Aberdeen midfielder Frank Ross believes his loan spell at Morton has given him the drive to make the grade at Pittodrie.
The 20-year-old from Ellon impressed in his first start of the season on Saturday as the Dons beat St Mirren 4-0 in the Betfred Cup.
Ross, who had a spell on loan at Championship side Morton last season, believes his spell in the second tier of Scottish football has toughened him up for the challenge of forcing his way into the first team at Pittodrie.
He said: “It helped me in every aspect, physically and mentally. Some boys were doing second jobs outside of their football and it probably makes me appreciate what I have got here.
“Some of the boys were also working doing some personal training and even masseur work, little things like that. It can be hard especially when you have a family to support.
“No disrespect but when you go down the divisions you realise how good it is here and what a big club Aberdeen is. It makes me want to push into this team.”
Dons boss Derek McInnes insists Ross merited his late inclusion – at the expense of Niall McGinn who suffered a calf strain in the warm-up – after the player’s impressive displays in pre-season training.
Ross suffered a minor injury which kept him out of the opening games of the campaign but he insists he is ready if called upon after making his first start on Saturday.
He said: “When you are injured and watching training it is very frustrating. When I came back last week I was so desperate to get back and I trained quite well.
“That got me in the team. Maybe I needed that month out to get my mind ready for playing. I came back flying in pre-season. I was one of the fittest boys in the team and I was doing well.
“I had worked hard over the summer, so the timing of the injury was a bit frustrating.”
Ross was joined by fellow academy graduate Scott Wright in the starting 11, while Connor McLennan, Dean Campbell, Bruce Anderson and Sam Roscoe were all among the substitutes.
Ross is delighted to see the youth players being given a chance at first-team level and is determined to take his.
He said: “There are a lot of good young players coming through and they just need that chance.
“It is good to see. Scott (McKenna) started it off and I am delighted for everyone because we are all pals. We are pleased to see everyone to do well.
“It will be tough but it is up to me. If I deliver then a place in team will be there for me.
“It is up to me, although I know there are good players around me. I know I will need to play well.”