David Keltjens took a long-game gamble to get his big move to Europe.
And the Israeli international is confident that patience paid off and that he’s found the ideal football home at St Johnstone.
The 28-year-old took a big chance by turning down deals in his homeland last summer.
But it meant he was free to jump at an attractive offer for a new experience abroad if one came up during this transfer window, with Saints proving to be the attractive option he was hoping for.
“It’s a long story but I could have signed for teams in Israel because I had many offers,” said the wing-back, who made a goal-scoring debut in Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw with Aberdeen.
“But I felt it was my time to move on and try football somewhere else, like in Europe.
“It fits my game to come here.
“I am not a kid anymore.
“If I had signed again for a team in Israel then it would be more difficult for me to play outside my country after that contract.
“So I decided to wait and see what came up.
“I trained with a private coach five days a week and put in a lot of work to stay fit.
“I waited for an opportunity like this to come along.”
Saints had a key ally in double-winning forward, Guy Melamed.
“I spoke with Guy because I also had an offer from his team in Israel,” Keltjens added.
“I said I have that offer and can also go to St Johnstone: ‘What do you say?’
“He told me that I would fall in love with this place, I would really enjoy it and it could be great for my career.”
Built to last
That hour turned into virtually a full match.
“I hadn’t played 90 minutes since July,” he said. “So it was a long time.
“But I know my body. I told the coach on Tuesday that I believe I can play 90 minutes.
“But, because there is another match on Saturday, we were going to see how I felt during the game.
“It was more because of the position I was playing.
“It’s hard work going box-to-box. You have to defend and attack all the time.
“I think it suits me because I’m a very physical player with good stamina, endurance and also speed.
“I think I showed that with the goal, being up inside the penalty box.
“So the manager actually didn’t ask me if I wanted to come off or not. He left me to play and I felt good throughout the game.
“I hope to also be fit for Saturday.”
Important headed goals
Keltjens combined technique, bravery and determination to get his head to Graham Carey’s cross for the midweek leveller.
“Usually managers tell me to stay back at corners because I’m not very tall and they want my speed for counter-attacks,” he said.
“But I have scored some important headers in my career.
“Most of them have been in late minutes to win games so it was nice to get another one, although this time it was only for a point.
“I think we could score more goals and we are disappointed with the result because we played well.
“We were a bit unlucky on the night but if we continue to play with this attitude, it can only be good for us.”
— St. Johnstone FC (@StJohnstone) January 25, 2024
Keltjens is confident that Saints have put their Scottish Cup horror show at Airdrie to bed.
“If we continue to play like this, we will take points and move up the table,” he said.
“Sometimes those matches in the cup against a team from a lower division are tougher.
“They have a lot more to take from the game and come in with crazy energy. We didn’t manage to do the same.
“Everybody was very disappointed with the Scottish Cup game but I’m happy we improved – and we must continue.”