Grateful Meekings pays back Dundee boss’s faith at Celtic

Dundee's Josh Meekings at Celtic Park

Having not played a game of first-team football since December 2016, it was a risk for Dundee manager Neil McCann to throw Josh Meekings in for his debut at Celtic Park on Saturday.

Not least because the man he replaced, Kerr Waddell, scored a winning double against Hearts in the Dark Blues’ previous league match.

However, the English centre-half did his boss justice.

The ex-Inverness Caledonian Thistle defender lined-up in a back three alongside Jack Hendry and Darren O’Dea and coped admirably with the threat of the champions’ front three of Leigh Griffiths, Scott Sinclair and Patrick Roberts.

It was a long-awaited comeback from a knee injury for the 24-year-old, who last played for the Highlanders in their 3-2 Hogmanay loss to rivals Ross County.

Meekings was delighted to be back on the pitch.

“It feels brilliant to be back,” Josh said.

“I can’t thank the physio, Gerry Docherty, enough — he’s been great with me since I came in.

“I was given the opportunity at this club without being signed.

“Being able to come in and use the facilities and work with the manager and Gerry, they worked me hard.

“My knee is something I need to keep managing, need to keep it right and try to build from there.

“I can’t thank the club enough. I’m very grateful to them to be back out playing football.”

Josh Meekings beats Celtic’s Nir Bitton in the air

On top of the aforementioned defenders, Julen Etxabeguren and Kostadin Gadzhalov are knocking on the first-team door but Meekings welcomes the competition and revealed he is comfortable playing in a back three after reserve run-outs.

He said: “The manager’s put us in a three at the back, that’s something we’ve been working on and we did it well on Saturday.

“There are improvements to be made but I think we can take that result and move on from it to improve as the weeks go on.

“We’ve done a lot of work on it.

“Even in the bounce games and U/20s games I’ve been a part of we’ve played a back three.

“The management are trying to drill it into the club, that’s the way they want to be able to play so we can have different styles.

“If he wants to switch it back to a four we can do that as well.

“With the amount of centre-halves we have, there’s huge competition for places and that just makes everyone want to do a little bit better.

“I need to keep working hard in training.

“I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity and I hope to pay them back on the pitch with good performances.”

Meekings was disappointed not to come away from Glasgow with anything to show for their hard work but insists they have a more important run of games ahead.

“If you look at our run of games, we can definitely get some more points on the board,” he added.

“Teams around us like Partick Thistle, Hamilton and Motherwell, they’re the ones you want to be getting three points against.

“If you want to build your way up the table then they’re the ones you’re going to look for.

“It was always going to be difficult going to Celtic on Saturday but we need to start building again with Partick this weekend.

“We need to get three points there and then take it game by game and see how it goes.”