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Former Hearts, St Johnstone and Hamilton Academical midfielder Ross Callachan says pulling on Ross County kit during Scottish Premiership run-in would be bonus after 13 months out with cruciate injury

By Andrew Henderson

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Ross Callachan is delighted to be back in training with the Ross County squad – but he admits the chances of him featuring again this season are slim.

The 30-year-old midfielder has not played in over a year after injuring his cruciate ligament against Celtic in early April 2022.

Ross Callachan's last appearance for Ross County came against Celtic on April 2, 2023.
Ross Callachan's last appearance for Ross County came against Celtic on April 2, 2023.

Then-manager Malky Mackay had initially hoped to have him available again in the new year, but multiple setbacks have meant that Callachan is yet to make his return to action for the Staggies.

It has been a long, frustrating process for the ex-Hearts, St Johnstone and Hamilton Academicals man, but he can now see some light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s the longest I’ve been out of the game, but I’m feeling fit and strong,” Callachan said.

“I was back with the boys at the start of the month, I’ve had a few sessions with them and I’m feeling alright.

“There have been a couple of ‘nearly’ moments where I’ve been close to coming back, and that was two or three months ago.

“I shouldn’t have been out this long, but I had a couple of setbacks within two or three months which means I have taken 13 months – a long time for the injury I had. I’m just happy to be back out there training with the boys with a smile on my face.

“There was a wee round of applause from the lads when I went back, which was nice. They do that whenever someone has been out for a long time, so the boys are brilliant.

“Even when I was in the gym, working hard through some long days, they would come in and cheer me up, so they’re a good bunch.

“I saw that myself last year when boys like Alex Samuel were out with the same injury. You need to keep their spirits up and their head in the game, so when the boys come in and chat to you it does help.

“I’m back on the pitch, but there are only a couple of games left and we’re into the last week. I wouldn't totally write off (playing this season), but at the end of the day it’s up to the gaffer. If he sees me in training and he’s happy for me to be involved, I won’t say no.

“Then again, I’m not expecting to play. If I do get involved in a matchday squad between now and the end of the season, it would be a bonus.”

While, generally speaking, cruciate ligament injuries are no longer career-threatening like they would have been a couple of decades ago, some have still lost years of their career to the recovery process.

It would be easy to fear the worst when setbacks happen, then, but Callachan never questioned that he would make it back to football.

Ross Callachan's determination to come back from such a serious injury never wavered. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Ross Callachan's determination to come back from such a serious injury never wavered. Picture: Ken Macpherson

Anyone who has seen him play would never question his determination on the pitch, and it has been that same drive that has helped him cope with frustrations off the pitch over the last year or so.

“You need to be quite strong mentally, and I think I am,” Callachan reasoned.

“That’s been the toughest thing about nearly coming back. I’ve been out of the game for so long that I’ve really been itching to get back as quickly as I can, and I was probably pushing it when I shouldn’t have.

“Naturally, that’s who I am. I want to be back out there and training, so you just have to be positive. I’m positive in everything I do in life, so I tried to take that into this injury and always think that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

“Obviously you’re frustrated, and disappointed at times. I’ve been doing everything I can, but then you go out and run and feel something.

“If something happens and you feel a muscle, you can’t help it, so you just need to hold your hands up and if it happens, fair enough. You do everything you can to strengthen that body part and keep going – while being careful with it and not going too gung-ho.

“I’ve been working with Jason Moriarty, who probably dragged it out for a week so that I could get there instead of pushing me too hard and feeling another issue.

“It’s hard to find that balance. It’s really hard, because when you’ve been out for so long you don’t know how far you can push your body. I obviously pushed it too far, too early, and that’s why I had setbacks.

“It always happens with this type of injury. Everyone I’ve spoken to said they felt this or that, so you never go through this kind of injury without any kind of setbacks. I knew they were going to come, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating at the time.

“I remember when I did it, Alex (Samuel) said to me that I would be absolutely fine. He told me there would be times where I would think I was getting absolutely nowhere, but slowly you start building up that confidence.

“You start running again, then you start doing ball-work and high-speed running to build the confidence that you can actually do it again. That’s what I’ve been doing over the last maybe seven or eight weeks, just building up that confidence.”

Callachan’s contract with Ross County is due to expire this summer, but he insists that any uncertainty over his future has barely crossed his mind.

Callachan was a mainstay of the Staggies side under Malky Mackay, making 66 appearances across all competitions in just under two full seasons in Dingwall. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Callachan was a mainstay of the Staggies side under Malky Mackay, making 66 appearances across all competitions in just under two full seasons in Dingwall. Picture: Ken Macpherson

Instead, he has tried to help the team in any way he could while unable to play. Early on he would spend weekends with his family, but over recent months he has been seen in and around the squad on matchdays to support his teammates.

That is not the position he wants to be in, but it has helped to keep him involved with the group throughout what has also been a turbulent time for the club on the pitch.

“I’m not the best at watching games anyway when my team is playing, because I would rather be out there on the pitch helping them,” Callachan explained.

“Once you come to a few on the bounce, you start getting used to it and being there for the boys in the changing room. You wish them all the best and help them with certain things that they might not see on the pitch.

“It’s tough, because I want to be out there playing – especially when we win a few games. You’re involved, but you’re not involved because you’re not playing. That’s hard.

“You’re buzzing for the boys winning games, but you want to be involved as a player as well. It’s definitely harder when we’re losing though, because I love the lads.

“It’s a great group, and I want to see them winning and be part of a winning football team. Nobody wants to lose games, no matter whether you’re part of the squad or not.

“It’s been quite an up-and-down season. We’ve had three managers as well, and people forget about that at times. What’s done is done, and since Don came in we have done really well, especially at home. If we can keep that up over the last couple of games, we’ll be absolutely fine, and I really hope that’s the case.”

On what he has learned over the last 13 months, Callachan added: “I never took football for granted before. I would come in for training every day and I loved it. I would moan, but I love training and I love football, so I’ve never taken it for granted.

“Now I think I’ll appreciate it more than I even did before, and I can take patience from the last year. I’m still probably not as patient as I should be, just because I want to be playing, but that’s me as a guy and I won’t change who I am.

“You need to be resilient with injuries in football. I’ve had a few bad ones before – nothing like a year out of the game, but I broke my leg which took me out for five months. I got a wee feel for being injured for a lengthy period at that time, but that was it. Hopefully that’s me back now.”

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