Pete Russell: Leaving Glasgow broke my heart

Russell has left Glasgow to go to DEL2 side Freiburg (PHOTO: Al Goold)

Former Glasgow Clan coach Pete Russell says deciding to leave the club after only a year was one of the hardest things he’s ever done.

The Scotsman will take on the role of head coach at EHC Freiburg in DEL2 next season in a move that surprised many throughout the Elite League.

But Russell says it was an opportunity that would have left him wondering about ‘what might have been’ if he didn’t accept.

“Something I always wanted to do was go abroad and it was something I felt I just had to go and try,” he said. “It was hard to take it because I loved it so much in Glasgow, but my wife had said “You only live once” and she was right. It’s a chance I feel I have to take.

“I don’t want anyone thinking for a minute this was something I took lightly.  It was anything but. I’m leaving Glasgow with the heaviest of hearts and it’s important the fans know and understand that.

“Everyone I met there made me and my wife feel so welcome and I can’t speak any higher of the respect I have for Neil Black, who gave me this opportunity and I feel terrible that I’ve disappointed him.

Russell won the Gardiner Conference title last season with Clan, pictured with captain Zack Fitzgerald (PHOTO: Al Goold)

“It’s the same for Gareth Chalmers, all the staff and all the fans as well.  It’s all on me and It’s something I feel I have to do.  If anyone in what you would call a ‘normal’ job were given an opportunity to do something that could improve them, then it’s the same in sport.

“The hardest for me in all of this was telling Neil and Gareth that I had made the decision to leave and letting them and the fans down.  It was the last thing I wanted to do.

“But I knew if I didn’t try it, it might never come again and a Scottish coach, there’s not many guys in my position who get that chance.”

Russell arrived from Milton Keynes Lightning to take over from John Tripp in April 2018 and led the club to the Gardiner Conference title, an overall fourth place finish and a spot in the Challenge Cup Semi Finals.

He reflected on his season there and spoke of the affection he has now for the club and its fans as they search for Russell’s replacement.

And, speaking from Kosice after leading Great Britain to survival in the World Championships, he hasn’t ruled out hope of perhaps coming back one day, if the opportunity ever arose again.

Russell arrived in Glasgow from MK Lightning in 2018. Now he’s off to Freiburg (PHOTO: Tony Sargent)

Russell added: “It was great to be back in Glasgow last year and Glasgow was good to me.  The Purple Army were amazing and that’s not just empty words.  I genuinely mean that and the support they gave me and the players will always be appreciated.

“The core of players is there and I think I’m leaving the club in a better place than when I first arrived.

“Hopefully one day, people will understand my reasons.  I’m a Glasgow Clan fan now and I’ll be watching their scores and progress all the time now. If there’s anything they ever need to help me, I’ll always be there for them.

“Everybody, to a man or woman, were amazing to me.  From Neil, Gareth, the office staff to the fans, there’s no better place to be in the UK than there, with the people involved.

“The last thing I want the Purple Army to feel is that I let them down.  If I have, then I can only apologise to them.  They’re a great set of people and I hope they enjoy whatever success comes.  They more than deserve it.

“That 20 minute period against Guildford in the play-off, where everyone sang to try and push us on is one of the many memories I’ll never forget.

“You never say never and maybe one day, I’ll come back, if they have me back.  I’m leaving with a heavy heart and I mean that from the bottom of my heart and thank you to everyone for what they did for me.”

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