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Frank Ross Interview

January 6, 2018 5:45 pm Author: AFC Media Team

Frank Ross

One of the major pluses in recent months has been the progression of a number of youth academy graduates into the AFC first team.

Ellon youngster Frank Ross is the latest to become a first team regular. He recently spoke to RedMatchday Magazine:

A big part of Frank’s game is his pace and his high level of technical ability that has ended up mesmerising plenty of hapless opponents. Many of those skills were honed at a young age in the Youth Academy at Jim Crawford’s Skill Centres.

“At U10 and U11, I was not that quick. My speed has really only come to me in recent years and it is still something I want to improve. It’s something I have really worked hard on. One of my old coaches was a speed coach and he was able to help me.

“Paul Sheerin is a very attack minded coach with the U20s. The forward players like myself are allowed to go out and play. I enjoy using my skills within a game environment. It makes football enjoyable. I work on my skills all the time and still practice them in the back garden!

“Obviously when you are playing for the first team, it’s more structured and organised and I am still learning about that side of the game all the time. At first team level, your concentration levels need to be at 100% throughout the game. You cannot switch off for a second and that is something I need to work on. I know I need to work on my fitness as well.

“I also recognise the need to have an end product to my play. I think I scored six goals last season, so I knew it is also something I need to add more to my game. Most of my goals came in a ten game spell at the end of last season and I have been scoring more regularly this season with six goals so far in the Development League and the Youth Cup and have one goal for the senior side.

“The one thing that was drilled into me in the youth academy is that there is no substitute for hard work. Nobody is just going to come and hand it to you on a plate. The coaches in the Academy would say the guys like Fraser Fyvie, Jack Grimmer and Ryan Fraser who made it through to become professional players were also the players who worked the hardest, so I want to emulate that.

“Playing for this club means a lot to me. I am from Ellon and went to Ellon Primary and then Ellon Academy. I’ve spent almost all my playing career with Aberdeen and been a part of the set-up since I was eight years old. I went to FTS, which was a sort of training camp, when I was very young. The coaches there were involved with Aberdeen and they took me along to the club for a trial. I have been here ever since.

“I am mainly a midfielder or a winger, although I have played in defence now and again as well in the past. I would say that centre midfield is my preferred position, in an attacking role. I am two footed, so I am comfortable playing in a wide position as well.

“I will be honest and say it had been frustrating before I got my chance because I felt I was ready to play for the first team before now but I manager did not want to put me in too early and you have to respect his judgement.

“I felt I was good enough, but you learn good values when you are having to be patient. You learn discipline. Put it this way, I have learned a lot because I have had to wait!

“To be fair, I did not have the best of seasons last year. My confidence took a bit of a hit and I was not my normal self. This year, I am high on confidence and made a decision to enjoy my football. I am not putting too much pressure on myself. I just want to go out and have fun. That is working for me so far.

“Paul Sheerin is really good with me. He lets me have fun. He lets me enjoy the ball and does not put too much pressure on me. He lets me go out and try and make things happen. I really enjoy playing for Paul. He has been a big influence on me, along with Scott Anderson. They have both been great with me.

“The form the U20s have shown this season has certainly helped my cause and that of the other boys – it’s still a bit surreal watching Scott McKenna head a ball away or Scott Wright beating players down the wing. Seeing the other guys the same age as you getting a chance does spur you on, no doubt about that. You think to yourself, “I can do this as well”. It’s great for everyone associated with the Youth Academy and everyone in the U20 dressing room, seeing the young boys doing well.

“It has been a good season for us young boys so far at Aberdeen. As well as Scott McKenna, Scott Wright, Daniel Harvie and myself, you also have Seb Ross and Dean Campbell. It’s a big step because we didn’t have a great year last season.

“Last season was tough because I could go through games without really getting involved. This season we are a good passing team. Dean Campbell and Seb, they are good at passing the ball. That’s helped me improve and get my first team chance which was brilliant.

“In the past couple of months I have played for the first team, got my first start and scored my first goal. That’s all I’ve been concentrating on, playing well. I am very pleased the manager has stayed after he have me that chance.

“The gaffer likes my confidence. He likes the fact I am always looking for the ball. He is always telling me to be brave. Even if the game is not going our way or I am not playing well, I need to keep looking for the ball and trying to make things happen.

“The biggest difference between the first team and the U20s is the pace of the game. It is such a quicker game than the 20s. that is something I need to work on. I need to work on my sharpness and also my stamina but hopefully that will come with playing more games at that level.

Frank Ross in action for Aberdeen

“I appreciate when you play for the first team there is a lot more to think about, especially from a defensive point of view. Against Rangers, I lost the ball and they went and scored from it. So I thought I need to do something special to make up for it. I won the free-kick and I was definitely going to take it. I did not really have to fight for the ball. I just said to the boys that I really wanted to take it. I think it was Greg Stewart who was over the ball and he said, “On you go”. It suited a right footer more than a left footer.

“It is hard to describe the moment the ball hit the net. I jumped about 20 foot in the air! I was just in shock. But I quickly came back down to earth, literally, and wanted to get the ball to get another goal. It was frustrating that we could not force an equaliser.

“I have a weird technique when it comes to free-kicks. I imagine someone standing where I want to hit the ball and I try and hit their head. I know it sounds a bit strange, but that’s what I did that day and it worked for me.

“I practised my free-kicks a lot over the summer. I would practice them every day in training and even when I was at home I would be out in the garden practicing. For the U20s, I am on set pieces along with Toby Wells. So taking them for the first team is not an issue. It is something I feel comfortable doing.

“The goal meant a lot to me but meant even more to my family. They are the ones who have had to sacrifice so much for me to be here. It was nice to score my first goal in a big game for them. My goal was important because as I said before having an end product is something I have been working very hard on in the Development League. You can have all the skills in the world but you need something to show for it.

“Then after scoring my first goal, I made my first start against Dundee. I came off at half-time because the manager wanted to change things tactically and try and close the game up a bit. I thought I did ok for my first start. It takes a while to get used to the pace of the game but I was happy to get my first start. Surprisingly I was not too nervous. I just wanted to go on the pitch and enjoy it. My first start, I just wanted to have fun. Football is meant to be fun.

“From here, my aim is to try and get as many starts as I can this season and have as much fun as possible. I just want to continue having fun playing football.”

One of the things that has marked Frank out for his promotion to the matchday squad has been the fact that, rarely amongst young players, is his confidence and self-belief, something which seemingly comes naturally to him.

“Being in the 20s dressing room, I was the senior player, so going into the first team dressing room when you are the young boy again is challenging, but all the boys are welcoming. At this club there is a good bond between all the players and all the staff.

“All the first team boys have been nice but Adam Rooney has been really great. I am not just saying that because he is a fellow Ellon boy now! He really wants you to do well. Shay as well.

“The attitude of all the first team boys in training is very noticeable. Every player gives it their very best every day. They train the way they play. I learned very quickly that if I wanted to be anywhere near the first team, I would need to do the same. Now I’m training with the some of the best players in Scotland. It is a good place for me to showcase my abilities to the manager and the coaches.

“Deep down I know what I can do. Sometimes on the pitch you can lose a bit of confidence, like what happened to me last year but all players go through that at some stage in their career. I am confident that I am good enough and I know where I want to be”.

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