Malky Mackay is calling on his Ross County players to look sharp in both boxes as the new Premiership season gets set to start.
Double cup-winners St Johnstone are the visitors to Dingwall for the big kick-off on Saturday afternoon as Mackay’s managerial era really kicks off.
It has been a summer of challenges, with a huge player turnover and Covid striking the camp, forcing the club to forfeit two Premier Sports Cup ties, effectively putting them out of the competition before they started.
Keeping it tight at the back
Mackay knows, after leaking 66 goals in 38 league games last season, defending is a key area which needs to improve.
He said: “We have to be better at defending, that’s defending our own box and defending set-pieces. There’s got to be a pride in doing that.
“Even already, we’ve been taking them through drilling. Saying ‘these are the areas you will play in when we defend corners or free-kicks. That is your role, your responsibility. It’s on you’.
“We have to be better and have a pride and to ensure that it is harder to score against us.”
Speaking to Ross County TV, the former Watford, Cardiff City and Wigan manager explained that picking the right option at the top end of the pitch can make them dangerous in attack.
He said: “It’s always more difficult to score goals. We spoke to the players and said ‘make sure the last thing you do is the best thing that you do in that final third. The last pass you make has to be the best decision you make’.
“If that’s the case, there is a good chance you’ll score. It’s great getting there, but if you make the wrong decision then it’s another time that someone’s waiting to score. It all comes down to working hard on the grass every day.”
Explaining methods is vital for players
Mackay, who is relishing the chance to take on St Johnstone on day one, has been impressed since arriving at the club in May with the players, pre-existing and newcomers, taking on board his advice every day.
He added: “There has been a big transition at the club. We have had 15 players from last season move on. Ten were out of contract and five loans. That’s a huge amount of players to leave the club in one summer.
“We have a small group here and we’ve brought a few in and there are more to come in. We have three or four young kids who are training with the first-team who will eventually go out on loan.
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— Ross County FC (@RossCounty) July 29, 2021
“The players have embraced it, how I want to train, the timings, how things are set out, the intensity of the training, the rest periods that they get at training. I’m explaining why we are doing things like this. I can’t complain as they have thrown themselves into everything that we’ve done.
“I want them to be bright-minded and to understand and learn the game. The younger they learn the game and are able to read the game, the better. If they understand that at a young age, then you have brighter and better footballers.”