Former Dundee captain Josh Meekings grateful of opportunity to get playing again with National League Wealdstone
Former Haverhill schoolboy Josh Meekings is looking to make up for lost time after signing for National League side Wealdstone.
The 28-year-old returned to his parents’ home in Cavendish in June after ending his 10-year stay in the top two divisions in Scotland, having played for Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Dundee, where he was captain.
But Monday’s 90 minutes for the 15th-placed west London-based Stones, a 3-1 home success against Gloucester City in the Buildbase FA Trophy, was Meekings’ first action since the Scottish Championship season was halted in March last year.
“It was good to get out there again,” said the ex-Samuel Ward Academy pupil who was released by Ipswich Town aged 18.
“There was a bit of rustiness but that’s to be expected.
“Wealdstone have given me an opportunity and a platform now so hopefully we can have a successful season and just see whatever comes and falls into place in the summer.”
The centre-back, a Scottish Cup winner in 2015, said he turned down the chance to join some bigger clubs and almost ended up playing in Poland. But after a spell training with Leyton Orient in the run-up to Christmas he said it ‘fitted’ to take up Wealdstone’s offer.
"Like I said before, the whole thing about coming back here was family-orientated and based on a decision with my own family," he said.
"I hadn't been home in 10 years and I just thought hopefully I will get an opportunity.
"I had a couple of sniffs from clubs but nothing concrete and then the time was dwindling away and I tried to keep myself busy.
"What I will say if it gave me a chance to spend time with my family and with my daughter but it has been tough with the fact I hadn't been able to sort anything out. Clubs were reluctant to let me go in with the virus and that was completely understandable.
"I probably couldn't have timed it any worse with coming back down with the way everything has gone because not only is it just the virus and the actual health aspect of things it is obviously money and the restrictions as well. Clubs have tightened up their budgets which is completely understandable and Dundee were doing the same up the road."
But opportunities did eventually come up but Meekings felt they were not the right ones, leading to him deciding to give a move abroad a go.
With respect to Wealdstone I had turned down bigger clubs in terms of offers before it but I just felt it was the right fit for me in terms of the timing of it and I want to get playing football again - Josh Meekings
"I went into a couple of clubs and did manage to get my foot in the door and I had a couple of offers that, without being disrespectful to Wealdstone, at the time were probably bigger clubs," said the former Sudbury Cricket Club player.
"But during that time I felt that it wasn't the right decision for me and I didn't want to rush into something because I had nothing.
"We got to the Christmas period and my ex team-mate at Inverness Dean Brill is at Leyton Orient as a goalkeeping coach, so I started training with them.
"It was fantastic, I can't thank them enough for getting me up to speed. They are a brilliant club, really professional, so that was a big help.
"It was going on for a couple of months and nothing really happened and then there was some talks about me potentially going abroad and I was keen for the idea of it.
"There was talks of it happening in January and then it just completely fell through because of Coronavirus because of the spike in the virus and lockdown."
Although he did not want to name the club he did reveal the country of destination was Poland.
But as one door closed another opened much closer to home.
"From the Leyton Orient thing Dean knows people within Wealdstone's coaching staff; he knows Dean Brennan (manager) and Kurt Raymond the goalkeeping coach there and they just sort of had a word asking if I would be interested," he said.
"It got to the second week of January and I just thought do you know what I just want to get playing football again.
"With respect to Wealdstone I had turned down bigger clubs in terms of offers before it but I just felt it was the right fit for me in terms of the timing of it and I want to get playing football again. I haven't played since March and I am just looking forward to helping Wealdstone and trying to show what I can do."
And he has been impressed with what he has experienced with the Ruislip-based club so far, having been announced as a new signing last Friday.
"It has sort of opened my eyes up to what there is down here and how it is," he said of the standard of football.
"They have got a nice little pitch and stuff and they like to try and play football the right way - it is everything I need at the moment in terms of just getting games.
"It just fitted the way it all came about and how things had not worked out how I had originally planned.
"It gives me a platform to get out there and start playing football again and that is all I want to do to be honest.
"I am 28 and I need to be playing as I want to play as many games as I can. I have my injury history and I want to get through that and show that is in the past now and I am fighting and ready to go."
Despite playing in his favoured centre-half position on Monday night's home FA Trophy tie, Meekings earned his side two penalties, one of which was converted to give him his first assist.
But being a defender, he was disappointed not to claim his first clean sheet with the Royal Blues.
"We did really well playing against Gloucester City who were top of the Conference North, flying in that division," he said. "It was always going to be a tricky tie and in cup games it is a one-off game.
"We kept it tight for the majority of the match and then one of their boys scored a fantastic goal from about 35 yards, putting it in the top corner.
"There is not much you can do about that but for myself it was personally nice to get 90 minutes and hopefully now I've got the ball rolling I can keep going now as there is games coming thick and fast."
Next up for Wealdstone, who are looking to steer clear of relegation in their first season since promotion, is a home game with Aldershot Town on Saturday (3pm).
Their reward for winning on Monday is an away tie with lower-league Darlington in the FA Trophy fifth round on February 6.
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