KEVIN McDonald has described resigning as manager of Musselburgh Athletic as “the hardest decision” he has had to make.

McDonald announced his intention last Thursday evening to link up with Kevin Thomson at Kelty Hearts as assistant manager.

McDonald stressed it was far from an easy choice to step away from his role at Olivebank, which he took on in March 2019.

He told Courier Sport: “It was a tough decision.

“I cannot speak highly enough of Musselburgh Athletic and the people involved.

“It is a little bit bittersweet moving on.

“I knew it was a progression but it was hard leaving Musselburgh and the potential of getting them up the league was massive.”

McDonald, 35, and new Kelty manager Thomson have known each other for more than 15 years, with their connection dating back to their time at Hibernian together.

Thomson would go on to play for Rangers and Middlesbrough, as well as a brief spell at Tranent Juniors, before taking up a coaching role within the Rangers youth set-up.

Now, the brothers-in-law are gearing up for their first job together in the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), with Kelty already installed as among the favourites for another promotion after relegating Brechin City with a 3-1 win in the play-offs.

More than half a dozen members of the Fife side’s squad have played at the highest level in Scottish football, with the club expected to hit the ground running in League Two.

McDonald said: “The players they have got are probably playing at a level below where they should be.

“They have got a high calibre of player and I am excited to see where it takes us.”

The former Airdrie and Alloa midfielder had become a familiar face at Olivebank, having first signed for the club in 2014.

As club captain, he missed Burgh’s journey to the Scottish Junior Cup Final in 2015, where they lost 2-1 to Auchinleck Talbot, through a serious knee injury.

After retiring from playing, he became part of manager Calvin Shand’s backroom team and stepped up to become manager when Shand made the move to Tranent Juniors.

McDonald highlighted how the club had become part of his life over the last seven years.

He said: “My whole family is involved a bit.

“My dad comes up and knows the supporters and the committee.

“My wife and kids go down to Olivebank and I have played there.

“It was a family connection and it was really, really tough. The players are good friends there and they have been good to me.”

The new Kelty Hearts assistant manager spoke to Karl Cleghorn, Musselburgh Athletic president, last Thursday to break the news.

Then, he told the players at training later that day before a Zoom call with members of the club’s committee.

He stressed he was keen for the announcement to come from him rather than through social media.

McDonald said: “Karl understood it and knew it was coming one day.

“He knew the potential that I was trying to build and it was a shock but he was delighted for me.”