Loan spell at Fort William made me a better player, says Ross Gunn
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Ross Gunn says having the chance to go on loan from Caley Thistle to play a full season in the Highland League with Fort William has made him a better player.
The 19-year-old winger from Wick was named as players’ player of the year at Fort William after he went to the Lochaber club at the start of the campaign.
Having being involved in the Caley Thistle youth set-up for almost a decade, he says having the chance to play at senior level in the Highland League every week improved him as a footballer.
“It was a good experience meeting new players and being in a different environment,” he said.
“It was a physical league that was of a good standard which I didn’t really expect. It has definitely made me tougher and stronger as a player.”
Celtic fan Gunn received the news of his award from former Hoops striker John Hartson, who made the announcement via video link.
But he says being given the accolade by his team-mates was what made it extra-special.
“I am a Celtic fan and I was delighted to hear John Hartson saying it," Gunn said.
“I was a bit surprised to get the award but I was delighted to receive it.”
Gunn was one of nine players from Caley Thistle who went on loan to Fort William after the Championship club’s application to enter a colts team into the Highland League was rejected.
The young Caley Thistle stars were given huge credit for bring respectability back to the Claggan Park outfit in terms of closer scorelines and winning games.
But Gunn says the players were disappointed they couldn’t lift Fort William off the bottom of the table, believing they could have if the season had been completed.
“I think there was a bit of pressure on us that we had to improve the club, so it was disappointing that we finished bottom of the league," he said.
“We had eight games in hand, so we would definitely have finished higher up the table if we'd had the chance to play those games. But I think the majority of us played well.”
Fort managed to pick up three victories in their 20 league fixtures – doing the double over Clachnacuddin as well as winning away against Turriff United.
They even managed to cause a Scottish Cup shock when, after beating Vale of Leithen 5-0 in the first round, they held League Two outfit Albion Rovers to a 1-1 draw at Cliftonhill which Gunn says was one of the highlights of the season.
“I really enjoyed our Scottish Cup game against Albion Rovers. We had the chances to win it but we couldn’t score and then in the return game we fell apart," he said.
“Playing against Turriff United away and scoring in the last minute was also a good game.
“And then beating Clachnacuddin at the rugby stadium in Inverness in front of such a large crowd was a great experience.”
Gunn also played in Fort William’s 4-1 defeat to Wick Academy at Harmsworth Park. Despite the result, he said he enjoyed playing competitive football in his home town.
“A few of my mates play for Wick Academy and it was great to go up against them and I enjoyed coming up to play,” he said.
Gunn started playing football at the East End club in Wick before signing for Caley Thistle at nine years old. His contract at the Caledonian Stadium expires at the end of the season and, while hopeful he will be given a new deal, will look to play elsewhere if he is not asked to stay.
“It’s been really good and I have enjoyed my time at Caley Thistle," he said. "I am out of contract in June and I am hoping to get a new contract.
“But if not, I will have to go look elsewhere and find another team.”