From apprentice to master: Laurie Ellis ushers in a new crop of Raith youngsters

Laurie Ellis (centre) with youngsters (from left) David Bates, Ross Matthews, Callum Robertson and Elliot Ford. Credit -  Fife Photo Agency -
Laurie Ellis (centre) with youngsters (from left) David Bates, Ross Matthews, Callum Robertson and Elliot Ford. Credit - Fife Photo Agency -

Seventeen years ago, a young Laurie Ellis signed his first professional contract with Raith Rovers.

This week, now aged 35, the veteran defender was ushering in the newest crop of Stark’s Park youngsters.

Ellis has taken over the running of the club on a caretaker basis since the dismissal of manager Grant Murray two weeks ago.

After taking charge of the final game of the season – a 2-2 draw with Dumbarton – Ellis made it his top priority to secure the future of the club’s young players.

And this week, four young apprentices – Ross Matthews, David Bates, Elliot Ford and Callum Robertson – were rewarded with their first senior professional contracts.

“When these kids come in from school and start a full-time apprenticeship, it’s a two year programme that gives them opportunity to develop and show potential,” Ellis explained.

“If they do well enough in that two-year apprenticeship, they then are asked to stay at club as a fully-fledged professional.

“It’s a first year professional contract, so there’s a lot expected of them and the demands become slightly different.

“The good thing for our lads is they train with the first team every day, so they know what it’s like.

“It can be difficult as an apprentice in that environment – standards are higher than they’ve ever known and they’ve got to meet them, because professionals can be harsh.

“It generates a thick skin for them, but now they are in the big bad world on their own and not getting led by the hand.

“They’ll feel a difference in pressures.”

Ellis revealed the youth-set up at Stark’s Park nowadays is quite different to what he experienced in the late 1990s.

“It’s very different now,” Ellis said. “When I was an apprentice, there was a whole youth team training seperately every day.

“You trained within your own environment among your peers – and only if you excelled in those training sessions, and in games with the youths and reserves, did you make the step up to train with first team.

“It was always an anxious wait to see in the morning who the manager picked to make up his numbers with the first team.

“If you were doing well within the youth set-up, your name might get called. I was fortunate that it did for me a few times – and I grabbed the opportunity.”

Ellis is now hopeful that the four newest youngsters can follow in his footsteps and have a successful career at Stark’s Park.

To have played over 400 games for the club, and now seeing these fresh-faced kids starting out where I did is brilliant,” he said.

“I hope they give the challenge as much respect as I did.

“In recent years, we’ve had Ross Laidlaw, Ross Callachan and Lewis Vaughan in the team, and we’re now looking for that to continue with these young lads.

“It’s down to them to now – they know what’s needed and what choices they make will depend how they progress from here.”

Ellis has particularly high hopes for Matthews, to whom he handed a first senior start against Dumbarton.

“Ross has been an apprentice for two years and he’s a great kid,” he said.

“His work ethic is fantastic and his application is great.He’s a clever lad who can listen and learn.

“I had no doubts about putting him in against Dumbarton and he showed me why.”