BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Raith Rovers starlet Ross Matthews admits he has lapped up every minute of his breakthrough campaign – including a running battle with Scotland captain Scott Brown.
The 19-year-old penned his first ever professional contract during the summer and boss Ray McKinnon has had no qualms about throwing the talented teen in at the deep end.
Matthews has made seven appearances this term, starting against Celtic and Hibs and entering the fray as a substitute against Rangers at Ibrox.
And he admits his outing against the Champions in the League Cup, shining despite a 2-0 defeat, was a real eye-opener.
Matthews smiled: “I’ve had a few chances this season, which I’ve been happy with. As a first year pro I was hoping to get a few games, but to play at Ibrox, Parkhead and against Hibs – you can’t really ask for much more.
“It was a shock to be told I was playing at Celtic Park. I wasn’t given any notice, the manager named me in the team 90 minutes before kick-off. I was probably glad of that, it meant I wasn’t getting nervous and obsessing about it the night before.
“Scott Brown was in my ear the whole game! But it was good, I really enjoyed the battle, although Celtic could maybe have stepped up a couple of gears that day.
“I gave him [Brown] a late tackle, early on in the game and he said ‘who’s that number 12?’ He swapped positions with Kris Commons so he was right next to me, which was interesting.
“I missed a late chance he was the first one to come up to me . . . that wasn’t great. But it’s a learning curve and I really enjoyed it. That battle just gets you more up for the contest.”
A boyhood Jambo, Matthews was on the books at Hearts before joining Rovers in the summer of 2013.
He believes that grounding, which saw him play alongside several of Hearts’ current Premiership stars, helped him make the grade in Kirkcaldy.
The combative youngster continued: “I was a Hearts fan growing up and played for their youth team, before leaving when I was 16. I played with a few of the boys in the team now. Jordan McGhee was in my team, Sam Nicholson and Billy King.
“The standard at Hearts was unbelievable, to be fair, and it was a good base for coming to Raith and kicking on.”
He will hope to retain his midfield berth against Livingston this afternoon.
Matthews added: “There is a lot of competition in central midfielders, there are about six or seven players that can play in there, so it’s brilliant that the manager is giving me a chance.”