Ross McParland – the beginning of a football career

The first of a two-part feature on academy youngster Ross McParland, written by Harri Burton…

Ross McParland is an up-and-coming 20-year-old striker at St Andrews FC, a club in the Maltese second division. This won’t mean much to the Chesterfield community, but some fans will remember the name.

McParland has experience at Chesterfield FC’s academy, with the talisman playing at Under-21 level in 2021 as he continued his career with Corby Town. In his short spell at the club, his potential was clear to the Chesterfield coaches and the St Andrews staff, too.

Shortly after grabbing a debut goal for the Spireites in an U21s game against Eastwood Community FC, talks were set in motion for McParland’s move to Malta.

The player hasn’t looked back since.

“It was last year when the Covid restrictions were being lifted, I was invited to play in an U21s tournament – thanks to Neil Cluxton,” said McParland.

“My dad said it would be good to get involved, get back training and back to full fitness. From there, it was just deciding whether I wanted to carry on with Chesterfield or find a non-league club.

“Neil said there might be an opportunity to play abroad, I thought it would be a great opportunity. It was different to my normal footballing career so far.

“I was carrying on with Corby Town, until Neil and Justin Tellus set up a Zoom call with the St Andrews president, Jason Falzan and the coach, Liam Mange.

“They sounded really positive about getting me involved. I haven’t regretted it. It was definitely the right decision for me.”

McParland has kept in touch with one of the staff at Chesterfield – Justin Tellus, the academy’s head of recruitment & development. It seems that there is a special relationship between the two, which has helped a relationship between the club and St Andrews blossom.

“Justin Tellus has been looking after me so well since I got out here,” said the youngster.

“He gives me advice, listens to all the feedback about me after each game, making sure I’m doing well. We’re so close. He keeps me on the right path and will tell me off if it’s needed.

“He gives me a lot of praise, too. He’s been top class. When he was beginning his involvement with the club, he came to watch me play and said how impressed he was – my movement was the highlight. He’s had a massive impact on me.”

Talk quickly moved on to McParland’s experiences out in Malta so far, on the pitch and off. 

“I had a bit of a culture shock, to be honest. The football culture in Malta is a lot different to how it is back in the UK,” he said.

“I had a very mixed start. When I came in, I hit the ground running, with five goals in my first five games.

“I’ve had to adapt and adapting took a while for me. I play with my heart on my sleeve, I’m very passionate.

“I wish I had adapted quicker. The tempo of the game is different, people like to get on the ball more here, keeping the ball more and play possession-based football.

“When I was with Chesterfield U21s, it was all about getting the ball forward and breaking lines.

“I’ve had to change my game. I was an old number nine type of player – holding the ball up, running in behind, getting the tap-ins.

“Here, I have to drop in as a number 10 sometimes, and get on the ball, which is something I’ve never done before.

“It’s something I’ve had to add to my game, which has given me a new dimension. So, if something isn’t working in a game, I can switch it up and aid my performance.

“All the foreign players who travel out here get targeted. If you’re from a foreign country, they assume that you must be a very good player, so they go for you.

“I let it get to me; it killed my confidence. But I was reminded that they are only doing it because they were threatened by my skill and potential.

“I had my blip. It was time to get my head down and kick on. Now I just laugh at any players trying to get a reaction out of me. It made me a bigger man.”

Having only played a few games for St Andrews’ U19s, the young prospect was promoted to the first team due to fine performances. McParland spoke really positively about his call-up.

“Being promoted to the first team was really good for me,” the striker said. “I did really well at U19s and U21s level, so I got my call-up. 

“Brian Said, the coach, has been a big influence. He’s an ex-Malta captain, with over 90 caps, who used to be such a top player. It’s a great opportunity to play for him, and with a lot of other ex-internationals, ex-Sweden internationals.

“All these players have played at the top level in Malta, who have so much experience. I’m picking up bits from every individual through tips and advice. Now, I just want to fight and secure my shirt.”

When asked about his ambitions for his footballing career, McParland wasn’t looking too far ahead.

He said: “It would be great to secure my place in the team and grab some more goals.

“It [scoring his first professional goal] was class. If anything, it has made me even hungrier. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

“I back myself going into any team at any level. I’m confident and believe in myself. I didn’t used to believe in myself enough but now I use my confidence as an advantage.

“My main aim is to come back and have a successful career in England. I want to have a career like my dad’s, scoring at every club he’s been at. Chesterfield would be great.

“Or my club in Scotland – Hibs. I’d also love to play for Scotland, but we’ll see. Who knows? 

“If you work hard enough, things can fall into your lap. Not many people get to play football, so a successful career would be amazing.”