Leaving Town was a ‘blessing in disguise’

THERE were always going to be casualties in the bloated squad inherited by Paul Jewell.

The Town boss had to make snap decision on many youngsters as he looked to add some much-needed experience to his ranks.

Josh Meekings and Rory McKeown were not offered professional terms by the new manager when their academy scholarship ended last season.

But both have dusted themselves off, quickly found themselves new clubs and are now starting to impress in the Scottish Premier League.

For Meekings, the rejection from Ipswich might have been even harder to take with him being raised in Suffolk – his family still live in Cavendish, near Sudbury – and also captaining the Under-18s last season.

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But he retains a positive outlook on the decision having recently broken through at Inverness Caledonian Thistle under former Town idol Terry Butcher.

Meekings, who is due to face Celtic on Saturday, said: “Paul Jewell was very positive to me. He said I did all I could and there was no doubting my effort. But, at the time, there were a lot of people in front of me at centre-half.

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“He didn’t think I was quite up to that standard but he felt I had a future in football if I kept working hard. I want to make a career for myself. It is not about proving Ipswich wrong, I just want to prove to myself that I can do it. This is now a fresh start.”

The 19-year-old had no hesitation in moving to Cally in the summer but the daunting step took a turn for the worse after he spent 10 weeks on the sidelines.

Ironically, it was a tackle by another former Town youth, Ed Upson, during a pre-season friendly with Yeovil which did the damage.

But after starting the last two matches, Meekings said: “I had a bit of a shaky start with injuries. But the gaffer has made it a lot easier for me and the club has a similar vibe to Ipswich – it is like a family-run team with everyone working together.

“Celtic was one of the first fixtures I looked for and I can’t wait to play them on Saturday. I was on the bench for the match at Celtic Park and to experience something like that was just unbelievable.”

Like Meekings, McKeown didn’t waste time finding a new club – linking up again with Kilmarnock boss Kenny Shiels after the 18-year-old Northern Ireland defender had played under him at youth level.

And the manager’s faith was repaid on the opening day of the season when the unknown McKeown scored on his debut against Dundee United.

He said: “I was thrown in at the deep end when I started the first game of the season. No one knew who I was but I scored on my debut so it was a nice way to get my name known.

“The SPL is, physically, a very demanding league and also tactically demanding so you have to know what you are doing. I am only 18 and I’m playing against some people who have been in the game for 20 years so it is giving me great experience.

And of Jewell’s decision, McKeown added: “Paul Jewell is a very experienced manager and he knew what type of player he was looking for. Sadly, I wasn’t that type of player.

“But in the past few months I have definitely become a better player. Sometimes these things can turn out to be a blessing in disguise.”

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