Ross County’s promotion kept co-managers Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson focused on the task of readying their squad for Premiership football over the summer.
County have kept the nucleus of the Championship-winning squad intact, but have still made as many as nine new additions over the course of the transfer window.
The Staggies will have strong competition for places once everyone is fit again, with a raft of difficult selection decisions for Kettlewell and Ferguson to make.
Unfortunately the co-managers have not had that luxury for some time however, which has perhaps prompted them to do more business than they would have originally anticipated.
County’s first priority was the goalkeeping position which was vacated by the departure of Scott Fox, who eventually returned to former club Partick Thistle. The only other unforeseen departure in addition to Fox was that of Jamie Lindsay, who joined Rotherham United in a £300,000 deal.
Wingers Davis Keillor-Dunn and Daniel Armstrong, along with defenders Kenny van der Weg and Callum Semple, were freed after struggling for game time, while attacker Declan McManus was loaned to League 1 side Falkirk despite initially agreeing a new contract.
Fox was not the only goalkeeper to depart, with the Staggies hoping highly-rated youngster Ross Munro can thrive during a loan spell with Raith Rovers.
The Staggies acted quickly to fill the immediate gap between the sticks, with Ross Laidlaw arriving from Hibernian and highly-rated youngster Nathan Baxter drafted in on loan from Chelsea.
In a twist somewhat emblematic of their problems, Baxter suffered a dislocated shoulder during pre-season before supporters had seen him in action, which is expected to keep him out until closer to the turn of the year.
Although Baxter is scheduled to return from Stamford Bridge, the Staggies reacted by bringing in former Wolves youngster Jack Ruddy on a permanent deal.
It remains to be seen what will happen come January – when Ruddy’s deal running out coincides with Baxter’s expected return to fitness – however Laidlaw has been in command of the gloves to this point. Although he will be disappointed at losing seven goals in his last two games, Laidlaw was an impressive performer in keeping clean sheets in the Staggies’ opening two matches against Hamilton Accies and Hearts.
Among the other early arrivals was Joe Chalmers, who made the short trip from rivals Caley Thistle after reviving his career with John Robertson’s men in the last two seasons. Robertson oversaw Chalmers’ switch from left back into midfield where he was a consistent performer for Inverness, and he now feels ready for another top-flight opportunity after leaving Motherwell in 2017. It proved an excellent start for Chalmers, who opened the Staggies’ top-flight account for the season with a stunning opener against Hamilton.
Competing with Chalmers in trying to nail down a midfield berth is Blair Spittal, who also stepped up from the Championship when he left Partick Thistle. Spittal previously impressed in the top-flight for Dundee United before suffering relegation following his move to Thistle, however he enjoyed a successful player of the year winning campaign under Gary Caldwell last year which he described as being the best of his career on a personal level.
Winger Simon Power is an intriuging arrival on loan from newly-promoted English Premier League side Norwich City, with the Irishman clearly possessing rapid pace from the brief glimpses of action he has had so far.
A hamstring injury has prevented Power from fulfilling his potential so far, but Kettlewell and Ferguson are clearly excited by what he can contribute once he is fully up and running.
Another player to have had a disrupted start to life at the Staggies is forward Lee Erwin. The former Motherwell and Kilmarnock arrived back in Scotland eager to fall back in love with football again after an ill-fated spell in Iranian football with Tractor, which had seen him frozen out of action since last November.
After a complication with Erwin’s registration sidelined him in the weeks which followed his move to Dingwall, his misfortune was compounded when he suffered a hamstring injury shortly after the issue was finally resolved.
It means Staggies supporters will have to wait a number of weeks before they see him in action, however they will hope he can rekindle the form which prompted English Championship side Leeds United to sign him from Well four years ago.
County’s final two pieces of business came towards the end of the transfer window, with Richard Foster returning from St Johnstone to provide competition at full back. County know exactly what they are getting from the experienced former Aberdeen and Rangers defender, who was part of County’s League Cup winning team in 2016.
The Staggies also moved late to draft in Celtic’s Ewan Henderson on a season-long loan, with the teenager aiming to flourish in a similar way to how former Hoops loanees Jackson Irvine and Lindsay did before him at Victoria Park.