Exclusive Interview: Conrad Balatoni

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

Edinburgh City defender Conrad Balatoni spoke to James Rowe about his career up to date in Scotland.

(image source: CityWire)

JR ''You signed for Edinburgh City in 2018. How are you enjoying your time at the club so far and how would you describe the club?''

CB ''I am really enjoying my time at the club so far. Edinburgh City are a part time team who were the first team in Scotland to go up through the pyramid system which the country introduced to the lower leagues so they have a good history behind them in that respect. We struggled initially but then the club decided to invest in the playing squad and it kind of fell hand in hand with me as a player looking to go part time and also Edinburgh City as a club looking for a player with my kind of caliber and in my position on the pitch. It worked out in both parties best interest and Edinburgh City are a great club who are very family orientated and very involved in the community and hopefully in the way that the club has been going in the past few years in terms of progression after progression that the club will be able to get to the standard and the level that the club want to be at in the near future.''

JR ''You came through the youth team setup and going on to be part of the first team squad at Hearts of Midlothian. How do you look back on your time at the club and did you learn anything in particular which stood you in good stead as a professional footballer?''

CB ''Yes, I went full time in the youth setup at Hearts of Midlothian when I was 16 years of age and I had a coach in Darren Murray who I cannot speak highly enough. He set the standard and instilled discipline and taught us the right way to play football and I have always looked back on that and thought that the coaching that I got from him in particular was second to none. Darren Murray is one of the best coaches that I have trained with and for me personally it was always about self belief and making sure that I was working hard and Darren was all about that and that has helped me in my career because I was never blessed with amazing talent but I was good at what I did and I worked hard and listened and learned to my coaches and took things on board.''

JR ''After initial loan spells you signed for Partick Thistle and went on to make many appearances for the club. How do you reflect on your time there and do you have any highlights or special memories?''

CB ''Yes, I would say that my time at Partick Thistle was probably the most enjoyable of my career apart from now at Edinburgh City and I fell in love with the club, supporters and the players that I was playing alongside and under a good management team too. We went and had some very successful memories. We won the league to get promoted into the Scottish Premier League and we also stayed up in the SPL and I look back on fond memories and it is unfortunate to see where the club are now in that they have dropped down a couple of levels from where they should be even though I cannot do anything about that because I am not there anymore. I made a lot of friends for life during my time at Partick Thistle and I still speak to a lot ex players, coaching and management staff from back then. The highlight of my career so far was when we won the league and got to the final of what they called at that time the Ramsden Cup and it was a highlight season because it was the first time we had won silverware which always sticks in the memory.''

JR ''You have accrued a lot of experience in England and Scotland. Could you say who are among the best players you have played alongside during your career so far?''

CB ''Yes, I have played with quite a few good players at Partick Thistle and with the likes of Kris Boyd at Kilmarknock FC who was SPL top goalscorer. I also played with the current right back of the Scottish national team Stephen O'Donell and Scott McKenna too. I also played with Jackie McNamara who was a Celtic FC legend. I have been fortunate to play with many good players and probably one of the best players I played with that a lot of people may not know was a player called Steven Lawless who currently plays for Burton Albion in England. We played together at Partick Thistle and he was a played who was technically very good and a good goal threat and he also works very hard on the pitch and I believe that he is a player who does not get the recognition that he deserves and it is nice to look back on playing with players who have all gone on to have very good careers and remember the fond memories.''

JR ''I can imagine in your position as a defender that you have come up against many difficult opponents through the years. Could you say which opponents have stood out in terms of talent and ability?''

CB ''Yes, I played against a young lad called Ryan Gauld who is currently playing for SC Farense in Portugal. He was an incredible player. He tore us apart when he played for us and he was only 17 years old at the time. He created 4 goals for Dundee United against Partick Thistle. I also played against Andy Roberston and Virgil van Dijk and these are boys who have won the Champions League and the Premier League. I also played against Scott Brown who is a Celtic FC legend and an unbelievable player who just runs the show. Leigh Griffiths is also another good player. John McGinn was a great player for Hibernian when I played against him and it is great to see him doing so well at Aston Villa. I also played against Lyle Taylor who is currently at Nottingham Forest and he is also an excellent player. You can see when you come up against certain opponents that they have got quality and playing against Virgil van Dijk when I was at Celtic FC you could always tell that he was a class above any other player on the pitch and that he was always going to go on to make it at the highest level and he has done. I remember when I played against him I would mark him at corners and he never scored against me so I always use that as a small party piece when I am with my mates and we are talking about football.''

JR ''Finally Conrad, You mentioned Darren Murray at Hearts of Midlothian. Could you say who are the coaches and managers who have meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development as a professional manager?''

CB '' Yes , Darren Murray was obviously the first one and I have had managers such as Ian McCall who took a chance on me at Partick Thistle and he gave me the opportunity to play first team football at the age of 19 and when he left Jackie McNamara came in and he instilled belief in me and brought me to Partick Thistle full time and gave me a contract. Alan Archibald also played and important part and I think all four of those managers played an important part in my career and I think without any of them I would not be in the position I am today. Those four managers definitely had the biggest impact on my career and got me to the player I am today.''

James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.