RYAN HARDIE reckons his loan spell at Raith Rovers has improved him greatly as both a footballer and a person.
The 19 year-old has spent the last three months at the Kirkcaldy club as they coasted into the play-offs, with the Fifers topping the Championship form period during that period.
Of course, their bubble was burst by Hibernian who defeated them in the quarter-final of the Premiership play-off on Saturday following a 2-1 aggregate win, but despite that, Hardie will look back on his time at Starks’ Park with great fondness.
He explained: “I really enjoyed my time up at Raith and I feel it progressed me as a player, and brought me on as a person too.
“I learned a lot playing in the same league as Rangers against a number of very good players.
“The manager [Ray McKinnon] was brilliant for me. As soon as I went in he took me under his wing and gave me the chance to play, and he had the confidence in me to give me a run of starts, so he’s been brilliant.
“He’s helped me through a lot and gave me loads of pointers, so he has been a big influence on how well I’ve done there.
“The game against Hibs was the first time I’ve tasted defeat in a Raith shirt. I had been involved in 12 games, won 10 and drew two.
“The team and group of boys were brilliant, and I had some great times up there.”
The Easter Road reverse at the weekend was a major disappointment to Raith who had led 1-0 from the first leg played in Kirkcaldy last week.
It was a crushing disappointment for Hardie and his teammates to be knocked out of the promotion running having had the lead, but he remained philosophical about the end result.
Hardie continued: “We were confident that against any team we would win, and we felt we would be good enough to get through the tie.
“We went into it full of confidence and all the boys were right up for it, but the first 15 minutes where we conceded two goals killed us.
“It put the boys’ heads down for a bit, but we kept fighting on and were the better team for most of the game.
“I missed a good chance, although it was a good save from the keeper, and there were some other good saves as well, but we did as much as we could, gave it our all, and these things can happen on the day sometimes.”
The Scotland under-19 international’s main target is now to force his way into Mark Warburton’s plans for Rangers’ Premiership assault next season, and he reckons his experience at Raith has given him a chance of doing just that.
He added: “For me, it’s now a case of coming back to Rangers and trying my best to impress the manager and get into the first-team squad.
“The reason for the loan was to go out and improve and get experience playing at first team level, and I think I have done that fairly well.”