Ross County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell feels in-form attacker Ross Stewart is reaping the rewards of a burning desire to establish himself at Premiership level.
Stewart has enjoyed an excellent start to the campaign, with his winner in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Motherwell taking him to eight for the season in all competitions.
The 23-year-old is making light work of his first season in the top flight, following an impressive rise through the leagues which started at Ayrshire junior clubs Ardeer Thistle and Kilwinning Rangers.
Stewart moved on to Albion Rovers in 2016 before winning a move to St Mirren, but transferred to the Staggies last summer following a loan spell with Alloa Athletic.
Kettlewell is thrilled with Stewart’s progress, and he said: “It has been a bit of a process with Ross. When he first came to the club he was a bit of a project.
“What he does is give us so many options, but he’s always a goal threat. The goal he scored at the end of the game was the type of threat he can pose.
“His goal record for us has been outstanding, and his level of performance is just getting better and better every week.
“He’s a young lad who hasn’t been involved in a full-time football for too long when we put it in perspective.
“We couldn’t be more happy than where he’s at now. He’s an intelligent guy, which you can’t accuse a lot of us of in football.
“He takes on messages so well and has a burning desire to take himself to the next level.
“Last season he had to be patient for the first part of the season, but he started getting more game time and I think you can see by our team selections that he has been a big part of it in the early stages of this season.”
Stewart’s late winner came after Brian Graham had come off the bench to equalise for County, against a Well side who had been on course for a fourth straight win.
Stewart’s form has kept Graham out of the side this season but Kettlewell insists the 31-year-old’s goal underlined his importance.
Kettlewell added: “Brian is a guy we trust so much in our dressing room. He is such a big character and presence for us. He’ll be disappointed not to start again, but he knows where the back of the net is and his contribution when he came on was excellent.
“These guys know we have a decent squad. We still have a few to come back as well, so at times players will have to be patient.
“When they are given the opportunity, as the three substitutes did on Saturday, they grasped it with both hands.”