Athletic prompted the 34-year-old to seek out supplementary employment and he is now working for a recruitment company. It has been, as he admits, an “eye-opener”.

“It’s my first real job – I’ve never worked a day in my life,” he admits honestly. “Putting on a suit in the morning and joining the rush hour takes a bit of getting used to. It’s longer days now. As a full-time footballer, if you wanted you could be in for 10am and home for 1pm, although I liked to get in earlier and leave a bit later. So it’s been an eye-opener. But I’m pretty sure every ordinary working man out there will have very little sympathy for people like myself as we lived the dream for 20 years.

“I left school when I was 15 with nothing really, just the Irish equivalent of Standard Grades. I came over to Celtic and the agreement was that I would do further education. But I was a 16-year-old boy away from home with a few quid in my pocket and the dream of becoming a professional footballer and a multi-millionaire. So I was never going to need to work as far as I was concerned.”

After arriving from his native Waterford, the promising centre-half made steady progress through Celtic’s youth system and made what would turn out to be his solitary first-team appearance in May 2000, a match notable for Henrik Larsson’s return from a broken leg.

The arrival of a new manager in the summer, however, would spell the beginning of the end of Goodwin’s hopes of establishing himself as a Celtic player.

“When Martin O’Neill came in as manager, that’s when I realised it maybe wasn’t going to happen for me at Celtic,” he says. “I had a great relationship with Tommy Burns and got on really well with Kenny Dalglish who gave me my debut. But I soon realised I wasn’t Martin’s kind of player. I was 5ft 11in, quite small for a centre-half, and he was signing monsters like Joos Valgaeren, Marc Rieper, Johan Mjallby and Bobo Balde.

“But I had a really honest conversation with Martin and he just told me opportunities would be limited. It was a difficult decision to leave but I think it was the right one.

“Celtic at that time could afford to splash the cash on big money signings. If I had been around five years later under Gordon Strachan it might have been a bit different when finances were tighter. They had to give young boys a chance. I had been there with John Kennedy and Stephen McManus in the same reserve team and you see how their careers have panned out and how mine has. But I’ve no regrets over any of the decisions I have made.”

Persuading his mum to let him move overseas in the first place was possibly the hardest part. “Where I’m from in Ireland is out in the sticks so moving to a big city like Glasgow was quite daunting.

“But I had made my mind up. I had to beg and plead with my mother who was reluctant to let me go. I put in a lot of groundwork with my dad to convince my mother that it was the right thing to do. I was terrified of holding off and the opportunity going. I came over on my own and I loved it.”

He will return to Celtic Park on Wednesday for possibly the final time as a player when Alloa travel to Glasgow for their Betfred Cup quarter- final. A move into management is on his long-term radar but for now he wants to concentrate on playing.

“At the moment I want to play for as long as I can as I’m still only 34 and feel that I’ve got something to offer. Players are playing for a lot longer these days and as long as I can continue to prove my fitness – and I’ve not missed a game this season through injury or suspension for that matter – then I’ll keep going. Going back to Celtic Park will be great. I thought after dropping down into the Championship with St Mirren and now playing in League One with Alloa that I wouldn’t get another chance to go back but the draw has been kind. I’m looking forward to it.”