Ethan Ross may not have won a contract in England after departing Aberdeen during the close season.
However, the gifted winger is adamant he returns to Scotland with the knowledge and drive to take his game to the next level at Raith Rovers.
Ross, 20, joined the Rovers on Wednesday after the Fife outfit struck a five-figure compensation agreement with the Dons.
The switch is a major coup for John McGlynn’s men; not only due to the finances involved but because Ross seemed destined for a move to England.
Indeed, he trained with Premier League side Southampton during the summer and was being tracked by Blackburn and Sunderland.
“Many people will look at it and say I’ve failed because, in leaving Aberdeen, my first choice was to go down south,” Ross told Courier Sport, with admirable honesty. “But I believe that it has been character building.
“I was in [for training] at a few different teams and, without going into too much detail, I’ve learned to deal with different challenges now.
“I’m a stronger person and it’s going to stand me in good stead moving forward.”
“The facilities; the way they train; the way they eat; your gym programme and recovery — it was such an eye-opener for me,” Ross continued. “I hadn’t experienced that level of detail anywhere.
“It helped me to see the bigger picture in terms of what I can do better in my training and personal life to reach the levels I want to reach.
“I was working with the under-23s and the standard was excellent. Callum Slattery, who has joined Motherwell and is flying in the Premiership, was someone I trained with.
“If that’s the standard of player in the 23s then it opens your eyes: yeah, you might be decent, but you need to step it up!
“The first step in that journey is getting games under your belt and that’s why I’m here.”
In joining Rovers, Ross’ 10-year relationship with boyhood club Aberdeen — for whom he appeared 14 times at senior level — finally came to an end.
The vagaries and technicalities of the development fee system meant that it was a rather long goodbye, but he has nothing but appreciation for his former employers.
“Aberdeen developed me from the age of 10 and were absolutely within their right to ask for a fee,” continued Ross. “I knew it would be difficult to pursue a move elsewhere.
“Of course, I would have loved it to be sorted sooner. However, as I speak now, I’ve got no regrets.
Want to say thanks to Aberdeen for the past 10 years Coming into the youth academy aged 10 to making my first team debut at 17 and being part of the first team squad Ive had some unbelievable memories and met some friends for life Wish the club nothing but success in the future❤️ pic.twitter.com/bUKXzG3keg
— Ethan Ross (@Ethan10Ross) October 14, 2021
“I came through the academy and was there for 10 years. You grow relationships with everyone, from the canteen staff to the coaches, and I’ve got so many happy memories.
“And I couldn’t be happier, having just signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Raith.”
Now Ross’ sole focus is on creating new memories to delight a fanbase which has already heralded him as a returning hero.
Ross spent a period on loan with Rovers last season and he smiled: “I’ve seen the reaction to the signing on social media — Twitter and Instagram — and it makes you feel good.
“I want to thank the fans for that.
“I’ll aim to repay their confidence on the pitch.”