Ross MacLean is determined to make the most of his loan spell in the Scottish Championship as the Motherwell winger prepares for what he hopes will be a fruitful time away from Fir Park under the guidance of Ray McKinnon.
The former Hibs youngster, who joined Motherwell in the summer of 2014, made his debut away to Dundee.
“That came in 2015 but I didn’t really break into the first-team squad until the following season under Mark McGhee. I got a few bad injuries – every time I seemed to break my in to the squad, I would get hurt again: I dislocated my shoulder twice. I was beginning to get a few starts and then I was out for 4 or 5 months; then I came back from and played against Partick Thistle in the Youth Cup and dislocated my shoulder again, so, I have missed a lot of time on the pitch and games which I think I could’ve played.
Then last season, it was probably my first season where I could say I have been ‘injury free’ – I hope that is all my time on the side-lines passed now! I was frustrated last season as I didn’t play as many games as I would have liked: in saying that, [Stephen] Robinson’s formation didn’t really suit me as he was mainly playing a 3-5-2 with wing-backs. He had Richard Tait and Chrissy Cadden in those positions and they were flying – I couldn’t really find a position in the team as I am mostly a winger. In saying all that, I did still really enjoy last season and the success the boys brought to the club, but, from a personal point of view, it was disappointing as I wanted more game-time. I asked to go out on loan in January but he [the manager] said no and I have been looking to go out on loan ever since then.”
Having turned 21, MacLean felt it was imperative he got a temporary move away from the Lanarkshire club this campaign to test himself on a more regular basis.
“I have only played 24 or 25 games in my career, so, I felt as if I needed to go into a more testing environment for myself, where I could hopefully play more games. Motherwell have put a recall option in my loan deal, so, if I am doing well come January, then, I might get taken back to Fir Park where I can hopefully kick on and revel in the clubs’ success. There was no point sticking around just now though – I was basically just kicking around last season and I couldn’t afford to do that this term, I need experience.
I feel as if the Under-20’s and now Reserve games aren’t that competitive, to be honest: you aren’t playing in front of a crowd; you aren’t playing for people’s livelihoods or bonus money, so, that is why I felt I needed to go into a more serious environment this campaign. I had a couple of options in the Championship, but, after I spoke with Ray McKinnon and he told me how he wanted to play – with wingers running in behind and coming inside into little pockets and things like that, I just felt this move suited me better than the others. He made me feel welcome, so, it was a no-brainer in the end.”
MacLean met his new team-mates last week when pre-season training resumed for the Ton, with the Bellshill born midfielder settling in nicely with the second-tier outfit.
“I need to get myself as fit as I possibly can; take the pre-season games as they come and hopefully impress the manager enough ahead of the BetFred Cup games, so, I can try make an impact in those ties. The Championship is tight this season – anyone can win it and I feel we should be up there challenging for promotion to the Premiership. Obviously, we are going to have pressure on ourselves as we are going to be coming up against a lot of good teams, but, that is why I am looking forward to this so much.
First of all, I am going to try and work my way into the team and make sure I am one of the first names on the team-sheet every match. I would like to get on the scoresheet too, so, hopefully I can contribute in that sense, also. I am playing for a new contract as my deal runs out next summer: whether that be with Morton, Motherwell or elsewhere, so, that will continue to motivate me as well.”