Ross Stewart has spoken in-depth about his time at Sunderland so far, his great relationship with the fans and, of course, the ongoing transfer speculation surrounding the Loch Ness Drogba.
“In the back of my mind, I always had these aspirations but you know you have to keep taking mini-steps and that’s all you can focus on. The international call-up was probably the one where I was a bit starstruck, that was one that had never really been on the eyeline because it had always been about trying to make a name for myself at club level and at each level I found myself at."
"That took me aback, it was a real 'wow' moment. The first thing I did when I got off the bus and into my own car was to ring my parents, and I can remember them both being really emotional. That was such a special moment for me, because of the support I've had from them through my journey. We're talking about 20-odd people out of a population of five or six million - and one of them is you. That is a big moment. For me it's the pinnacle, it's something I'm really proud of and I want more.”
“It’s very surreal. You envisage how you want a move to go when you come down here and it’s surpassed all of that, not just the on-field stuff but the way the fans have taken to me. They probably don’t realise how much confidence they give me, what a lift it is during games. Hearing that noise, the nicknames and then the songs come… all of that is part of helping me do what I’ve done and it really hasn’t gone unnoticed, I’m so thankful for it. I’m always trying to reward that - what you see is what you get with me, give it everything and try to chip in with some goals. I could never have imagined it would have worked out like this.”
“That first leg for me, as a player, for a crowd being on my side, that was without doubt the best atmosphere I’d ever played in. Everything about it, the build up to the game, the crowd and the display before, the size of the clubs, you just felt it was massive. We were really good that night and the fans were a massive part of that, I think. The thing about these games is they just go by so fast. Some players get nervous but for me and my journey, I don’t really. Obviously you get the butterflies before a big game, but when you’re playing in a park as a five or six-year-old, in your mind it is always in front of a crowd like that."
ENJOYING THE JOURNEY
“The path that I’ve been on, my route through the lower leagues, there’s that sense of I might not have made it here, so let’s just give it everything. I just try to manage those emotions, play with no fear and just enjoy it, and I don’t know, maybe that’s why I’ve been able to make an impact. It’s what I’ve always wanted, so I have that perspective of just, ‘leave it all out there, enjoy it and just live with whatever the outcome is’.”
“We get the ball down the right side, it’s Pat and Pritch who have a lovely 1-2, really intricate play, and it opens up a bit when it comes to Pritch. I remember thinking that I had to just try and peel into a bit of space. It was funny because I’d missed a good chance with a header just at the start of second half and I remember thinking, you don’t get too many of them in a game like this."
"I knew if I got another chance I just wanted to get a shot away. So when the ball came to me on the edge of the box, I just thought ‘right, how can I get this shot away?’ Touch, out onto my right foot. I managed to do what I wanted to do, I’ve shifted it and it looks like I’m going to open my foot out on it and put it to the goalkeeper’s left, but I’ve thought that they are going to expect that so I’ve just kind of reversed it at the last moment. Thankfully it gets through the first set of legs, and from there you see a lot go in because the goalkeeper is wrongfooted.”
“The game isn’t done but 2-0 with ten minutes to go… you feel 99 times out of 100 you see that out. I know I ran away to the corner and I had a sense of just how many fans there were just going crazy, but it’s one of those where you maybe can’t ever take it in as much as you’d like because there’s so much elation. But to take part in a game of that magnitude and to make an impact…”
"It's one of them when you look back at the last 18-months, when you move down here it's everything I made that move for in terms of what it's given me as a player. The first six months was a bit stop-start but from that first game of the next season, I feel like I took to it really well and was enjoying my football and everything that came with it."
FOCUS ON WHAT'S NEXT
“I don't get much time to reflect and to be honest I'm not big on that, I like just to focus on what's next but you do get these wee points where you reflect on the rollercoaster you've been on, and how far you've maybe jumped in such a short space of time. It's been such a positive time in terms of what it's done for my career."
"I'm at a good age now and a good level, and for me it's about trying to maintain that now if not kick on again. I've gone up through the leagues in Scotland, I've come down here and moved up from League One to the Champ - hopefully I can establish myself as a good player at this level."
"Maybe the next step somewhere in the future is to go up to the Prem, wherever that may be, I would love to test myself. It's an exciting time for me, especially with so many games on the horizon.”
“For me it’s just about getting back to full fitness, getting back to playing. All that stuff in the background, down the line that will get dealt with one way or another and for me it’s just about focusing on doing well for this club, for my team-mates, and hopefully getting us kicking on up the table.It’s 100% about focusing on Sunderland and getting back to making an impact. Football is a business and that takes care of itself - it’s [outside noise] not going to deviate my focus which is to get back on the pitch and then to contribute to the team doing well.”