Higgins was quick to stress that McEleney has plenty of years left on the field but he said that the 29-year-old has become a real leader in the dressing room over recent years.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if Patrick does go into management in years to come,” stated the Derry boss.
“I played with him when he was 18/19 and you could see his game intelligence then and when having football conversations with him you can see he loves the game.
“He has fantastic knowledge of the game. He loves the game and he really thinks deeply about it. He has become more of a leader as the years have gone on and it wouldn’t surprise me if he went on to become a coach, assistant manager or manager one day but, listen, he’s still very young and has many years to continue playing before that.
"He’s definitely someone though who strikes me as a coach or manager or whatever you want to call it. I can see him being in the game for a long time.
“I’ve seen it first hand myself, Patrick has developed into a real leader and has actually become very vocal in dressing room environments.
“Patrick is a leader, someone who will be in this game for the next 30 or 40 years because of his knowledge of it and how much he loves football. He also loves the tactical aspect of the game and very rarely he would say something to you and you’d disagree with it.”
McEleney echoes his manager’s sentiments, revealing he may one day swap the jersey for the tracksuit after a roller coaster career which he believes provides the perfect mix of experiences and understanding to help modern day players.
“Look, my main focus now is to play well for Derry City and try to win trophies but, yes, definitely, down the line for sure it’s something I’ll consider. I feel I understand and have my own beliefs on how things should be done,” explained the 29-years-old.
“But, as I said, I’m really looking forward to playing here and then whatever comes after it comes.”
“I have nearly seen everything at this stage. I have been to England and been back, played at my home town club and had to leave, which was a really hard thing to do. I went to Dundalk and was successful, went to Oldham and it didn’t go too well, came back and was successful again at Dundalk and now I’m back at Derry.
“I have played in Champions League play-offs, in the Europa League and I think I have seen nearly everything so I’ve lots of experience and it’s up to me now to be able to show the young lads here at Derry and the other lads on how to live and try to be a success.”
The ex-Dundalk man, known as Fats, says his main focus is on bringing a winning mentality into the Brandywell changing room.
“I have been in that culture where only victories are accepted,” he explained, “Yes, this year was disappointing at Dundalk but in previous years I’ve won something like 10 trophies and that winning mentality was just normal. It’s up to the likes of me, Michael and Danny Lafferty, who I have been speaking to regularly, to drive the changing room and make sure there are no slip ups.”