A lifetime of regrets for Maurice Ross, Motherwell's travelling minstrel

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Regrets? Maurice Ross has more than a few. "I kick myself every day," claims the Motherwell defender. "There's not a day that goes by where I don't think 'what if, what if'. If I'd just done things differently." There are few playing careers as wildly fluctuating as his. He is still only 30, but there are grey hairs to betray a lost youth. A player who once seemingly had everything in front of him now with a whole lot of living behind him.

Once of Rangers and Scotland, Ross is at his eighth club now, though his own tally is seven. "You can't count Sheffield Wednesday," he protests. "That was a joke. I only played one game for them." An eloquent, engaging figure, Ross is blunt about his failings to the point where he even discounts his success. His take now on his burst of early fame at Ibrox is that he probably never deserved to be there in the first instance. Even when you suggest this is too harsh, there is a firm shake of the head. He has convinced himself he was an impostor who got found out.

"I don't blame the Rangers fans who used to give me stick," says Ross. "I was treading water there. I just couldn't fathom how I was knocking my pan in just to be on a level playing field with the quality of the team-mates around me. The other guys in that Rangers side then could just stroll about and still be better than me. I was lucky to get the number of games I did for Rangers. I was probably only capped because I was at Rangers. I never watch any of my old games back on tape, it would just frustrate and annoy me."

The bad memories have been banished, but he wishes he had held on to more of the souvenirs of that brief, glorious era. "I thought when I was 21 and at Rangers winning trophies that it was going to be like that forever," he admits. "I don't have a Champions League jersey in the house. I gave them all away to family and friends at the time because I would just think to myself, 'Ach, there's always the ones from next season to keep'. I didn't appreciate enough what I had."

He does now. Ross is grateful for Motherwell providing another chance to prove himself after St Mirren delayed a contract offer too long. As well as Wolves, Millwall and Aberdeen, Ross has some fairly exotic other places on a CV that smacks of someone determined to escape his past. There was Viking Stavanger in Norway, Beijing Guoan in China and Kocaelispor in Turkey, though the latter journey of discovery came to an abrupt halt when he found they had not paid him in four months.

Next Saturday, however, Ross could find himself back on what was once a familiar stage, Hampden, for the semi-final of the Scottish Cup against St Johnstone. "I'm still really hungry," he insists. "Probably striving more than ever before to do better for myself. I'm training with a real intensity because I know this semi-final is a great opportunity for me. I know that I'll never chuck it as a player.I've got far too much fire in my belly for that."

Could there yet be a way back? Stephen Crainey, then of Celtic, was an international team-mate of Ross during the same period and has returned to the Scotland fold with Blackpool. Ross is making no such predictions for himself, though. He refuses to believe he has it in him. He claims Crainey was always good enough, he just missed the exposure until Blackpool's surprise promotion to the Premier League. The closest he has got himself to repeating anything like the good old days came in China.

"I played in their version of the Champions League over there," he smiles. "I played against Japanese teams, Korean, some good Australian sides, as well, and enjoyed it. I realise it could only be seen here at 2am in the morning on obscure satellite stations, but it was a big deal over there." Even a taste of what he once had was welcome. The same will apply next Saturday. The national stadium. A major semi-final. Ross will take this.