Cooney and Black

Hey, folks, I’ve found the perfect football club. The Staggies have an amazing fan base, a progressive and outspoken chairman, a really brave manager – and a PR machine that never falters

Ross County

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FOR a wee football club from the small market town of Dingwall in Ross and Cromarty (population 5,491), Ross County has consistently punched well above its weight.

Scottish Cup finalists in 2010 and a member of the Premiership for the past three seasons – finishing in fifth place in 2012/13 – County continually surpasses all reasonable expectations.

How the team manages to attract an average attendance in excess of 3,000, given such a limited fan base, beggars belief. Even more amazing is the claim that 17,000 supporters travelled to Hampden Park five years ago for the greatest day in County’s 86-year history.

It should not be forgotten, either, that while Ross County was formed in 1929, until season 1994-95 they played in the Highland Football League, a competition they won three times.

In the 20 years since, the rise of the Staggies has been nothing short of remarkable; a steady and spectacular progression through the various leagues culminating in them being crowned champions of each in turn, in addition to winning the Challenge Cup twice.

The bulk of this success has been overseen by the progressive chairman, Roy MacGregor, a hugely successful local businessman who has invested heavily in the team and the infrastructure of the Global Energy Stadium, named after the company he chairs.

Part of MacGregor’s appeal is his hands-on approach to running the club and ensuring its continued wellbeing. He also has a close relationship with the fans, ensuring that they are made to feel part of their football club.

He has gone out of his way to re-engage with Scottish football fans as a whole by making his club’s relationship with its supporters a priority.

MacGregor is a staunch believer in the need to enhance fans’ match-day experience while, at the same time, keen to ensure that his club lives within its means through prudent business practices.

But would you really expect anything else from a gentleman who oozes class and good manners and runs a business worth half a billion pounds a year and a football club worth its weight in gold?

Unlike so many of his counterparts, MacGregor is also keen to foster a close working relationship with the media in the realisation that it is always best to have the press on your side.

Consequently, he is invariably available at the end of a phone and is both refreshingly candid and outspoken whenever he feels a need to be.

“We don’t market the game in this country,” he says. “The league body should be 90 per cent PR and 10 per cent rules and administration – we’re the other way round.”

How many chairmen of football clubs would hold their hands up and admit that some of their team’s performances have been “awful”, as MacGregor did recently. At the same time, he stressed that he was standing by the man he appointed as managerial successor to Derek Adams in September, Jim McIntyre.

That faith is slowly being repaid in the form of a streak of wins that has lifted County off the bottom of the Premiership and raised hopes of top-flight survival. McIntyre, for his part, has been given the accolade of SPFL Premiership Manger of the Month award for February, an honour richly deserved.

There were those who questioned the wisdom of his decision to swap the relative tranquillity of Dumfries for the choppy waters of Dingwall.

Queen of the South had, after all, made a solid enough start to its season, including a home win against Rangers, whereas Ross County were still pointless after five Premiership fixtures when McIntyre took charge.

After several seasons of over-achievement under the father and son management team of George and Derek Adams, there was a sense that the Staggies were perhaps entering a period of readjustment.

That conviction had grown by the time the team entered February on the back of a 12 match winless run, with no obvious signs of an impending revival.

But suddenly, after appearing doomed, they plucked four consecutive victories out of the air to lift themselves off the bottom.

Even in his darkest moments, McIntyre never doubted his wisdom, not least as it represented an opportunity to move up from the Championship and once again dip his toe in Premiership waters after having previously done so with Dunfermline, his first port of call in management.

Others might have been tempted to shy away from such a challenge. But McIntyre did not hesitate, even for a moment.

“I never doubted coming here,” the 42-year-old claims. “I knew exactly what I was taking on. I had done my homework and I knew that it was a very well run club, similar to Queens.

“The chairman lets you get on with managing the football team without interference. So I was confident I would have plenty of time left to try to make an impact, but I also knew it was going to be difficult. It has been a long road – and there’s still a long road ahead.”

The journey has been eased somewhat in recent weeks. But McIntyre also wisely counselled against increased expectations. “All we have done is give ourselves a chance,” he stressed. “We asked the players to make up the points deficit going into the split and it has been a good month for the club. The hardest part now is to keep that going.

“I think when you make as many changes as we felt were necessary, you know it’s going to take a wee bit of time to implement what you are looking for. But the players have displayed great professionalism.

“They had the belief that they could turn things around. You do not get these awards unless your team is playing well, so it’s an honour for everyone at the club.”

Not least for Roy MacGregor, whose County is role model for the rest of Scottish football and one the others – the Old Firm included – would do well to try to copy.

 
 
PICTURE COURTESY OF: Jeff Holmes Pix

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Nice to hear someone appreciating a Great club, so sick of Central belt fans saying we don’t bring anything to the SPFL and moaning about how far they have to travel twice a season. We don’t have a big travelling support, that’s true, but we face that journey with every away game and our numbers may be small but we are friendly, fun and noisy. We stood with our boys in the Dark days and we always will. If you are lucky enough to come into contact with us then we will brighten your day.

    • Hear hear. Been a County fan all my days and I’m so proud of how far the club has come. The greatest game of fitba I’ve ever been to was the Scottish Cup semi against Celtic. I hope to have many more days like that following the staggies. From the old wooden blue stand to Hampden, it’s been an absolute joy.

  • the day they are relegated won’t be a day too soon. One team from the highlands is enough. Either merge with ICT or get relegated so us central belt folk don’t need travel the length of the country to watch a game of football more than 2/3 times a year.

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