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Ross County striker finally fit after Iranian exile

By Alasdair Fraser

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LEE Erwin finally feels ready to justify Ross County’s faith in him after the double blow of a FIFA registration wrangle and injury.

Picture - Ken Macpherson, Inverness.
BetFred Cup 2nd Round
Partick Thistle(3) v Ross County(2). 17.08.19.
Ross County's Harry Paton celebrates his goal with Lee Erwin.
Picture - Ken Macpherson, Inverness. BetFred Cup 2nd Round Partick Thistle(3) v Ross County(2). 17.08.19. Ross County's Harry Paton celebrates his goal with Lee Erwin.

The former Motherwell, Leeds United and Kilmarnock striker joined the Staggies in July after ending an unhappy spell in Iranian football with Tractor Sazi.

Culture shock, inaction and isolation in the Middle East state for the best part of a season was only the beginning of the 25-year-old’s troubles.

After joining County, the Persian Gulf Pro League team initially refused to allow international clearance to kick-start his career back in Scotland, delaying his debut for three weeks until an August 17 substitute appearance away to Partick.

Then an ankle injury struck, leaving a player already extremely short on match sharpness out for six weeks and toiling for the fitness levels needed for Premiership action.

Hard work on the training ground has finally paid off for Erwin, with a player County viewed as a key summer signing managing a 15-minute substitute appearance at Hamilton.

County’s management team remained patient throughout the delay and Erwin, widely tipped for Scotland recognition in his youth, is keen to repay them.

He said: “I’m delighted to be back. It has been a long, frustrating wait. I waited so long with the registration problem, but I was doing well to get my fitness up during that period.

“Once the registration came through, it was unbelievable bad luck that I got injured, which set me back again.

“I just need to think positively now and look forward to the games.

“The two managers here have been very patient with me, supporting me through all of hitches with registration and injuries. I just need to get back to full fitness and sharpness and then I can do them a turn hopefully out on the park.”

Erwin made an immediate impact away to Hamilton Academical, with his early strike parried by Owain Fon Williams before Billy Mckay snapped up the rebound.

After lasting just over an hour, he feels ready to make a pitch for a start at home to Aberdeen in Dingwall this weekend.

County value the Bellshill-born striker’s strength and ability to hold up the ball, as well as his finishing prowess.

In Iraq, he managed just six appearances, but netted four goals including the fastest hat-trick in the country’s league history.

Now, though, his only focus is helping County re-establish themselves in the top-flight.

Erwin stressed: “We have got a tough run-in to the winter break. We need to carry on as we are going, taking points where we can, and stay as high up the table as possible. Having watched from the sidelines, I know the team can play in a variety of ways and that is a valuable trait.

“That’s down to the gaffers. I’m ready to slot in whenever need be, but competition is healthy up front so it won’t be easy.”

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