Dale Wood is pleased to be back playing with Forres Mechanics having considering quitting the Breedon Highland League after receiving a ban from the Scottish FA.
The 24-year-old was given a 20-match suspension in December 2019 for breaching gambling rules while with former club Rothes.
Covid-19 disruption to the football calendar meant it was only earlier this season that Wood’s ban was over.
The defender, who is also comfortable in midfield, admits he considered calling time on his Highland League career.
Wood said: “It’s good to be back playing and it’s been a weight lifted off my shoulders really.
“I had the ban and then Covid came and it felt like I was never going to get back on a football pitch.
“So after that it’s just a joy to be back playing.
“At one point I considered stopping – a few of my pals play in a welfare league and it was in the back of my mind to go and play in that.
“But after leaving Rothes and speaking to Charlie Rowley, he told me I had a lot more to offer and Forres have made me feel welcome and I’m enjoying it.”
‘I did feel a bit hard done by’
Wood felt he was harshly punished for breaching disciplinary rule 31.
At the time the Scottish Cup, League Cup and all four tiers of the SPFL were sponsored by betting companies.
Wood added: “I did feel a bit hard done by. I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus, but I think a lot of people know more goes on.
“As a result I felt hard done by and speaking to people from other clubs they said similar.
“But it was one of those things I had to take it on the chin and move on.
“There’s the irony of tournaments being sponsored (by gambling companies) as well.
“I wasn’t embarrassed by it, I took it on the chin and moved on.
“That’s all behind me and I just want to focus on playing football and helping Forres move up the table.”
Can-Cans can get better
On the pitch, Wood was part of the Forres team that lost 2-0 to Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic in the first round of the Scottish Cup at the weekend.
The Can-Cans produced a decent display against the Lowland League leaders, although it wasn’t enough to progress.
Wood believes Charlie Rowley’s side can still improve with their next outing on Saturday against Brechin City.
He said: “It was always going to be a tough ask against a very good side.
“But I think we gave a good account of ourselves and on another day one of the chances we had might go in the back of the net and it’s a different game.
“At the end of the day, it’s disappointing to be out the Scottish Cup.
“But Bonnyrigg are a good side and we’ll rebuild and go again.
“We’ve not been beaten in many games, but we’ve drawn a lot.
“We can still improve and it will come in time we’ve just got to keep pushing on.”