FRASER AIRD says featuring for the reserve team regularly was beyond his expectations at the start of the season and recognises the role the side has played in his development.
The young winger was a key player once again for the second-string side last night as he scored the opener in their 2-0 win over Queen's Park.
That victory gave Tommy Wilson's squad the SFL Reserve League title as it moved into an unassailable position ahead of second-top Morton with the result.
Aird is a classic example of how good things can happen for a player if he applies himself at a lower level.
Going into the campaign and still only 17 at that point, he simply wasn't being considered for a spot in Ally McCoist's first-team pool.
But after an impressive showing for the reserves against East Fife, he was promoted into the senior side for the home game with Montrose in October.
Aird has since taken his number of appearances into double figures and landed himself a new five-year deal with the club.
He admits all of that was beyond his wildest dreams just a few months ago when the season was getting underway.
Aird said: "I didn't think when I was coming in back then that I was even going to play all the time in the reserves.
"Getting called into the first team was a big shock for me so it has been a really good year for me so far.
"Playing in five or six reserve games then having a chance to move up and make the number of first-team appearances I've made too has been really great.
"When I was sitting at home last summer I definitely didn't see that happening and the Reserve League has been brilliant for me in that respect.
"It's the same with a lot of the other young boys as well. Barrie McKay and Chris Hegarty have done well at that level as well and kicked on. It has been a great platform."
Aird was thrilled to get his goal against Queen's Park on Tuesday night after netting a last-minute winner against their senior side in the Third Division during the festive period.
He smiled: "It looks like I just can't stop scoring against them! I was delighted to get another goal just before half-time.
"I had a chance before then and I should have buried it to be honest but it was good to go on to get the three points and win the league."