There have been two constants in Didier Agathe’s life; faith and football. He will call upon his experience of both as he embarks on his first formal coaching role with Durham City, whenever football finds itself back on its feet following the coronavirus.

If his Catholicism will offer a refuge away from the complexities that will come with management then there will be more practical advice sought from those who were key during his playing years, most notably Martin O’Neill.

Having established his own academy in La Reunion over the last decade, Agathe has been patient in waiting for an opportunity to step into a formal coaching role after completing his UEFA A Licence in Belfast three years ago. The job at Durham has come around via Agathe’s friendship with Olivier Bernard, the French defender best known for his time at Newcastle but who also had a brief stint at Rangers.

“I have spoken a lot with Olivier, who is the owner and chief executive of Durham,” said Agathe. “I have also had a lot of help and support from John Woolnough who is on the board at the club. They have offered me this chance and I am very grateful to take it.

If I don’t try then I will never know if coaching is for me.”

It will be a robust introduction for Agathe; Durham are in the Second Division of the English Northern League and have survived relegation after the FA declared the season over and all results expunged, with neither promotion nor relegation.

Agathe will look to put his own stamp on the team with his philosophy coming not just from his experience in football but also from the faith that has been a mainstay throughout his life.

“When I played for Celtic, there was a feeling that people loved you because you were a football player but over the last 10 years I have been able to use that to do a lot of good in La Reunion,” he said. “The only thing I want to do is to help people get better and be the best that they can be.

“Martin’s big strength was the way he managed us not just as players but as people. Players know when what someone is telling them is true or not true and to me I always felt that I could trust him completely. I hope that now I will be able to go to him for a little advice too.

“Being a Celtic player or a footballer, it is just a title. Always, I want to love and to understand because that is the only way to true happiness. You look at all the money that is in football but yet a few seasons ago you had Leicester winning the Premier League.

“How is that possible? It comes when you have some things that money cannot buy and that is what I want to try to teach and to coach.

“I will not go to Durham and say that I played for Celtic or whatever. It will be 50/50 – the players will teach me as much as I teach them. I also have a lot to learn as this is such a new environment for me and a new challenge.

“I am excited because I have wanted to try coaching for so long. If I don’t try then I have no way of knowing if it is for me. There are no guarantees.

I know that. It might not be the right thing for me. And it is why I wanted to try at a smaller club where there is not quite so much pressure to perform, but in any walk of football life there will always be an element of knowing that you have to win games.”

Agathe was part of a

Celtic team in which a

number of players have gone on to coaching and management, with the most obvious example being Neil Lennon, the current incumbent of the role at Parkhead.

“It would be a dream of mine to return to Celtic in a role like that but I am also realistic,” said Agathe. “And Neil looks as though he is doing a good job right now. But you never know. To me, nothing is impossible with God.

“When I first arrived in Scotland and I was sleeping in my old car, had someone told me that within a year I would have been playing for Celtic,

I would have thought they were crazy.”