Staggies must defy history in order to secure quick return to Premiership

Ross County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell on the touchline
Ross County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell on the touchline

Ross County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell feels the Staggies must buck the trend if they are to secure the title in their first season since being relegated to the Championship.

County are a point adrift of leaders Ayr United, who have a game in hand, ahead of tomorrow’s home match against a Partick Thistle side which also suffered relegation from the top-flight last term.

While County remain in close pursuit of the summit, life in the second-tier has not been as enjoyable for the Jags, who are a point above bottom placed Falkirk with just one win since Gary Caldwell replaced the sacked Alan Archibald as manager in October.

Of the eight clubs that have been relegated from the top-flight since 2011, only Dundee and Hearts have succeeded in winning promotion at the first time of asking, and Kettlewell believes history shows how difficult a task the Staggies face to regain their Premiership status at the first attempt.

Kettlewell said: “There have been bigger clubs than us relegated from the Premiership – big city clubs with big budgets and big players – that have struggled in the Championship and not mounted a challenge for the league.

“We had to make sure we were in the mix at this point in the season. Obviously, the importance of now through to the end of the season becomes greater, but it was so important to be in the mix and not facing a mountain to climb.

“Anybody who wants a stab at winning this league will have to show some really good form from now until the end of the season, we know that.

“But the objective could easily have been out of our hands by this point in the season.

“We stressed that to the players. Myself and Steven were so focused on that – and probably obsessed by that – at the start of the season.

“I think the chairman made us aware of that as well, given the type of person he is.

“The word ‘hangover’ was used several times – make sure there’s no hangover from being relegated.

“We feel as if we’ve done that to this point and we probably focus too much on the negatives.

“But it is about making sure we don’t rest on our laurels and making sure we kick on from here.”

County are hoping to have defender Callum Morris back in contention, having been sidelined since November with a knee injury, and Kettlewell added: “Callum is still working hard with the physio. We obviously want to get him back on the pitch as quickly as we can.

“It has pushed on in the last couple of days, so we just need to make sure there is no reaction. We had him back on the training pitch and away again, so we need to get him right.

“He is the type of character and player you obviously want in your squad, that’s for sure.”