Buckie Thistle new boy Sam Pugh reveals the high standards of football he enjoyed while playing for Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa
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FULL-time Stateside football can help make Sam Pugh a big success at Buckie Thistle next season.
The 22-year-old, who came through the ranks of Aberdeen and Arbroath as a youngster, took on a US scholarship and captained his university team in a league he considers to be even better than the one he is going into with Buckie.
Pugh also has Highland League experience with Inverurie Locos and more notably on loan at Keith, where he starred as a teenager before embarking on his American adventure.
The Oldmeldrum-based defender spoke to the Banffshire Advertiser about his time on the other side of the Atlantic and how it has put him in good stead for his return to Scotland.
“I loved my time out there,” said Pugh, who played for Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, at NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) level.
“We finished third in the country in my first year and were unfortunate not to match that in the next few years.
“I went on to become captain of the team there, which I was immensely proud of.
“From a football perspective, it was amazing. You get the opportunity to act professional, training full-time, proper recovery sessions, you eat correctly – your life revolves around the pitch, although, school is obviously important too.
“The experience influenced me massively, as I was able to not only play but communicate with people from all over the world – daily. So learning from these guys is something you can’t do regularly in Scotland.
“I’d say the skill level is probably higher than Highland League, just due to the flair you see on show from individuals from the likes of Spain, Italy, and Germany. The pace of the game is similar, in terms of tempo and movement of the ball.”
Buckie manager Graeme Stewart saw Pugh’s qualities when the player was on loan from Locos at Hall Russell juniors, before switching to Keith where he played against Jags four years ago.
“I played a full season at Keith, which was probably my most enjoyable year of football in Scotland to date,” Pugh said.
“I started at centre-back, and when [former Keith boss] Allan Hale came in around Christmas time, I moved into midfield.
“I was 18 in October of that season, and given the opportunity to play every week at that level, at that age, was huge in my development. There were a few lads in the same boat as me at the time, so it was great for all of us.
“I think I scored nine goals that year, which was a good return, and we finished mid-table too, so a great achievement for our young squad. The experienced lads in the team were superb with all of us, and the experience of playing Highland League every week only benefited me.
“My aim for my time at Buckie is to become influential in an already great side, to push for promotion, and win trophies.
“The squad is one of the best in the league, with strong management and great fans, so the platform is there.”
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