Ross Graham reckons his challenging loan stint at Dunfermline will prove to be an invaluable learning curve as the precocious defender continues to thrive at Dundee United.
Graham, 21, readily admits he was ‘on a downer’ following a miserable spell with the Pars, enduring a series of underwhelming showings in a visibly struggling Championship outfit.
And he credits the support of his United teammates and coaches for boosting his spirits when he returned to Tannadice in January.
Allied with Graham’s unshakable belief in his own ability, the towering centre-half has made 14 appearances for United, scored two goals and earned a Scotland under-21 debut.
The turnaround, in his own words, has been ‘crazy’.
“I had a bad start with Dunfermline but have turned it around since coming back to United,” said Graham.
“It has been crazy at times.
“It was all about mindset, getting confidence back and enjoying myself again. I was on a downer at Dunfermline — but the coaches and other players [at United] realised I hadn’t had the best of times and really helped me.
“In the long-run, what happened at Dunfermline will be good for me. You have to take every experience and learn from it. Nothing will ever be plain sailing.
“Before that, I had a good loan with Cove Rangers in League 1. We narrowly missed out on promotion. You learn from both experiences.
“Everyone has different paths and I back myself even more now.”
Graham penned a contract until the summer of 2024 prior to joining Dunfermline, underlining the regard with which he is held by Tannadice chiefs.
Nevertheless, he saw the likes of Kerr Smith and Lewis Neilson afforded a chance to stake their claim at centre-half before he was given an opportunity.
That only served to make Graham more determined to stand out when his time came.
“I had a chat with the gaffer [Tam Courts] when I was coming back from Dunfermline and he said there would be opportunities,” continued Graham.
“He told me to train hard — which I did — and he stuck me in the team. I have to be grateful to him for that.
“My chance has come a bit later [than some others]. I knew that, when it did come, I had to take it with both hands.”
There is no doubt Graham has done exactly that, with his progress acknowledged with a nomination for Scottish Football Writers’ Association young player of the year this week.
Although Aberdeen’s Calvin Ramsay claimed the prize, Graham was honoured to make the shortlist.
Speaking ahead of United’s crucial clash with Motherwell on Saturday afternoon, Graham continued: “I was delighted to be nominated.
“I saw the shortlist on Twitter and was buzzing!
“It was just good to be included alongside some top talents.
“Now, I want to look forward and think about what lies ahead.”