Ross Draper has revealed his frustrations at how the high-profile departures at Ross County this week have been handled.
Draper joined County in 2017 from Highland rivals Caley Thistle, but was among a slew of players let go by the Staggies – a day after they announced the appointment of Malky Mackay as manager.
Iain Vigurs and Michael Gardyne, two club legends in Dingwall, were the standout names on the list. Draper, Billy Mckay, Carl Tremarco, Callum Morris, Jason Naismith, Jermaine Hylton, Mohamed Maouche and Tony Andreu have also been released.
A brief conversation with chief executive Steven Ferguson on Thursday confirmed Draper would not have a role to play in the future of the club.
He understands being let go, but feels the manner of these departures has been handled poorly.
Draper said: “We played on the Sunday, had a celebration after staying up, then we didn’t hear anything until we got a call from the secretary this Thursday. You’re talking 10 or 11 days of pure darkness – there wasn’t a message saying ‘this is the situation’ or ‘you’ll find out soon, apologies for how long it’s taken’.
“There was nothing like that from the top. Boys are in the dark in terms of contracts, boys with families. For me, it’s not been handled very well and I’d like to think, if they could do it all again, they’d do it differently.
“Certain players haven’t been treated well, for what they’ve done for the club in the past. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I’ve got no problems in terms of leaving, it’s just the way they handled it.
“There’s no problem wanting to restructure – for me the club has not been run great for years and it’s needed the transition. But it’s going to take a bit of time to get everyone back together and go the way they want to go.
“It’s been ruthless, to be honest. This is not me being bitter about leaving – it’s a new chapter to go and do something else – and they’re looking for a younger squad and I think it’ll be good for the club.
“But you’re not talking about players who have been here two minutes. It’s your club captain (Vigurs), your vice-captain, your top appearance-holder of all-time (Gardyne). Naisy (Jason Naismith), who came in January and played every game. Billy (Mckay), Carl Tremarco – guys who have played their part.
“To not show the respect, particularly for guys like Vigz and Midge (Vigurs and Gardyne), for what they’ve done for the club over the years isn’t right. But will the club care? I’m not sure.”
Vigurs spoke critically on Thursday on the nature of his departure, saying he felt like “just a number” and hitting out at Gardyne being told over Zoom he would not be retained.
Following the conclusion of Season 2020/21, we can now provide the following squad update.
— Ross County FC (@RossCounty) May 27, 2021
On top of the player exits, former club captain and County legend Richard Brittain is leaving his role as assistant manager. County have still to publicly comment on this.
Draper was surprised to see John Hughes, who came in before the turn of the year and saved County from relegation, not get the job on a permanent basis.
He added: “I assumed the gaffer was going to get it. At the end of the day he’s done his job; we were four points adrift having just been beaten by Hamilton and in the end we’ve finished nine points above them.
“He did what he was told to do. I find it kind of mad that he didn’t get the job, if I’m honest. But the longer the week went on and we weren’t hearing anything, maybe the alarm bells were ringing that something wasn’t right.
“Maybe things weren’t right and they went a different route. Richie (Brittain) lost his job – we didn’t hear it from the club, we heard it through rumours. Then a new manager comes in and there’s players’ meetings on Thursday.
“I’ve spoken to him (Hughes) on the phone. He’s fine – he’s obviously disappointed as, on paper, it looks like he’s done a great job.
“It’s not easy coming into a dressing room with a lot of boys, trying to pick your best team. He’s done his job in terms of keeping us up.
“I think he’s frustrated with the way the club wants to go. Maybe he should have been offered the job straight away – an ‘if we stay up, you get it, if we go down, you don’t’ kind of thing.
“The chairman wants to go a different way, not a problem. You run your business the way you want.”
There had been no contact from Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor or Mackay during the week, with Ferguson handling the player releases.
The club have, however, subsequently released a statement from MacGregor thanking the players for their contributions.
Draper added: “I felt sorry for Fergie at times, because the buck was put on him and he had to give the bad news when maybe it’s not his decision.”