Aaron Norris feels his loan spell with Formartine United has given the confidence to make his Peterhead breakthrough.
Norris dropped down to the Highland League last season to get games and reckons he comes back a better player to the newly-promoted side.
A home-town boy, Norris joined the Blue Toon after his release from Aberdeen in 2017. An unsuccessful attempt at immediate promotion back to League 1 was followed by a lack of appearances for Norris last year, with only 10 games in a blue shirt, the last coming against Bohemians in September.
However a fruitful spell under Paul Lawson at Formartine, in which the Pitmedden club finished fourth, reached the Highland League Cup final and won the Aberdeenshire Shield, has reinvigorated Norris as he bids to win a place in the Peterhead team.
He said: “Jim (McInally) felt the best for me to do was to go play games. That was the biggest benefit to me. I was lacking in confidence and having gone to Formartine, I feel that’s come back to me.
“With them getting promoted, I’m going back there with the confidence to prove to Jim that I can do a job for him.
“It’s been a rocky road (at Peterhead) but I feel like the game-time at Formartine has benefitted me and I can now go back and show what I can do. I now need to go back and prove myself.
“Highland League was always going to be there for me if it doesn’t work out but I believe I can play for Peterhead. My dad always said to me to play as high as you can, for as long as you can.”
Norris is under contract for another season at Balmoor and is relishing the chance to work with McInally again, who opted to remain at the club for a ninth season after their League 2 title win.
He added: “It’s a big thing to keep Jim. Last year and this year we weren’t sure what was happening. He’s a great manager, knows the boys well and what they’re capable of.
“He’s built a really good squad and I feel like we can go have a real pop at League 1.
“I feel we can achieve a lot. You look at Montrose making the playoffs and I feel we can do the same. We’re a good enough side to push on and get high up the table.
“I wasn’t frustrated at all at missing out on the title. They’re a great bunch of lads and we should have been promoted. I was delighted for them as it was thoroughly deserved and even though I was at Formartine, I still feel like I was part of it. It now gives me the opportunity to play in League 1.”