Tomorrow Ross County F.C. will begin their fourth consecutive season in Scotland’s top division- the Premiership. Regardless of how the 2015-2016 begins, unfolds, and concludes, the significance of this wee club’s rise to the top of the Scottish football pyramid should not be forgotten. That said, I don’t think I’m the only Ross County supporter who thinks that this could be an exciting season in Dingwall and that a finish somewhere between seventh and fifth place is a reasonable expectation.
While most in the media have tipped County as relegation favorites, I just can’t see it. I’ll admit that as a supporter I’m prone to putting the best possible spin on things, but at the same time, it’s hard to argue with the facts.
Over the last 14 matches of the 2014-2015 season County had a record of 10-2-2 for 32 points, second only to league champions Celtic F.C. over the same stretch.
Of the players who led County on this amazing run, only two- Paul Quinn and Martin Woods– who were instrumental in this amazing run left the club. The club will also feel the losses of captain Richard Brittain and Filip Kiss, but it must be said that Brittain’s loss will mostly be felt in spirit (he played a greatly reduced role under new manger Jim McIntyre) and that Kiss was no the same player for County last season as he was during his initial loan from Cardiff City F.C..
County’s player acquisitions during the close season have, at least on paper, improved the squad from top to bottom. The goalkeeping tandem of Scott Fox and Daniel Bachmann have to be considered an upgrade over Antonio Reguero and Mark Brown. In the midfield with only Martin Woods moving on from the club only one player from the trio of Ian McShane, Stewart Murdoch, and Jonathan Franks needs to emerge as a member of the starting eleven. The same holds true on the back line where the departure of Paul Quinn for Aberdeen will see new signing/captain Andrew Davies will step in and Richard Foster, Chris Robertson, Darren Holden pushing Scott Boyd, Jamie Reckord, and Marcus Fraser for minutes. County have also added forward Brian Graham to the club.
County will benefit from having a full season with the in-season acquisitions who were so instrumental in the club’s success during the second half of the season. Think about that, full seasons of Michael Gardyne, Raffa De Vita, Craig Curran, Jackson Irvine, Jamie Reckord, and Marcus Fraser -this can only be a good thing.
Manager Jim McIntyre will have a full season to guide “his” players (rather than those left behind by Derek Adams). That might not seem like a big deal, but with “his” players McIntyre was the Premiership “Manager of the Month” in both February and March of 2015.
All of that being said, the most important thing that County can do this year is start the season well. They don’t need to start the season at the level the finished the 2014-2015 season- though that would be wonderful!- but if they can hit the mid-point of the 2015-2016 out of relegation trouble- say seventh place?- and then have the January transfer window to bring in a player or two to strengthen the squad (rather than the army of replacements we’ve seen in recent years) ahead of the normal strong second half that we’ve come to expect over the past few years and a top half finish is not out of the question.
So, Celtic tomorrow- a win or draw would be great, but a “good effort” is probably enough- and then onward…
‘mon the Staggies!!