ROSS GRAHAM still has manager Peter Grant’s belief that he is a “terrific young player” despite being left out of their last two matches.

The 20-year-old centre back, who joined the club on loan from Dundee United in the summer, had only missed one match – the 3-0 home defeat to Arbroath – since signing before the stalemate with leaders Inverness Caledonian Thistle last Saturday.

It was Dunfermline’s first clean sheet of the season, as they reverted to a back four, with Paul Watson and Vytas Gašpuitis selected to play at the heart of the defence.

Grant told the media afterwards, stressing that it was a difficult call to make, that Graham wasn’t selected but was fit and available.

The Pars boss kept faith with the same defensive line-up for Saturday's match with Hamilton Academical, which ended in another scoreless draw.

Speaking before that match about Graham, who has made eight starts in an Athletic shirt so far, Grant explained: "I know there’s things in his game that he has to improve on but people forget I took Robbie Deas at 18, took him off at half-time against Ayr United, and then he played the next week against Dunfermline, ironically, and he was outstanding.

“Sometimes you’re better taking a step back. Young players are going to make mistakes, they’re going to make errors. You try and stick with them but then sometimes you’ve got to say, hold on, I need to take a step back so you can watch it. We’ve got to remember, 19-, 20-year-old centre backs, I go down to England and you’ll never see a centre back in any league under 28 years of age. They’re always learning and it’s probably a position you’re probably 28, 29 before you really know that position inside out.

“He’s six foot four, he’s got a lovely left foot on him, he’s mobile – he’s got every attribute to be a top, top player, and there’s no doubt he will be that. What he’s got to do is keep working hard at his game and getting better at that daily.

“He gives you a fantastic balance with a lovely left foot he’s got but the bottom line, you’ve got to remember you’re a defender. He’s got to get better at that, as we all have as a group, never mind as individuals.

“He’s got to be better with his mouth, and I know young players don’t speak any more, but it’s so important. For instance, I had a team-mate, Mick McCarthy. When I name a perfect XI or something I’ll name Mick, and everyone sort of looks at me.

“I’ll say he was world class, and they’re all looking at me, and I’ll say world class mouth, because I never needed a shoulder; pick up right, pick up left, left shoulder, right shoulder, organising.

“I know we don’t have those types of players now but that’s what you want to add to their game, and that’s the things I’m trying to add to their game. It’s not just about your position; it’s about your balance off your other defenders or your midfield, can you tell your full back what’s your body position, all these things. He’s a terrific young player with a very bright future in front of him. I’m sure he’ll be a big asset for us.”

Grant added that another of his summer signings, Rhys Breen, was on his way back after injury and COVID problems.

The 21-year-old joined from Rangers, following a loan spell in America, and it’s hoped he will be available in the next couple of weeks.