Malky Mackay insists Ross County players must earn the right to wear the club’s shirt and have pride in representing the Staggies in their ninth Premiership campaign in the last 10 seasons.
On the eve of kicking off at home to double cup-winners St Johnstone, the manager said the club, guided by chairman Roy MacGregor, has done remarkably well to continually compete at Scottish football’s top table.
They dropped into the Championship for one year, but stormed right back in 2019, under the leadership of co-bosses Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson.
Kettlewell, in sole charge last term, couldn’t prevent a drop down the Premiership and was replaced midway through by John Hughes, who, thanks to three straight wins at the death, kept the side at the top level.
Manager ready for top-class Premiership opponents
Mackay believes County can be rightly proud of mixing it with the best for most of the past decade.
He stressed: “I don’t think that is something that should be lost on a club this size or where we are and come from.
“We are backed by Mr MacGregor and to be in the top-flight nine seasons out of 10 is an incredible feat.
“This season, arguably, the biggest teams in our country are now back in the Scottish Premiership and we are there as well.
“We have to embrace that because it is fantastic that Hearts are back in there, Dundee, who have a rich history, are back as well and then there are the teams in the league.
“Look at St Johnstone last season and what they did. It is going to be a tough task with the huge changeover at the club with the coaching and playing staff.
“I am looking forward to it and. Have a group who want to do the best they can and have a real pride in wearing the jersey.”
Callum Davidson’s sensational Saints stunned Scottish football by winning the League and Scottish Cups last term and will be in Dingwall this weekend seeking a winning league start.
St Johnstone showed the rest what can be achieved
Mackay said it’s great to see clubs outside the main two showing they can rise to the challenge.
He explained: “I think everybody can take inspiration (from St Johnstone), whether it be a cup run or a team getting into third or fourth place.
“Motherwell have jumped up to third, Hibs and Aberdeen are traditionally bigger clubs, Livingston getting up to that area and St Johnstone doing well in the two cups. Ross County also won the League Cup (in 2016).
“There are obvious challenges with clubs who have budgets, squads and attendances. We are in there with everybody else and we have to walk in there with a level playing field to do the best we can for the club, (so) the area and everybody in this area and the Highlands is proud of us.”
🦌 Ross County v St Johnstone🔵
Join us for our League Opener on RCFCTV as the Perth Saints are the first visitors to the Global Energy Stadium for season 2021/22. All the action starts from 2.25pm with Rory Hamilton, Stephen Craigan and guests…
— Ross County FC (@RossCounty) July 29, 2021