HE WAS in the running for an East End return in the summer and Greg Shields says that the time was right to come home.

And he admits that the chance to link up with former team-mate Stevie Crawford made his decision to leave North Carolina and America behind for Dunfermline a bit easier.

The former Pars full back, who grew up in Kincardine and attended Dunfermline High School, made 237 appearances for the club and skippered them in both the 2006 League Cup final and 2007 Scottish Cup final.

He headed Stateside in 2009 to join Carolina Railhawks where, after retiring from playing in 2013, he took up coaching with the club's academy and as assistant manager to the first team.

Shields revealed he had a conversation with chairman Ross McArthur in the summer about a coaching role with the club and told Press Sport that, now he has made it back to Athletic, he is a better coach for his experiences in the US.

"A lot of people talk to me and say they'd love to get to America, but it's very hard," he explained.

"You've got to have the right visa, green card or whatever to get out there, but the lifestyle is unbelievable. Where you live is a beautiful area but we got to a point where it's a bit surreal, really.

"It's not where we want to end up and made that decision when I called Ross last June, during the World Cup, when Stevie came in.

"I'd been twice at Dunfermline with Stevie; I knew Stevie as a person and what the club meant to him. That certainly helped for sure because he knows what I'm like as a person and I know what he's like. He'd filled the role of being the reserve coach, and knew the nucleus of the squad and what it needed, so that was a huge part of it.

"We discuss things that I want to see and what he wants to see. Things just can't happen in two weeks, and that's the thing coming in mid-season, it's very difficult.

"We have to show how we want to play. I love the way Liverpool play and I want to press that way, and I think Stevie would like that as well, but I'm not going to say that's going to happen.

"But he shares a lot of stuff that I like. We're both honest and I think that's what the players like as well."

Shields continued: "The experiences I've had in the last nine-and-a-half years being there makes me who I am today. I've checked every single box apart from being the head coach. I'd put my name in for the position when our head coach left (in December). I was one of the final candidates, which was really good, and Dave Sarachan ended up getting the job, who was the ex-US national team interim coach when Bruce Arena left.

"I spent three years up until 2015 being the main assistant, but then I wanted to further develop, so I stepped away from the first team programme and went down to three days a week because I wanted to be involved with the youth, see that side of it and how that works.

"We had library and video content of how they play, from under-11 players all the way through to our first team programme. That's important because we can see improvement with each age group all the way through to the first team, and that comes out of the style of play.

"I'm a listener, more than I ever was, and it's about the man-management of the player trusting and understanding what the content is that you're telling them.

"I love sitting down and discussing how to improve, and what we are doing really well, and I think that's what our boys will hopefully be encouraged by."

Having also played for Rangers, Charlton Athletic and Kilmarnock, Shields worked under a number of managers throughout his career and he insists he learned from all of them.

"You go from Walter Smith and Archie Knox to Dick Campbell, Bert Paton, to Alan Curbishley, Keith Peacock and Mervyn Day, and then I go to Kilmarnock under Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown, then I come back to Dunfermline under Jimmy Calderwood," he added.

"Then as you know we had Davie Hay, Stephen Kenny and Jim McIntyre, so we had a number of coaches who are very good coaches but who are very different.

"When I look back and I think that way, you learn something off coaches good and bad; things you like, things you don’t like, do you write it down, do you keep it, do you apply it to the player?

"Stevie’s had a lot of good managers, and I had one really good one in the US, Colin Clarke, a Northern Irish international who scored against Spain in the World Cup.

"I learned a lot from him, but also the youth coaches over there as well and how they go about their work. These guys are workaholics and they’re happy to do it because they want to see younger talent break through.

"I’ve said to the players that if they have any questions, ask me, because I don’t want them coming off the pitch and not understanding what I’m asking. That’s important."