Josh Meekings is eager to make up for last time after 10 months out of the game.
The former Caley Thistle Scottish Cup winner, who had been without a club since leaving Dundee in the summer, has joined National League side Wealdstone until the end of the season.
It marks the end to a period in the football wilderness for Meekings, who had latterly been training with Leyton Orient in a bid to get himself match-fit.
The 28-year-old, who moved closer to his family home in Suffolk last year after nine years in Scotland, had seen an opportunity to move abroad this month fall through.
He made 192 appearances for Caley Thistle, helping them lift their first major trophy and qualify for Europe, before 53 games at Dundee and being named club captain by Neil McCann.
“It’s obviously been a long time but I took my time with everything,” said Meekings. “I came down in the summer, knocked a couple of things back early on that were in Scotland.
“There was something that came up – I was keen on the idea of playing abroad and had something lined up for this month but coronavirus hit that one, so that fell through.
“I got to the second week of January and though ‘I need to start playing’. My last game was in March. I was training with Leyton Orient before Christmas for four or five weeks, which kept me up to speed.
“Dean Brill got me in there and he knows people inside Wealdstone. That came about and asked if I wanted to come down and have a look. It’s one that seemed the best fit for everyone.
“Without disrespecting Wealdstone, you’d probably say I’d knocked back bigger clubs in the same league. But this one just seemed right for everyone and all I really want now is to get out and get some minutes.”
Here's how the Stones line-up this evening.
— Wealdstone FC (@WealdstoneFC) January 18, 2021
He is grateful to his ex-Caley Jags team-mate Brill for helping him out, in inviting him to train with League Two side Orient where he is goalkeeping coach.
“Dean text me at the end of November and asked what I was doing,” said Meekings. “This was just to go into Leyton Orient and see if I could get up to speed. I wasn’t training with anyone and was just keeping myself in as good condition as I could.
“He knows the coaching staff at Wealdstone and he just said to me ‘would you like me to have a word?’ and that’s how it came about. I’m thankful to him as he’s managed to get me in.
“I couldn’t let my whole season dwindle out and not play any minutes anywhere. I’m just trying to get playing, get up to speed then what will be in the summer will be.”
Meekings made his debut in the 3-1 FA Trophy win over Gloucester City on Monday night, his first game since a 2-0 win over Ayr United in March 2020.
Wealdstone are a part-time club in league which is mainly full-time and Meekings has noted the situation in Scotland, with Leagues One and Two currently on hold. Championship clubs had also been asked whether they wanted to continue the season, on the back of a wide-ranging interview from Inverness manager John Robertson last week.
Meekings, however, has no personal concerns about going into the part-time game.
“They’re in the National League and the majority of clubs are full-time,” he said. “It’s just a case of they got promoted last year and if the National League is going ahead, there’s no reason Wealdstone can’t, regardless of whether they’re part-time or full-time.
“If they’ve got the proper precautions in place from the governing bodies then there’s absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t continue.
“I know League One and League Two in Scotland have been postponed for three weeks and obviously the message has gone out to the Championship. For everybody at the minute, not just footballers, it’s a case of take it as it comes because it’s a pandemic and it’s happening globally. You need to be grateful for what you have got at the minute.
“I still have a lot of interest north of the border. I turned down a few things up the road but it was purely for family-based reasons. It’s a time of reflection and putting family in front of anything.”
Former Caley Thistle favourite Josh Meekings has backed his old boss John Hughes to get Ross County out of trouble.
Meekings won the Scottish Cup with Inverness under Hughes in 2015 and feels his return to the game is long overdue.
Victory over Aberdeen at the weekend lifted County off the bottom of the table and gave Hughes his first home win as manager since ending his three-year absence from the game last month.
Meekings said: “I’d be delighted if he can turn it round up there. He deserves it and if there’s any man capable of it, it’s him. I really hope it goes well for him up the road and it’s great to see him back in the game again.
“Was I surprised to see him out for so long? One hundred percent. With his footballing brain and love for the game, he shouldn’t have been out of it for as long as he was. Yes he might have had a sticky patch when he went to Raith, but that happens in football. It doesn’t take away what he’s done wherever else he’s been.”
Meekings will keep an eye on his two former clubs’ fortunes in the Championship, as both bid to make a return to the top flight.
He added: “Inverness have got the capabilities of going up. I think Hearts will take care of it – in my opinion they’ve got the strongest squad – but it’s a case of rolling up your sleeves and getting as high as you can.
“I’ll be keeping an eye on them and hopefully they can push up the table. Likewise with Dundee, hopefully they can make the play-offs or challenge Hearts.”