Fraser Kerr is aiming to put a stop-start season behind him and help Motherwell push for another strong finish to the Premiership season.
The defender is five weeks into his rehabilitation from an ankle ligament injury and could be back next weekend against Hibernian at Easter Road after a setback earlier in the week ruled him out of contention for today’s game against Hearts.
The 21-year-old was troubled by hamstring injuries earlier in the campaign and only played once during September and October before the issue flared up again briefly in December.
But he believes he has overcome that problem and is desperate to return to help boost Stuart McCall’s squad, which has been hit following a recent spate of injuries.
“It’s been quite a frustrating season injury-wise to be honest,” Kerr said. “I have picked up a few injuries when I have had a run in the team. I have been in and out.
“This one happened against Aberdeeen. I went up for a header and landed funny on my ankle and strained my ligament. I was having trouble with my back for quite a while, which led to a couple of hamstring injuries.
“I hope, fingers-crossed, all the troubles with my back are behind me. I have been to see a specialist and am managing it, so it shouldn’t flare up.
“The season is coming to a close and I can’t get back quickly enough.
“There has been a wee bit of an injury crisis in the last few weeks with the likes of Simon Ramsden and Paul Lawson getting injured, and there have been quite a few players with wee niggles who are playing on.”
Kerr spent three character-building years of his teenage life in Birmingham after leaving the Motherwell youth ranks to move to St Andrews. So he has been well-equipped mentally to deal with the fitness setbacks.
The East Kilbride-raised player, who has made seven starts and seven substitute appearances this season, said: “You just need to stay mentally positive and just concentrate on taking little steps on getting back fit.
“I always said I have no regrets about moving down to Birmingham. I was 16 when I moved away from home. I matured more quickly than I would have done otherwise.”
Motherwell will need similar mental strength as a squad to bounce back from two disappointment defeats on the road at Tannadice and McDiarmid Park, but they have shown that previously this season, notably in December following the William Hill Scottish Cup exit and a heavy loss to Celtic.
“The past two results haven’t been the best,” Kerr said. “But the whole squad are focused on that second spot. We did really well to get it last season and we are right up there again fighting it out with Aberdeen, Inverness and Dundee United. It will be tough but the boys are fully focused.
“After the Albion Rovers and Celtic games, the squad was a bit down but after that the team spirit we showed to come back and win six games in a row and turn it round was excellent.
“We have had another tough spell but we have got more than enough in the dressing room to come back. We have a lot of experienced boys in there who are really good at helping out the younger boys.”
Kerr believes he has flourished in that environment since returning from the midlands, initially on a trial basis in the summer of 2012. Kerr went on to join Motherwell on loan for the season before signing a two-year deal in the summer.
“It’s been brilliant the last year and a half being in and around the first team and getting first-team games,” he said. “That’s why I came back. I have been converted into a right-back in my time here, I had never really played right-back or anywhere else other than centre-back before I came here.
“The gaffer and Kenny Black have been brilliant for me. Ever since I came up here they have not been afraid to put me in different positions, I even played right midfield in the Krasnodar away game. It’s nice they have shown that faith in me to play me in different positions.”
Kerr’s club form has earned him a place in the Scotland Under-21 set-up, although his injury means he will miss the friendly against Hungary at Tannadice on Wednesday.
But Kerr has won three caps and also the opportunity to train with Gordon Strachan’s squad.
“The last time I went away with the 21s a few of the boys went to train with the full squad,” he said. “That was a real eye-opener to go to Mar Hall and train with the Scotland first team.
“It was an amazing experience being in that environment and seeing what goes on in an international dressing room. The standard of training was great, there’s a lot of Premier League stars there.
“Normally at international level they don’t want to push you too hard in training so there is less risk of you going back to your club with an injury. That said, the standard and the tempo was high.
“The couple of sessions the manager took were going over formations and tactics that they were going to use in the games. I think they won both games so to see that in action was really interesting. What he was trying to implement looked really positive.”
This article was written by Gavin McCafferty
and first appeared in the vs Hearts Steelmen Matchday Magazine.