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Ross Graham: Cove Rangers boss Paul Hartley delighted for his former defender after Scotland Under-21s call-up

Ross Graham in Betfred Cup action for Cove Rangers against Hibernian.
Ross Graham in Betfred Cup action for Cove Rangers against Hibernian

After his loan spell with Cove Rangers, Paul Hartley was confident Ross Graham could break into the Dundee United first-team.

Graham has been a revelation in the second half of the season for United, making himself a mainstay of the defence at Tannadice.

After overcoming a tumultuous early-season loan at Dunfermline, Graham scored in the 3-3 draw with Rangers and last week earned a maiden call-up to the Scotland under-21 squad for their March internationals.

Hartley got to work with Graham at close quarters last season. The centre-half played 24 times for Cove and helped them to the League One play-offs, where they lost out in the semi-finals.

There was enough talent there for Hartley to back him for a breakthrough into Premiership football under Tam Courts.

Ross Graham celebrates scoring for Dundee United against Rangers
Ross Graham celebrates scoring for Dundee United against Rangers

“He’s done really well. He had a difficult spell at Dunfermline where it didn’t pan out so well, but he was great for us,” said the former Dundee boss, who has Cove top of League One this campaign.

“I always thought he could play in their team. He’s got great size and a great left foot. He’s aggressive.

“You need that wee break to get put in. I’ve seen a couple of his games and he’s done really well. I’m delighted for him.”

Graham set himself a target of getting into the first-team after leaving Cove last summer, a task which has been accomplished.

He is also evidence of a strong relationship between United and Cove, with Declan Glass, Matty Smith and Archie Meekison all having loan spells at the Balmoral Stadium previously and Kai Fotheringham joining this year.

Graham will join up with Scot Gemmill’s squad alongside Dundee’s Zak Rudden and Aberdeen pair Calvin Ramsay and Connor Barron, for games against Turkey and Kazakhstan on March 25 and 29 respectively.

Cove Rangers manager Paul Hartley.
Cove Rangers manager Paul Hartley

Graham’s first taste of senior football came with another north side in Elgin City, playing eight times in early-2020 before Covid curtailed that season.

Then came the impressive loan spell with Cove, which earned him a new three-year deal at United last summer.

His time with the struggling Pars did not go to plan, but it highlights the ups and downs of the loan market.

“The loan system can work both ways,” added Hartley. “It’s all about getting experience – what did you do well, what mistakes did you make, what can you do better.

“It’s a different environment with different pressures.”

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