Peter Grant has urged Ross Graham to find his voice after leaving the on-loan Dundee United defender out of the Dunfermline squad at the weekend.
Grant had kept faith with the Tannadice prospect throughout a tumultuous campaign to date, with the big centre-half making several key errors during the Pars’ miserable start to the season.
However, the East End Park gaffer dropped Graham from his 18-man group for Saturday’s draw against Inverness, with a pairing of Vytas Gaspuitis and Paul Watson helping the Fifers claim a maiden clean sheet of the campaign.
Grant remains convinced that Graham will be a ‘big asset’ to Dunfermline — but acknowledges that there are areas in which he must improve.
“The bottom line is you’ve got to remember you are a defender,” said Grant. “Ross has to get better at that — we all do, as a group — and he’s got to get better with his mouth.
“I know a lot of young players don’t speak any more, but that’s so important.
“When anyone would ask me to name my Perfect XI, I would always pick Mick McCarthy and people would look at me funny.
“I’d say ‘he was World class . . . with his mouth!’ He was always talking. He was an organiser.
“That’s what I’m trying to add to the group but you can only learn some of these things in the heat of battle.”
However, he also acknowledges that a spell away from the heat of battle can be beneficial; an opportunity to reflect and regroup.
“I remember taking Robbie Deas off at half-time against Ayr United when I was at Alloa — Robbie thought that was his career over!” laughed Grant. “Then I played him the following week and he was outstanding.
“Young players are going to make mistakes. They are going to make errors.
“You try to stick with them but sometimes you need to say: ‘Hold on, let’s take a step back’. That allows them to just watch the game and see things that you miss during the match.
“The top defenders learn and realise that the margin for error is very minimal. The quicker you do that, the better.”
And when Graham does ultimately return to the side, Grant is certain he will make the most of his precocious natural gifts.
“Ross is 6ft4ins, he’s mobile and he has a lovely left foot that allows him to play out and be a modern centre-back,” continued Grant. “He has every attribute to be a top player. There’s no doubt he will be that.
“He’ll be a big asset for this football club. He just needs to settle down, get himself back in the team and get back to basics.”