A confession. I was in an aeroplane somewhere over the Persian gulf when Ross County lost to Stranraer. A full strength side – the same side which steamrolled St Mirren with nary a whimper of protest managed to lose to a second division side, albeit in the diddy,loss-making cup. That St Mirren and Kilmarnock also got knocked out eased the blow somewhat, but it still wasn’t good.
Not good at all in actual fact.This happens. As a Premiership side we are there for the taking. Fifteen years ago – heck, even five years ago – we were the flip side of the coin. For Stranraer fans and players it must have been a great feeling and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of them haven’t got their vocal chords fully functioning yet. For the Ross County players it must have been a hellish 250-odd mile trip back up to Dingwall.
But, as with last season’s similar set-back (a 4-1 home defeat to Raith) in the great scheme of things this isn’t all that big of a deal, and at risk of falling into football cliché, it should be springboard to greater intensity, harder drilling and extended focus. Some players will find themselves out of the side for a significant period of time, I would suggest.One or two may find themselves unexpectedly recalled.
At the very least it should put an end to the whole “but, but, but it’s the formation” nonsense coming from the stands and the internet.
Ross County lost to Celtic, Partick and St Johnstone playing a 5-4-1 set-up – think Rangers in Europe under Walter Smith, the second time around. They dropped it, reverting to good old four defenders against St Mirren, and won. They kept the same starting XI and lost to Stranraer.
It’s fair to say Ross County are not quite where Derek Adams would want them to be at this early stage in the season.
There’s no use in calling for the heads of our Dutch contingent – these are good players and from what I’m lead to believe, several of them are regarded as something of a coup for the club. Kevin Luckassen and Melvin De Leeuw in particular, are regarded as fine prospects. Marc Klok, yet to feature for the first team, may well come into the reckoning sooner rather than later. But let’s not forget Derek Adams’ modus operandi; sign players for bit part roles, drill them as much as is humanly possible in training, and then after a while, set them free as fulcrums of the side. To wit, read Kettlewell, Lawson, Kovacevic,and Quinn.
Our Dutch contingent will come good. It’s all a question of patience. Comfort in their roles, comfort in the country and comfort in their club will all take a matter of time. The multi-year contracts handed out are testament to the confidence of the manager and the director of football.
Admittedly, for players like Brian McLean, Steven Saunders and Graham Carey – seasoned SPFL players – the leeway is not as generous. Carey has been one of the better performers so far, but the other two have done little to win over fans. These guys,too, are far from bad players.
Ross County fans last season were spoiled by a remarkable achievement by a remarkable squad of players. This season is a new squad, but the focus on character is still there.George and Derek Adams have talked often in the past of the personality of players being a big factor in bringing them to the club. This is often a euphemism for players who run about a lot, but in fact it has much more to do with intelligence. Footballing intelligence.
Watch Ross County’s third goal against St Mirren again. For at least the second time in the game, Brittain was allowed a free run into the penalty box. His ostensible marker, the polemic Gary Harkins, failed to switch on to what was happening. For Derek Adams, that lack of awareness would be inexcusable. It is precisely that almost obsessive compulsion to repetition that will see Ross County good.
Fans should have faith in Derek Adams being both smarter and better prepared than his counterparts, and in time, his players being better coached. The concern is that the squad seems a little unsettled, a few too many new players brought in at once. More players is not the answer. Neither is a hell-bent determination to get rid of the foreign duds. Time, and patience, will see County alright.