Ross County full-back Jake Vokins believes his loan spell at Dingwall has helped him develop as a player.
The 22-year-old had only played a handful of senior games before temporarily moving to Global Energy Stadium – even then spending spells on the sidelines due to injury in the Highlands – but played 18 times in all competitions so far. season.
This exposure to first-team football is what any player needs to take the next step in their career, and Vokins feels his time with the Staggies has served him well so far.
“Obviously it was very disappointing to get injured at the start of the season,” he said.
“I had to work hard to get back in shape and get back into the team, but for me personally it’s been very good to have so many games under my belt and to make that top six as a team.
“Playing men’s football is very different from college football in England. Getting that experience and being in the dressing room, working with the staff, everything has helped me improve massively as a player.
“It’s about decision-making. In the academy it’s about taking the ball and playing it – we always do that, but there are times when it’s not and it’s is about being street smart and making the right decision at the right time.
“You really have to be a man, because it’s men’s football. Having played a few games in England, I know what it’s like, so doing it week after week has definitely helped me improve.
“Southampton have been very happy with my progress. They watch every one of my games and I get feedback on every game I’ve had so they’ve been very supportive of me as well.”
Vokins was one of the first signings made by County Manager Malky Mackay, third in the gate last summer after the arrivals of Ross Callachan and Dominic Samuel.
A turbulent summer in the transfer market has been followed by a tumultuous start to the season, with Covid cases forcing the Dingwall side out of the League Cup group stage before the side have played 10 matches championship without a win.
Since then, the recovery of Global Energy Stadium has been spectacular. Since the winter break they have been third in the form table, a run which has seen Vokins and co move into the top half of the table via the split, giving them every chance of qualifying for continental competition for the first time the next season.
In recent days Mackay has been linked with the vacant managerial job at Hibernian, who sacked Shaun Maloney after just four months in charge, and Vokins believes the Staggies boss has played a vital role in the team’s success this season.
“He was hugely important,” insisted Vokins.
“When he arrived, he put his stamp on the group and on the way he wanted us to play and behave, on and off the pitch. We are still together and we have remained true to his habits.
“I think it shows especially on the pitch, which made us a more tight-knit group. He certainly helped us a lot.
“I had a Zoom call with him before signing, and we had a long, good conversation about what he wanted from me and what he wanted from his team, and that conversation persuaded me to come. — he’s ticked all the boxes since then.”