Matej Poplatnik is determined to be a guiding light in a youthful Raith Rovers squad — regardless of how often he makes the starting line-up.
The Slovenian striker has largely found himself cast in the role of super-sub this term, climbing off the bench for 18 of his 28 appearances and never failing to deliver tireless, hard-running displays.
He has found the net four times, including a close-range effort in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Banks O’Dee which helped to tee up a mouth-watering Scottish Cup last-16 showdown with Celtic.
While Poplatnik is understandably hungry for more minutes, the on-loan Livingston man is adamant his professionalism and work rate will never wane, even when he is far from the first name on the team-sheet.
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“I work hard every day in training and every match is the same importance for me,” he told Courier Sport.
“Of course, I want to play and my job is to score goals. But I am a professional and I must be focused all the time. I am an experienced player and know the role I have, on and off the pitch.
“Our team is young and I need to be one of the players to set an example; to show them that if you want to reach something, then you need to work hard.”
‘The goals will definitely come’
Courier Sport understands Rovers remain in the market for another striker this month, boosted by the guaranteed financial windfall from drawing Celtic in cup competition for the second time this campaign.
That would further strengthen an already fierce battle for places.
But despite scoring a combined six goals in 57 appearances — albeit recent arrival Jamie Gullan accounts for just two of those outings — Poplatnik reckons he, Ethon Varian and Gullan will hit the goal trail for the promotion-chasing Rovers.
“We know that, as strikers, we have not been scoring enough goals,” he said candidly.
“But we are working on that. The goals will definitely come.
“Ethon [Varian] and Jamie [Gullan] are both good players and good lads. I would say that we are a very good group.
“There is good competition for places. I push Jamie; Jamie pushes Ethon; Ethon pushes me — that is what drives you on.
“That makes us all better players and, because of that, we give the gaffer plenty of choice on a Saturday. I believe he knows he can trust any of us.”
He added: “We have two players for every position that could easily play in the first 11. This is what pushes you on the training pitch.”