He’s a long way from his hometown of Ellon – but Aberdeen academy product Frank Ross is looking forward to what the Dutch second tier brings him.
After ending a lengthy association with the Dons in the summer, Ross has been left searching for a new club. It’s been a tough time, but the attack-minded midfielder has secured himself an ambitious move to Go Ahead Eagles in the Eerste Divisie. It’s not a move he had in mind a few months ago, but one he’s delighted to make all the same.
🏴 | 𝗦𝗰𝗼𝘁𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗿𝗮𝘃𝗲!
— Go Ahead Eagles 🦅 (@GAEagles) August 20, 2020
With all the stress surrounding free agents just now as the financial impact of COVID-19 takes its hold, the former Aberdeen man had help from a friend to secure his move to Deventer.
“It’s a hard time to be a free agent just now,” Ross told NTOF. “There are so many players trying to find clubs. I phoned about and spoke to one of my old coaches and he was pals with the manager over here. He managed to arrange a trial for me and I was delighted.
“I came over a couple of weeks ago and the first week I was here it was 35-degree heat, it was brutal! But I impressed in the trial and they’ve offered me a deal. When you see some of the English lads like Mason Mount come over to Holland and learn their football, it’s a good country. They are football mad and I can see why a lot of players are coming over here.
“I was quite surprised when I first came over from Aberdeen. There, everybody was socially distancing and wearing masks. I’ve come to Holland and it’s living like normal, so that was a surprise when I got off the plane. But coronavirus is getting worse here so there are a few restrictions in place to weather it out.
“Gavin Levey has been really supportive since I got over here, he was one of the main youth coaches at Aberdeen. He comes to Holland five or six times a year and gave me a lot of advice on Dutch football. A lot of people from Aberdeen have been wishing me the best so I’ve had lots of support.
“The Dutch second league is a good level, a good platform to play on. I know quite a bit about the Eredivisie, but I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about the second tier. Before I came over, I watched a video of fans running onto the pitch and attacking the players.
“That’s the type of passion they have over here but it makes things more exciting, I suppose. It spurs you on when you are on the pitch, that passion.”
Hard luck on injury front
It’s been a tough couple of seasons for Ross. Making a total of 13 appearances for his boyhood club, his undoubted potential was blighted by injury at Pittodrie, a horrible back problem keeping him on the sidelines for large spells of the last two seasons.
A loan to Ayr was supposed to get him the games he needed to thrive but again injury hit, making just two League Cup appearances last term. The talent is there, Ross just needs a bit of luck on the medical front.
He hopes that can happen in Holland as he reflected on his time as a Pittodrie youngster, citing former teammates as one’s who are proving a pathway to first-team football at Aberdeen exists.
“It’s been a nightmare couple of years with injury,” explained Ross. “I had played a couple of games with Aberdeen and was flying before I then went away with the Scotland U21s side and hurt my back there. It’s been a bit of a nightmare from there, went to Ayr last season where the injuries hit, nightmare. Then coronavirus happened, I’ve not had the best of luck over the past couple of years.
“But I left on good terms with everyone at Aberdeen and I hope they do well this season. I’ve got no bad blood with anyone at Aberdeen. I was there from the age of eight and I signed professional when I was 16, I made a lot of friends there.
“I think the youth development has gotten a lot better in the past few years. When I signed full-time it was me and Scott Wright who were the young boys and at that time the team was so good. Graeme Shinnie, Jonny Hayes, Kenny McLean, it was so hard to get a chance in the team. But these last couple of years the younger guys have earned their chance, Bruce Anderson, Dean Campbell, Scott McKenna, and they have proven to be top players.”
Maddison and Hedges
Ross scored one goal in his time at Aberdeen and he did a good job of making it a memorable one. A long-range screamer from a free kick against Rangers, it had shades of former Dons loanee and Leicester City star James Maddison’s memorable free kick against the same opposition.
It’s a close contest as to who scored the better one, but Ross reckons he wins that race. Right enough, that doesn’t take away from the fact Ross looked up to Maddison when he was at Pittodrie. He sees similarities between Maddison and a current Dons star too.
“All my pals are Rangers too,” Ross started. “I think my free kick was better than Maddison’s, I was further out! He’s not doing too bad now though… I trained with him at Aberdeen and technically he’s the best player I have ever seen.
“He used to nutmeg people for fun, the best person I’ve seen up close, technique-wise and his movement, agility. It was an eye-opener when I first saw him because that’s the level I want to try and get to. He’s definitely one to model your game on. It just shows that level isn’t too far away. Some of the things he did, honestly…
“I watched the game against St Johnstone, Ryan Hedges doing what he does best. He’s another player like Maddison when you watch him in training as technically he is so gifted. His left foot is like a wand. He’s a nice lad as well so I hope he plays a lot and does well this season.”
As he puts his time in Aberdeen behind him, it’s a new frontier in European football for Ross. He’ll be a relatively unknown quantity to the league and vice-versa, but the challenge it will bring for him at Go Ahead Eagles is one he’s relishing.
A push towards the top tier of Dutch football is on the horizon but that won’t be easy. Already he’s seen a difference to his comfort zone of Scottish football, targeting goals, goals and more goals at De Adelaarshorst.
“We’re pushing for promotion this year,” said Ross. “It’s weird because there are four reserve teams, Ajax, PSV, Utrecht and AZ Alkmaar, so there are only 16 teams that could get promoted so we have a good chance. I was speaking to one of the boys and he says the Ajax youth team is incredible! The way they pass and move, it’s not fun to play against, but Go Ahead Eagles are aiming to be in the Eredivisie next season. We’ll be looking to win every game.
“Scottish football was what I’m used to, the intensity is 100 miles an hour, it’s hard to describe. After the first session I realised how different it was to Scottish football. We did four types of possession drills and we spent about 45 minutes doing defensive shaping on my first day. That’s when I knew it was different to Scotland. But I suppose it’s good for a player like me who’s young and got a lot to learn. It feels like home, nothing to do, just fields!
“I want to score as many goals as possible and be direct. They play a passing game over here so I think I can bring something different to the team, scoring as many as goals as possible. You can’t beat the feeling of scoring goals and I’m looking to tick all the boxes.”