James Eddie was never really a first choice at Glasgow Warriors. The most starts he has made in a season was seven (achieved twice during the 2008-9 and 2012-13 campaigns), and a total of 125 appearances during 11 years at the club averages out at just over 11 appearances per season, with the majority of those games off the bench. But focusing on the bald statistics would be a grossly unfair representation of the contribution made to the club by an outstanding and often selfless servant.
As head coach Gregor Townsend said yesterday, when news broke that the 30-year-old had decided to hang up his boots after a sixth serious shoulder injury of his career ruled him out for the remainder of this season: “James has been a great role model for what the Warriors are all about – working hard every day to improve himself and also doing all he can to get the best out of his team-mates. He has also been a great ambassador for the club and is rightly held in high regard from our supporters.”
“James has shown resilience in the face of a number of setbacks due to injury and improved year-on-year in his time as a Warrior,” added Townsend.
“He’s shown his adaptability in recent seasons, filling in at times in the second-row as well as impressing at sevens rugby, playing in the Commonwealth Games and captaining the club to a Melrose Sevens victory.
“We will miss his positive influence around the group and he is someone who will be remembered fondly by everyone at the club.”
Eddie, who joined the club on an apprentice contract as a fresh-faced 20-year-old for the 2005-6 season, is going to join the family business – the fish and seafood merchant’s W.A.A. Eddie Ltd. He has always been a hard worker during his time as a professional rugby player, but knows that this new career path is going to be a big step out of his comfort zone.
“I’ve always worked in the family business on my days off, I’ve maybe not always been in the market but I’ve always tried to help out, so I’ll be doing a bit of everything – from helping my father with the buying and selling, to the delivering of the fish,” he explained.
“On a Tuesday we start at one in the morning when we have to get all the fish from all the ports and sort it out for the customers, then when you get everything out at about 8am you have to get on the phone and start sorting out what the customers need for the following day. So it’s going to be tough, but I’m looking forward to it.
“My granddad started as a fish porter in Aberdeen and got a small loan from a family member to start the business in Glasgow [in 1925], and my dad came to the business when he was 15, so I’m a bit slow off the mark but I’m sure the old man will get me up to speed.
“It was always my plan to take over the family business. I didn’t want to do it this young but because of circumstances I’ve had to take the leap two or three years before I would have like to.
“But I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason. I’ve had a great career and now I’m looking forward to the next stage in my life.”
Looking back on his rugby career, there is clearly some regret that he is not getting to finish on his terms, and also some frustration that circumstances perhaps conspired against him reaching the full potential he exhibited as a youngster playing for the national team at under-18, under-19 and under-20 level – but the overriding emotion is clearly one of pride at those things he has achieved.
“I was at the club when they played at Hughenden, Firhill and now at Scotstoun, so I’ve been around the block. You almost can’t compare it [then to now] – it’s so different. I remember you used to get in your car to the Palace of Arts, then up to Whitecraigs, then maybe off to Nethercraigs – you would spend half your day in the car.
“Whereas now, you are here at 8am and you are busy until 4pm in training, team meetings, specific unit meetings, and the facility at Scotstoun is world class that we are privileged to play and train at,” he reflects.
“When I started out, Glasgow weren’t winning and I remember when we did in an away game it was like we had won the World Cup, whereas now we go into every game looking to get a result. There is a confidence – not an arrogance – around the squad. We believe in ourselves but we also respect the opposition.
“If I had to name a game it would be Toulouse in Toulouse in 2009 which was one of those days you will never forget. Everyone had written us off but everything seemed to go our way. I started that match and it seems like it was yesterday.
“I’ve had quite a few Scotland A caps in the Nations Cup, the Churchill Cup and obviously when they used to play through the season. I played sevens as well, which has been a great opportunity to travel the world, and to play in the Commonwealth Games at Ibrox was probably one of the highlights of my career as well.”
But that full cap remained elusive.
“There’s always disappointment but it obviously wasn’t for me. I’d have given my back teeth to have a full cap, but injuries early in my career maybe didn’t help things.
“Also, Scotland’s very lucky in having so many great back-rows. There is always somebody coming at you, and when you think of young guys like Matt Smith, Magnus Bradbury and Jamie Ritchie coming through now, there is a lot of good strength in depth there.”