The more things change, the more they stay the same…


The recent news that Ross County had drawn Celtic at home in the League Cup was a massive boost for fans of the Dingwall club.

Not only is it a mouth-watering home tie that will net the club much-needed cash from a guaranteed full house, television coverage and merchandise sales, but it will also draw huge attention to the team (and town itself) due to the fact that the last time the teams met County caused one of Scottish football’s greatest upsets – dumping the Glasgow giants out of the Scottish Cup semi-finals at the national stadium.

A lot has changed at Ross County since that famous 2-0 victory in the sunshine at Hampden.

After going on to lose 3-0 to a fine Dundee United performance in the subsequent final then starting the following league season in poor form, then County manager Derek Adams left to take on the role of assistant manager at Hibernian FC.

Not many County fans grudged Adams the chance to move to a higher level after his sterling efforts for the club both as a player and then manager, although there was some surprise his departure wasn’t for a full manager’s role.

His replacement Willie McStay looked to be an interesting choice for a club that puts a lot of effort into its youth system and regularly brings youngsters through into the first team. With his experience of youth coaching at a high level and aspirations of proving his management credentials in senior football, McStay seemed a good fit.

However, his reign proved to proved to be a disaster as he failed to win a single game in his nine matches in charge before being hastily removed by the board.

With the team sitting second from last in the league table the appointment of Jimmy Calderwood was seen as a genuine coup.

Regarded as a high profile manager in Scottish football, Calderwood had surprisingly been out of the game for a spell after successfully steering Kilmarnock FC to safety in the Scottish Premier League the previous season.

While not setting the Highland heather on fire, possibly due to the fact he had no chance to alter the roster of players at his disposal, the perma-tanned Glaswegian still managed to squeeze enough out of the County squad to avoid the disaster of relegation.

While that would seem like a good enough reason to try to retain his services the club did not appear to even countenance the idea, but instead moved swiftly to bring back Derek Adams for a second spell in charge.

Opinion was divided among the fans on this move, some seeing it as positive one aimed at bringing back the pretty football and successful cup exploits enjoyed under Adams in his first stint in the Victoria Park dugout. Other saw the hand of the club’s director of football George Adams, Derek’s father, at work – with the implications that it was nepotism that led to his son’s return from capital side Hibs.

Whatever the reasoning behind the move it seems to have worked out so far, with County returning to playing the same attractive if not goal-laden football Adams’ seems to prefer from his teams.

Now with the prospect of Adams and County having the chance to inflict another potentially embarrassing defeat on Celtic, who currently don’t have their troubles to seek after being unceremoniously dumped out of European competition by Swiss side Sion, there is a sense of déjà vu about proceedings on the banks of the Cromarty Firth.

Dingwall will be gripped by cup fever over the next few weeks.

The Jail End terrace and a packed Victoria Park will make it very difficult for Neil Lennon’s side under the floodlights at Victoria Park on September 21.

Derek Adams will set out a Ross County team in a bid to upset the odds and become legends for a second time within 18 months.

If County win Adams will be hailed as the prodigal son returned, while Lennon will once again face a torrent of criticism from his club’s demanding followers and have his credentials as a manager questioned.

A lot has changed at Ross County since that famous 2-0 victory in the sunshine at Hampden – but suddenly it all somehow feels much the same again.

Written by Graeme Cleland | about.me/graemecleland


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