Well, that escalated quickly!
The lack of a first team manager proved no impediment to County signing three players on the final day of the summer transfer window, no doubt with goal of strengthening a side which has yet to take a point from its first five league matches in 2014-2015. All three players were on the books at Kilmarnock F.C. last season, but all come from different backgrounds and all will bring different skills and attributes with them to Victoria Park in Dingwall.
Jackson Irvine is a 21 year old Australian international who is the property of Celtic F.C., but spent all of last season on-loan at Rugby Park and appeared in 25 league matches for Kilmarnock. Though the central midfielder has made only one league appearance for Celtic since joining in them in 2012, he has captained both the U19 and U20 sides for the Glasgow club. Irvine should bring some much needed size and grit to the midfield and, as County supporters know all to well, he can also do this:
Next up is Darren Barr, a free agent who has been training with Partick Thistle. Barr is a 29 year old Glaswegian who can play either in the midfield or the back line and who, despite his age, has been a professional footballer for over a decade and will bring considerable Championship and Premiership experience to the side via his time at Falkirk, Hearts, and Kilmarnock. Barr has signed on for the remainder of the 2014-20115. Barr has had some injury issues in the last few seasons and is a bit “feisty” at times, but on his day he’s been good enough to earn a Scotland cap, so the talent is there to go along with the experience.
Finally, a man who needs no introduction to County fans- Michael “Midge” Gardyne. The diminutive midfielder has returned for his third time around at County and will remain at the club through at least the middle of the season. Gardyne originally joined County on-loan from Celtic for the 2006-2007 season before leaving Celtic to join Greenock Morton. That move lasted only a few months before he returned to County and would spend 2008-20012 with the club. During those years Gardyne- one of the better players ever to pull on a County shirt- was part of the dream run to the Scottish Cup final, a Challenge Cup winner, and one of the players most instrumental in guiding County to the Scottish top flight. Gardyne left the club to return to his native Dundee and play for Dundee United, but struggled to maintain his place in the first team there and was loaned out to Kilmarnock last season.
Many will question why the club has signed Gardyne- even though it is only for a short term loan- but I do not. Does the club have a need for a striker/winger with Gardyne’s qualities? No, not really, but it never hurts to bring in another good player- if only to push the other players to work harder. In Gardyne’s case, I think his on-field contributions will be of a secondary nature. I think Gardyne was signed because he is a winner, he understands the culture (footballing and otherwise) in Dingwall, and because he will strengthen the core of like-minded, “we play for the shirt first,” players that has taken a hit in recent seasons. Having players like Gardyne, Boyd, Brittain, and even Rocco Quinn who have “been there, done that” at Ross County will, I think, have a settling effect on the players overall. In my estimation what this team lacks is not talent, but belief. I have no problem with the signing of so many foreign players over the last few years but I think that in a lot of cases these have been players whose primary goal has been an individual one- “I’m young and need my chance to play,” “I’ve suffered some injuries and need a chance to get back in the shop window and prove myself,” or, “I think I’ve got a year or two more left, County seem like a nice club…”. What these players have failed to realize is that this is a club where, if everyone pulls in the same direction, the “whole” can be much greater than the sum of the “parts.”
In short, if these players- Scottish or not- with something to prove will instead prove their commitment to the club, the rest will take care of itself, the opportunities will present themselves, and it is players like Gardyne who know this to be true and that’s why I think bringing Midge back to Dingwall until January (or maybe longer) is not only a good move, it’s the best move of the three.