Michael Rose needed room to grow.
Aberdeen born-and-bred, there was obvious disappointment when he knew he would not get his moment in the sun at Pittodrie.
But leaving the Dons and heading for challenges afresh at Ayr United have proved very fruitful indeed. His pre-contract with Coventry City last week is proof of that.
While the Honest Men tasted relegation in Rose’s first season at Somerset Park, better was to come. They won promotion back to the Championship in a dramatic finale to last season, pipping Raith Rovers on the final day, and this year they have surged beyond all expectations to lead the second tier.
Anchored by the goals of Rose’s former Dons colleague Lawrence Shankland, Ayr have blown pre-season predictions of a survival battle out of the water. It all adds up to vindicating Rose’s choice.
He said: “Myself and Lawrence both knew we were probably not going to play at Aberdeen and had to go and play games. It’s definitely helped me a lot in trying to make my name in the for myself in the game.
“I didn’t think the decision to leave Aberdeen was going to be in my hands, as I wasn’t going to be offered a contract. I was gutted, as I was an Aberdeen boy, but looking back know I know it was the right decision.
“I feel like I’m a better player. Living away from Aberdeen has helped me too, in growing up away from football.”
One senior appearance was all Rose had to show for his time at Pittodrie, while Shankland did not make another appearance after the 2014-15 campaign, spending consecutive seasons on loan with St Mirren and Morton.
He arrived at Somerset Park a year after Rose and plundered 29 goals in 33 games, inspiring them to promotion. His form this season has exceeded even those high standards, with 28 goals in 24 games getting his name noticed by potential suitors.
Rose said: “I have known Lawrence for a number of years and he does look a different player. I always knew he was good but at a young age, you’re having to wait for that chance and having to be patient. Now he’s coming to an age where he’s really starting to kick on.
“If you’ve got a striker that’s banging in goals, obviously that’s very important. But it’s not just his goals – his all-round play has been brilliant. He probably sees it as well but it’s not all about him. We’ve got quite a solid team and we keep a lot of clean sheets.”
Ian McCall’s side hold firm aspirations of making a title challenge. As well as Rose and Shankland, another former Don in Daniel Harvie joined them this summer following his release by Aberdeen.
The Dons connection in South Ayrshire has made it easy for the new faces settling in and Rose is still in contact with some of his old team-mates in the Granite City.
He said: “It’s mainly Scott McKenna and Scott Wright – we text each other now and again depending how results have been. I’ve known them both for a long time. It’s great to see big Scotty (McKenna) doing so well; I’m surprised it’s happened in such a short space of time, but not how far he can go. I always thought he was a good player.”
The ambition for Rose remains to play at the highest level possible and his move to the Sky Blues in the summer, a proverbial sleeping giant in English football that is due a reawakening, will give him that chance.
“We have spoken about promotion but because it’s still early, we’ll never get carried away with ourselves.
“I have come on a lot but it’s mainly down to playing and enjoying football. Hopefully it keeps on going.”