If you’re expecting outrage, you’re not going to find it here. Football, like anything else, is a business, and in business you sometimes have to make hard decisions- like letting a beloved club captain go. The decision to release long-time club captain Richard Brittain must have been made all the more difficult because he was more than just the man who wore the arm band for the club on so many occasion, he was also the player who set the standard for what a Ross County player could and should be. Was he ever the club’s best player? Probably not- though he might have been the best free kick taker to ever wear the County colors. No, Brittain was the player who did all of the dirty work, the things the casual supporter might not notice. He tracked back on defense, he sacrificed his body for the club, he screamed at his teammates, but only to encourage them.
Britain almost left the club a few years ago for St. Johnstone and the hope of greener pastures (i.e. European football and a bigger paycheck), but when a crisis hit his immediate family he realized that the best place to ride out the storm was with his extended footballing family and that family- the club and its supporters- stood by him until times got better. Things on the field have not been the best since his decision to remain at the club, Brittain has had to fight through several injuries, the undeniable success of the players brought in to play his position during his absences, and, of course, the inevitable difficulties of being an aging player (in footballing terms- he’s not yet 32) in a young man’s game. Brittain leaves County as its 5th all-time goal scorer and as is 3rd all-time in appearances made for the club.
While Brittain may find another club for next season it would not surprise me in the least if he were to hang up his boots at this point. He’s been a professional since the age of 19, recent injuries have certainly slowed him up a bit, he’s been actively preparing for life away from football for several years (working towards becoming a financial planner if I’m not mistaken), and after the birth of his daughter and the difficulties that it caused for his wife Diane, he made it very clear that football was no longer the priority in his life. Perhaps he will find a framework in which to continue as a footballer while balancing it with his family life, but if not he’s still a young man with a long future ahead of him and one during which he will be able to take satisfaction in having been one of the most influential players on some of the most important Ross County sides in the club’s history. County would never have been a Premiership club without him.
Eleven other players were released by Ross County F.C. today, they are:
The release of goalkeepers Brown and Reguero might be a little surprising (both being released rather than one or the other), but I think it is actually a good sign. Both players had their moments this season but both have pretty much peaked in terms of their ability to play Premiership football. Simply put, I think that the club have realized that the way forward- remaining in the top flight and moving up the standings- requires an upgrade between the sticks. My guess would be that whomever is brought in to replace these two will be both younger and bigger.
The release of Cardle and Carey is also symbolic of the sea change taking place at Victoria Park- the goal of avoiding relegation has been replaced by the goal of improving position. In some ways those are two sides of the same coin, but I think the club is really trying to focus on the positive side of the equation. Carey was arguably the club’s best player last season and Cardle was an “effective” player in his early days with the club. Unfortunately, the arrival of players like Jackson Irvine, Raffaela De Vita, Martin Woods, and Michael Gardyne pushed Cardle and Carey to the substitutes bench and beyond. While the two probably still have plenty of years as professional footballers ahead of them, it won’t be at County.
I won’t put the acquisition of Canadian international Terry Dunfield on the level of of Farosese international Atli Gregersen, but it wasn’t far off. Made no impact at the club and there can be no surprise at his release.
The pre-contract signing of Brian Graham was thought by many to mark the end of Jake Jervis’ time at County, and while the two events may not be directly connected, Jervis is gone. Jervis showed flashes of talent while at County and worked hard for the club, but in the end he is another player who the club felt they could upgrade upon and they have done so.
Abdoulaye Meite, Darvydas Sernas, and Ruben Palazuelos were players who were brought in during the middle of the season to add depth to the squad, but that depth was not needed or other players were preferred and this group combined for only nine appearances all season- including none for Meite.
Ben Frempah and Steven Saunders are probably the only surprises (other than Brittain) on this list. That said, both are understandable. Frempah has just turned 20 but was going to have a tough time breaking into the starting eleven next year, so the thought might be to free up his spot and use it for a player who has a better shot of contributing immediately. Saunders is clearly talented, still young at 24, but injury-prone to the point that a club of County’s size just can’t afford to keep him on the books if he isn’t playing on a regular basis.
There is of course, a subtext to all of this. If County is willing to release all of these players- especially so many midfielders- one can only assume that the club feels confident in re-signing or signing on a permanent basis the players who were so instrumental in the club’s turnaround this season. It has long been rumored that former County players Michael Gardyne- currently on-loan from Dundee United, who don’t want him back next year- will sign with the club and it is known that the club is in talks with Paul Quinn, Rocco Quinn,Raffa De Vita, and Martin Woods to return next season. Filip Kiss has returned to Cardiff City and Cameron Burgess has returned to Fulham, though I’m sure that the club would love to have both of them back for the right price. Which leaves just one big name out there…
The Celtic loanee and Australian international was the choice of many for the club’s player of the year and signing him- or even getting him back on loan for another season has to be a priority for the club during the close season. The 22 year old is still improving and is probably destined for a better league than the Premiership, but if he can be secured for another season or two he’ll be invaluable to the club.
More coverage as events warrant it…