With a crucial Championship clash against Ayr United on the horizon later that evening, Ethon Varian’s birthday festivities on Tuesday were understandably muted.
A quick FaceTime with family back home — as has become the norm since he departed his native Cork for Stoke City at the age of 16 — was as close as he came to a raucous party.
However, the Raith Rovers attacker had plenty of cause for celebration after rippling the net in the 2-0 victory over the Honest Men.
“To score a goal on my birthday was about the best present I could have asked for,” smiled Varian. Now 19-years-old age, Varian is also growing up as a player.
He has notched two goals in his last three games — his leveller in last month’s win over Aberdeen was his first ever senior strike — and is leading the line with maturity and composure for one so young.
Bigger, stronger and older attackers have failed to stand up to the likes of Jack Baird, Aaron Muirhead and Markus Fjortoft the way Varian did during the win at Somerset Park.
His instinctive, predatory goal capped an all-action showing.
“Ayr’s the kind of place where you need to roll up your sleeves and battle,” continued Varian. “It was a tough match. They are physical and aggressive — and I really enjoyed that. I’m more than happy to stand up to that and give as good as I get.”
Ethon Varian's goal last night 🇮🇪
— Rep of Ireland Player Tracker (@RepTracker) September 8, 2021
Indeed, those unforgiving contests, allied with the imperative to claim three points every week, was a key reason he joined Rovers on loan from Stoke City.
“That physicality and edge has been a big difference coming up from under-23 football in England, and that’s something I really wanted,” he continued.
“When you look down south, every defender is a big, strong athlete and this is the test I need if I’m going to be ready for that level.
“Hopefully, I can keep rising to the challenge and keep improving with every game.
“I’ve never been short of self-belief but playing regularly, making the step up to men’s football and scoring regularly can only boost your confidence.”
Replacing Lewis Vaughan
Varian’s progress has been timely.
Raith were rocked by the news that Lewis Vaughan had suffered a fourth ruptured ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and is likely to miss the rest of the campaign. It leaves a sizeable void in attack.
“We were all absolutely devastated for Lewis because he is a big player in the squad and a big character in the dressing room,” continued Varian.
“But we’ll all stick with him, help him get through this and hopefully he’ll be back scoring goals sooner rather than later.
“We want to make sure he comes back into a team that’s in a really good place and that means we all need to chip in and get the goals.”