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Sport / Footballer ‘delighted’ to land full-time apprenticeship with Ross County

First team manager Malky Mackay says it is important to have a ‘conveyor belt of young talent from the Highlands and Islands’

A YOUNG Shetland footballer has signed a two-year apprenticeship with Scottish Premiership team Ross County.

George Robesten, 16, who has played for the Dingwall club’s youth team since last year, has had his performances rewarded with a full-time apprenticeship contract.

George Robesten. Photo: Ken Macpherson.

He is one of four academy graduates that have newly joined Ross County on apprenticeships, including one from the Western Isles, and he is set to train with the club’s first team.

“I am absolutely delighted to have this opportunity,” George said.

“The hard work starts now, and I have the chance to keep growing and developing at a Scottish Premiership club which is a chance most people my age don’t get.

“I want to thank my family, especially my mum, for all of their support and dedication in getting me to games and travelling the length and breadth of the country.

“Without their support there is no doubt I wouldn’t be getting this opportunity.”

His mum Victoria said being paid to play football was a “dream come true” for the teenager.

“He’s so talented and he just loves football,” she said. “We are just so proud.”

Victoria added that while George will train with the top team, he may play fixtures for the under 18s too and could also be sent out on loan.

George actually played rugby when he grew up in England, and he only really took on football once he moved to Shetland aged around 10.

Whilst in Shetland he has played with TSB – Trondra, Scalloway and Burra – and has turned out five times for the Scalloway men’s team this year.

“Shetland must take the credit for developing him,” Victoria said, adding that TSB manager Glenn Gilfillan has been an “absolute superstar”.

George is now living in digs in Dingwall in the Highlands, where Ross County are based. Just off the boat after setting him into his new life, Victoria said she “cried all the way from Dingwall to Aberdeen” after saying her goodbyes.

Meanwhile Gilfillan said George usually plays as a striker or in other attacking positions.

He said one of his key talents – which shows maturity beyond his years – was being unselfish on the pitch.

“He’s extremely quick and has a good touch,” Gilfillan added, also noting his fitness and dedication to improve.

He described it as a great opportunity, and a “fantastic thing for Shetland” – but it is a very competitive industry, Gilfillan warned.

Ross County first-team manager Malky Mackay meanwhile said: “After a couple of challenging years for academy players during Covid, it is fantastic for us to be able to offer these opportunities to our young players who have exemplified real ability with a terrific attitude.

“We have had the four boys with us since day one of pre-season and their focus and work ethic is of great credit to their families.

“It’s important for a club like Ross County that we have a conveyor belt of young talent from the Highlands and Islands, as it follows the strong tradition of this football club in developing local talent into exciting young footballers.”

George is not the first young Shetland footballer who has been involved with professional clubs on the mainland in recent years.

Finn Regan has trained with the youth team at St Johnstone, while Spencer Moreland – who grew up in Shetland before moving south – is also currently at the Saints.

Moreland has since had brushes with the St Johnstone first team – even landing a spot on the bench when they played Turkish club Galatasaray in Europa League qualifiers last summer – before going on loan to Stenhousemuir.