Before considering the nomadic life and times of Neil Tarrant it is necessary to ponder the meaning of the Scottish term “teuchter”, because that’s what they called him at Ross County.

County play at Dingwall, as far north as the Scottish League hirples, six hours and 342 miles from Neil’s home on the Skerne Park estate in Darlington, without running headlong into the Old Man of Hoy. “I was 18 or 19, a long way from family and I got a fair bit of flak for being English,” he recalls, though it’s possible that something may have been lost in the translation.

The Oxford defines teuchter simply as a Highlander, citing examples taken to mean “country bumpkin” and particularly, it’s feared, referring to the tweedy folk of Harris.

A few years back the column had also enjoyed lunch with former Hartlepool United chairman Garry Gibson at the Teuchters Landing, a bar in Leith, which formerly had been the terminus of the steamboat service from Aberdeen but which may otherwise be supposed irrelevant.

What’s certain is that if the citizens of Dingwall thought him a teuchter at 19, by 20 they were prepared to offer the free-scoring young Englishman citizenship, an honorary member of the County set.

Football thereafter took him from East End Club to Aston Villa, Norway to Northallerton, Drogheda to Dunston and Barrow to Busan Icons, in South Korea.

There were also five Scottish Under 21 caps, something to do with his grandmother hailing from MacDuff.

He’s now 40, a father of four, and after ten years out of the game – “I fell out of love with it” – has just been appointed manager of Wearside League club Richmond Town, they of the country’s most scenic ground.

“Hundreds of years ago there was jousting on the very field where we play,” he recalls. “The barons would watch from the castle.”

We meet for a couple of pints – Neil of diet cola – the thoughts occurring that he looks rather like a young Michael Gove and, secondly, that nothing in the English language rhymes with teuchter. He is the most agreeable of men.

He’d played for the locally renowned Spraire Lads, signed as a Darlington apprentice under David Hodgson and Jim Platt, failed to make the first team, was invited for a trial at Ross, scored a hat-trick against Inverness Clachnacuddin and was at once signed by County manager Neale Cooper, himself later at Hartlepool.

“That was my real apprenticeship,” he says. “It was a bit rough and ready in the Scottish third division, the first time I’d played men’s football, It was quite an experience and I learned an awful lot. I think the electricity still went off at ten o’clock up there.”

In the first season he was finding his feet, in the second – 1998-99 – he scored 25 goals, only Henrik Larsson hitting more in Scotland, and was named the third division players’ player of the year.

Rangers, Huddersfield Town and Aston Villa all sought his signature. He joined Villa on a three-and-a-half-year contract in a £250,000 deal, was given the coveted No 14 shirt, featured regularly in a Northern Echo career update.

Villa’s manager was John Gregory, his team-mates included Paul Merson, Dion Dublin and Gareth Southgate. He never made a first team appearance, sometimes not even on the bench for the reserves.

“It was from the Scottish third division to the elite,” he recalls. “You don’t slam the door when a club like Aston Villa comes knocking but with hindsight it was too big a step in one go. I should have gone to Huddersfield or somewhere, there was a lot more I needed to learn.

“Villa were very good to me, helped me buy a house, sorted out all the white goods and things. The training was very intense but then we’d only play in midweek. I missed being part of the first team. It could be very, very lonely.”

International recognition helped – “there were Cockneys, all sorts, In Scotland under 21s” – and at the end of 1999 he was loaned to Ayr United, helping them to a Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers. They lost 9-0, destroyed by Andrei Kanchelskis.

“I think I touched the ball ten times, the goals and the kick-off,” he says. “That was the divide in Scottish football in those days.”

The clear message that his days at Villa were numbered came when they signed David Ginola from Newcastle – and gave him the No 14 shirt.

Thereafter he helped Boston to the Conference title – “I shouldn’t really talk too much about that, good team, horrendous facilities” – had a month with Busan Icons and a spell in Norway, where Paisley, his first daughter, was born.

The Icons were managed by Sunderland legend Ian Porterfield. “He was a very nice guy but I was living in a hotel, only BBC World on the television but I was 23 or 24 and for some reason it just didn’t work. If only I’d had someone to talk to.

“Norway was a lovely country with lovely people but at the end of the season we decided to come back to England.”

At 30 he began work at the Cummins factory in Darlington – “fish out of water, my first real job” – and is now a team leader, responsible for a shift of around 40 people. Ruth, his wife, is a senior manager at the same factor.

“She’s also the boss at home,” he concedes. “The lads at work call her the boss boss.”

He played a bit of five-a-side, had a few Over-35s games, wasn’t really bothered. Football had become tedious, he says, too much like hard work. Richmond Town’s approach came out of the blue.

“I work full time, my wife works full time, we have four children and a dog. We talked it over, if Ruth had said no, I wouldn’t have done it. Most managers come with their own people, I had no one.”

After years of seeking a ground which can be developed to higher league requirements – the scenic setting makes planning permission impossible – Town hope to start work on a site at Richmond School before Christmas, to move before the end of the season and to gain promotion to the Ebac Northern League.

The new manager’s hopeful, his five-year-old son Jaxon now an eager spectator.

“We’ve only had three pre-season matches and three training sessions but it’s looking all right. We had three 16-year-olds against West Auckland and they all did well.

“I’ve done some of my coaching badges but I don’t really see myself as a football coach, more of a man manager. I think I can motivate people, I think I gain respect from people. If people like you that’s half the battle, they’ll go the extra mile. This is something I can get my teeth into.

“I’ve made a lot of good friends in football, I’m financially OK, but I’m still just the same Skerne Park lad who played for East End Club.”

After 90 minutes or so, he has to go. Teuchter’s landing, the poor lad’s on night shift.