If there was one thing that the Ross County team of 2010 had in spades, it was fighting spirit.
But as club captain Richie Brittain recalls, that spirit extended to players literally scrapping with each other in training on an almost daily basis.
The Staggies had started to make some serious strides under Derek Adams in the spring of 2010.
His team were well on the way to a comfortable mid-table position in the Scottish First Division – a welcome relief after a nervy relegation battle the year before – and their Scottish Cup exploits were attracting national recognition.
Dumping Hibs out of the quarter-final got them noticed but it was the win over Neil Lennon’s Celtic that sent them stratospheric.
The burning desire to be involved in that semi-final and the final against Dundee United led to some tasty encounters at the Dingwall club’s training ground.
Brittain, who is now the head of County’s professional academy, said: “The squad we had back then was incredibly competitive. The amount of arguments and fights there were, it was almost every day.
“And when those scraps happened, Derek would stand back and let it go. He wasn’t one for stepping in and saying ‘don’t do that’, he wanted to let the players sort it out themselves.
“As captain, I was probably more towards being a pain in the back side. I was demanding and I liked to try to inspire people.
“If people didn’t meet those standards, I would fall out with them. Those arguments were always happening in training but I was a fan of that, this was a team full of winners so it was healthy as long as it was within reason.
“Once we crossed the white line though, we were all united.
“You don’t see as much of that nowadays, it’s maybe a cultural change. But it worked for us and I think we achieved a lot of success during my time.”
The semi-final victory over Celtic at Hampden was the biggest in the club’s history up to that point and remains one of County’s finest to this day.
The Staggies were relative unknowns compared to players like Scott Brown and Aiden McGeady and Brittain’s job on that day was sitting deep in midfield and stopping the supply to Robbie Keane.
Keane, who was on loan at Celtic from Spurs, was reportedly taking home around £65,000 a week at the time.
That salary dwarfed County’s top earner by a factor of 100 but the Irish international barely had a kick that day as the Staggies won 2-0.
There was no shortage of belief that County could topple Dundee United in the final and claim a maiden Scottish Cup.
Dingwall was buzzing with excitement and around 20,000 County fans descended on Hampden Park for the showpiece event.
Watch the full replay of the 2010 Scottish Cup final here:
“The club was on a crest of a wave,” Brittain said. “Everyone in the area wanted to be part of it.
“To take 20,000 fans to Hampden for a club coming from a town the size of Dingwall, it’s a fantastic achievement.”
Unfortunately for County, the final was a bridge too far.
United had finished third in the top flight that season behind Rangers and Celtic and were no mugs.
David Goodwillie opened the scoring in the second half with a 25-yard lob and a double from Craig Conway sealed a 3-0 win.
Some of the best images from the 2010 Scottish Cup final:
Reaching the final had been a tremendous achievement and one no one would have predicted at the start of the season, but that didn’t make the result hurt any less.
Brittain, who made 270 appearances and scored 50 goals for the Staggies across seven seasons, said: “I’ve still not watched it back and I don’t think I could ever bring myself to, I’ve always said it was the biggest disappointment of my career.
“We didn’t play at the level we knew we could. That might have been down to them doing their homework and nullifying our strengths or us not playing to our usual standards.
“United deserved it on the day but for me, playing in that game and that run to the final is something I can look back on now with immense pride.”