St Pat's new boy Billy King(Image: St Patrick's Athletic FC)

Scottish winger Billy King aims for 'fresh start' at St Patrick's Athletic

King struggled for fitness during loan spells while he was on Dundee United's books


For Billy King, the new year move to St Pat's provides an opportunity to press the restart button.

King, who played for Hearts, Rangers and Dundee United, arrived in Dublin on the back of a "horrendous" 12 months, as he describes it.

It began at Dundee United, included a "bad" loan spell at Gillingham and ended at Greenock Morton. A succession of injury problems, including a medial ligament problem, made 2019 a forgettable year.

"I just couldn't get fit," he admitted.

King needed to start again. The point of contact between the winger and St Pat's boss Stephen O'Donnell was Dubliner Willo Flood, who he played with at Dundee United.

The winger met O'Donnell and Patrick Cregg in Edinburgh and was impressed.

It helped that King knew Cregg from playing in the Scottish Premier League and Championship. He liked their ideas of where they wanted the club to go, how they wanted to play.

It also helped that he had been in digs in Gillingham with Graham Burke, with both loanees joining the League One club at the same time, and they spoke about the merits of the SSE Airtricity League.
St Patrick's Athletic manager Stephen O'Donnell(Image: ©INPHO/Lorcan Doherty)

And so here he is. "It felt like a fresh start, coming to Saint Pat's," the former Scotland under-21 international explained.

"Last year was poor, personally. But I've a lot of experience behind me and just wanted to get back enjoying football again - to get back my full fitness, be in the best shape I can be."

Six weeks of pre-season, including a training camp in Cork, were tough but, for a new-look squad, essential.

"I've really enjoyed it," said King. "It feels like we've been getting better and better together."

King knows about trying to hit the ground running. Going into administration in 2013, Hearts had to give opportunities to their youth players.

Still a teenager at the time, King grabbed the chance.

"It lifted a lot of us into the first team," he said. "It was fortunate, but we were so inexperienced and were relegated that season.

"It was like being thrown in at the deep end. It was sink or swim, but great experience.

"We won the Championship the following season and that was a real highlight. The fans put their hands in their pockets to save the club."

Then there was the loan move to Rangers, Replacing Kenny Miller on his debut, King scored a 90th minute winner against Falkirk during the club's Championship-winning season.

"It was surreal circumstances," he recalled.  "The loan move happening a few days before the January window closed. "Another good experience, seeing what the standard was, working under Mark Warburton and Davie Weir."

Four years on, he wants to show the Saints management, players and supporters that they have signed an attacking threat.

"I'll work my socks off," he promised. "I've given myself an opportunity by coming here. That's all I'm thinking about".