Ross Matthews is looking forward to ditching the Stark’s Park mop bucket next season after signing his first full-time professional contract with Raith Rovers.
The 19-year-old was one of four young players to sign a new deal this week after completing his two-year apprenticeship, along with striker Callum Robertson and defenders Liam Bates and Elliot Ford.
Part of his apprenticeship at Stark’s Park involved cleaning up after the first team, but now that he is signed as a senior pro, Matthews is looking forward to concentrating solely on football.
“I’m quite excited to get going next season,” he told the Press. “I’ve had a good apprenticeship and hopefully I can get some good game time over the next two years.
“This is my first senior contract so I don’t need to do all my duties like mopping floors and cleaning boots, so that’ll be a good change.
“My aim is to have a good pre-season, play some friendly games and hopefully cement a place in the first team.
“That’s the only way I’ll improve as a player. You can improve in training but the main way is to play games.”
Matthews is also glad that he can now put his engineering studies on hold while he pursues a career in football.
“I’ve been studying engineering at college and I’ve got my final exam on Friday,” he said. “Once that’s done, that will be it, unless I have to do a resit!
“I just wanted something to fall back on if football didn’t work out or if I got a bad injury.
“I’d actually applied for university and was going to go to Heriot-Watt, but, thankfully, I don’t need to go any more.”
Matthews has been rewarded with a two-year contract after impressing in his first senior start, which came in the final game of the season in the 2-2 draw against Dumbarton.
“I was just waiting to get that chance and, thankfully, I did in last game of season,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s a bit frustarting sitting on the bench and not getting on – but the squad was quite big with a lot of experienced players, especially in my position.
“Kevin Moon, Jimmy Scott, Ross Callachan and Liam Fox are all experienced players.
“I’ve seen how Ross broke into the first team, so hopefully that’s what I’m going to do now that I’ve got my contract.”
Matthews, who hails from Corstorphine in Edinburgh, joined Raith aged 16 and, in his first season, won the club’s under 17 player of the year award.
He has spent the last two seasons developing his game in the reserves and feels he is now ready for first-team football.
“I’m quite confident I can play in the first team next year,” he said. “And as my confidence builds up, I feel I’m going to improve.
“Being on the bench most weeks last season and not getting on has made me hungrier to get on the pitch.
“I don’t know who’s going to come in, but I’m going to get myself as fit as I can for coming back in pre-season and hopefully impress the new manager.”
“I think I’m ready now.”
Raith fans may recall Matthews featuring at right back in a first-team pre-season friendly last summer against Edinburgh City at Meadowbank. However, his best position, he suggested, is central midfield.
“That’s where I’ve played since I was young and where I enjoy playing most,” he said. “But I’m quite a versatile player.
“I’d say my main role is to break up play and start attacks.
“As soon as I get the ball, I just look for players who can create something – Lewis Vaughan, Mark Stewart, Ryan Conroy.
“I also see myself as a box-to-box player – I feel my fitness is good and hopefully pre-season will increase that.”