Andrew Henderson – Ross Stewart rose to Ross County's Premiership challenge
Contribute to support quality local journalism
Sports reporter Andrew Henderson explains why Ross Stewart is his Ross County player of the season...
Ross County players knew that winning promotion to the Premiership would mean they would have to step up last season, but none rose to the occasion more than Ross Stewart.
The last two years really have been a remarkable ascension for the tall forward.
When he signed for the Staggies in the summer of 2018 he was seen as a project, someone who had high potential for the future but very much a work in progress behind Billy Mckay, Declan McManus and Brian Graham in the pecking order.
With Mckay banging in the goals, Stewart was limited to the Challenge Cup and the occasional league opportunity off the bench. In fact, he only completed 90 minutes for the first time in the Championship in mid-December.
So moving up a division to the top tier, few would have expected Stewart to play such an integral role.
At first glance, it would be easy to assume he is a target man, but his work rate and swift movement with the ball at feet meant he was often played out wide – where he still managed to finish as joint-top scorer with Mckay on 11 goals in all competitions.
His mental attributes have impressed just as much as his displays on the pitch though.
Stewart is always keen to learn and never gets too far ahead of himself, and yet his confidence that he could deliver the goods when County needed him most was never in doubt.
The former St Mirren striker showed that he is capable of scoring goals in every situation. In his first season he stole headlines with three goals in Highland derbies against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, all close matches, but he found the net twice each in dominant wins against Montrose and Brechin in the League Cup group stages early in the campaign.
He popped up with vital finishes in hard-fought victories against St Mirren, Motherwell and Hibernian, and although goals against Livingston and Celtic – where he should have had a brace if not for an incorrect offside decision – proved to be mere consolations, they showed that he can get on the scoresheet even when County's backs are up against the wall.
Really, it was no surprise to see his name being linked with other Premiership and English Championship clubs in the January transfer window.
An injury just before the winter break put paid to any chance of a move, and with it effectively the 23-year-old's season as the attacker was only able to return for two matches before the pandemic brought the curtain down on the campaign early.
But for Stewart, it was a season he should take great confidence from, as he has taken to the Premiership like a duck to water to become the Staggies' key attacking threat.
This website is powered by the generosity of readers like you. BECOME A SUPPORTER
Please donate what you can afford to help us keep our communities informed.
In these testing times, your support is more important than ever. Thank you.