Sam Pugh’s move to Buckie Thistle was five years in the making.
As a teenager he was spotted by Jags boss Graeme Stewart playing for Hall Russell United, on loan from fellow Highland League side Inverurie Locos.
The two parties could not agree a deal, with Pugh then spending the next season on loan at Keith before relocating to America on a scholarship.
Pugh is now in his final weeks of studying remotely for a business, marketing and management degree at Grand View University, which is based in Iowa’s state capital Des Moines.
His friendship with Buckie regular Joe McCabe alerted Stewart to his availability upon his return to the United Kingdom last month.
“I was on loan at Hall Russell and Graeme tried to sign me then,” said the 22-year-old.
“It didn’t materialise – Locos didn’t want to let me go. I played the year at Keith and then went to America.
“I was talking to Joe and he said to Graeme I was coming back. It’s nice to see that people are thinking about you and keeping in touch.
“I had a few offers from Highland League clubs, but I felt Buckie was the right move for me. I’m excited to join an already fantastic squad, with a great manager and great fans.”
Pugh penned a two-year deal at the end of last month and is also on good terms with fellow Jag Scott Adams.
The defender skippered Grand View Vikings – the university’s football team – and feels Des Moines reminded him of home.
“There’s much more luxurious places to be, but it was the state capital and a similar size to Aberdeen, so it felt like home for me,” added Pugh, who lives in Oldmeldrum.
“There’s a lot of countryside there and the temperature is similar.
“Between August and October it was hot, so I had to get used to that.
“We were training six or seven times a week, so to go to two or three will be a big change. I want to try keep my fitness up like I was full-time so it can make a difference in games.
“The football side of things was the main reason I went over there, as I didn’t have the opportunity to do that when I was younger. I wanted the opportunity to train full-time and experience the professional lifestyle.
“You fall into a routine with football and studying; your team-mates are doing exactly the same.
“You find that balance pretty quickly and what’s the right time to be spending on things.”
Although football’s shutdown has stopped Pugh meeting up with his new team-mates, he has already been welcomed to the club.
“I’ve already been added to the group WhatsApp so that’s kind of eased me in,” he added.
“When I knew I was coming home I thought I might get into training, but the week I got back the Highland League ended the season.
“Graeme sent a text last week or so expecting everyone to keep up their fitness levels. There’s no excuses for slacking off.
“Sometimes if you get an expected break you take time off. But going out for exercise at the moment, it does motivate people and hopefully it has better results.”