Ross County midfielder Ross Draper says thriving with the Staggies has allowed him to enjoy football for the first time in more than two years.
Despite County’s relegation from the top-flight last season, a strong start to the Championship campaign has restored the feel-good factor at Dingwall, with Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson’s men three points adrift of leaders Ayr United. The Staggies host Dundee United this afternoon.
Englishman Draper had suffered the drop with rivals Caley Thistle the previous season before making the switch across the Kessock Bridge in 2017, and the 30-year-old says the back-to-back relegations took their toll on his life away from football.
Draper said: “If I’m honest, I hadn’t enjoyed football for two years before this season.
“It’s not nice – you’re losing week-in, week-out and can’t get out of that rut.
“It ruins your life, if I’m honest. You go home on a Saturday night and it is a long weekend – the missus isn’t happy you’re not going out.
“It is a vicious circle. Going in on a Monday isn’t nice, watching the videos back of you losing.
“I still loved going into training for those two years but I just couldn’t enjoy it fully when losing and can’t get rid of that habit.
“This year, we’ve had the other side of the coin, where we can’t get out of the habit of winning games, which is good to have. Hopefully that can continue.
“Everyone’s on a high now and there’s a brilliant atmosphere around the club.
“We’re just doing a fancy dress draw for the Christmas do and I’ve been paired with Jamie Lindsay. It’s a secret.
“It’s a positive place to be. The managers have instilled that since day one.”
Draper feels the mentality instilled by Kettlewell and Ferguson is reminiscent of that he enjoyed in his early days with Inverness, who he joined from Macclesfield Town in 2012 before going on to win the Scottish Cup three years later.
Draper added: “In my time at Inverness, there were four seasons where it was brilliant. We went into games just expecting to win, even in a tough league with the likes of Celtic, Hibs and Aberdeen.
“Expecting to win every week was a strange feeling considering how good the league was, but it showed how well we were doing.
“This season is very similar. We go into every game believing we can win. I’m not saying we’re always going to win, but that’s how we approach the game.”
County will face a rejuvenated United side who have yet to lose under new manager Robbie Neilson since he replaced Csaba Laszlo, whose final match was a 5-1 loss to the Staggies in the two sides’ last encounter.
Draper added: “It is a completely different team. I spoke to a few of the Inverness boys when they played them and they said it was like a John Hughes kind of team – complete football, with wingers coming inside.
“We know what to expect from them, but we’re at home and try to win every game. If we can start right and apply ourselves in the right way, I’m confident we can get the win.”