After 10 months out with a knee injury, Josh Meekings could have been forgiven for hoping to be eased back gently into competitive action.
Instead, he was thrown into the deepest of deep ends from the start against Celtic at Parkhead on Saturday.
However, the former Inverness centre-half looked like he had never been away, producing an assured performance against the attacking threats of Leigh Griffiths, Patrick Roberts and Scott Sinclair.
Now after making his long-awaited comeback, the 25-year-old is looking to cement his place in the Dundee first team and repay boss Neil McCann for showing faith in him.
Meekings said: “The manager had a chat with me at the start of the week and said I could be in contention but the team wasn’t announced until the Friday.
“We had been working on a lot of things in training on what we wanted to implement in the Celtic game.
“I am grateful I got the opportunity.
“I slept OK the night before. It was more getting the tingles and the nerves coming back like I haven’t had in a long time.
“I had never had a long-term injury like that before so it was slightly different for me.
“I had an operation after I tore my cartilage. It was more a tidy-up than anything but it took a bit longer to recover than they thought.
“It is something I will have to keep working on and managing and I think I have the right people around me to do that now.
“It was great to get back out there playing again.”
Meekings added: “You know how good the Celtic players are. They are where they are for a reason.
“They are playing Bayern this week which shows the level they are at but it is just something you look forward to doing. Playing football is my main thing.
“I have been working hard in the gym for nine months and not doing what I wanted to do so when you get that opportunity, you are more grateful than anything.
“You just want to be ready to give something back to the manager and all the hard work the physio has done with me to get back out onto the pitch.
“I had last played at the end of December against Ross County in the derby so it has been a very long time.
“I was absolutely delighted to get back out there and it was fantastic to put on the shirt for Dundee.
“Hopefully I can keep my place against Partick on Saturday. It was tough against Celtic but I was quite happy with how I did.
“It was a building block, a stepping stone for me and will just look to keep on improving.”
Meekings was still recovering from his knee op when he received a call out of the blue from McCann asking him to come to Dundee.
He added: “The manager contacted me in the summer and asked me about my knee.
“Obviously everybody knew when I went out of contract at Inverness I wasn’t playing because of the injury.
“So he just rang me up and asked how I was. I think he had a couple of knee problems himself so he understands the mental frustration you get.
“He took that into consideration and was great with me.
“He asked me to come up to Dundee and I was absolutely delighted.
“From that moment onwards, with him letting me come up and use the facilities, I just wanted to repay him out on the pitch and hopefully I will be able to do that this season.”
While delighted to be back, Meekings is taking nothing for granted as he knows he faces an intense battle to keep his place in the side with another six centre-halves on the books at Dens.
He said: “There is great competition.
“It is going to be difficult over the course of a season if everyone stays fit.
“You know you have to be right at it but that’s good for the team.
“To be fair we have a lot of competition all over the place.
“We have Sofien Moussa, Marcus Haber and A-Jay Leitch-Smith up front . . . but there is strength in depth everywhere in this squad.
“I think we can go forward and if we can implement the things the manager wants us to do, we will climb up the table to where we want to be.”