Malky Mackay admits the frantic summer of market trading since he became manager of Ross County was like nothing he’d experienced as a boss.
The arrival of Wycombe Wanderers striker Alex Samuel on deadline day, with fellow forward Oli Shaw heading to Kilmarnock hours beforehand, concluded a massive player turnover for the Premiership club.
— Ross County FC (@RossCounty) September 1, 2021
Since replacing John Hughes in the Dingwall hot-seat, a dozen players have arrived, four shy of the total number who left in the summer, including loanees.
Reflecting on several months of wheeling and dealing, former Watford, Cardiff City and Wigan Athletic manager Mackay said: “This summer’s been an interesting one with 16 out and 12 in and I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life, but we’ll get there.
“It’s like a brand-new football club. You try and get good people in and after that they are on their own journey.
“We want to make sure we have good people coming in who don’t disrupt or have egos and the attitude that they are not going to be part of a group.
“That’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, the more you get good people in the building, the more chance you have of a culture that exudes hard work and togetherness and selflessness, rather than ego and selfishness.
“There is loads of stuff you can try – the more we train together, eat together makes a huge different from last year. If this happened last year with a whole new group, they would have trained and then got in the car (due to Covid).
“We’ve got a wee bit of normality back and they actually stay at lunchtime and we’ve got table tennis and they are all starting to get to know each other.”
Mackay said the club might look at taking the group away for a mini pre-season come the New Year to part-compensate for not having that chance this year.
‘Light’ in full-back areas – boss
On-loan Sunderland left-back Jake Vokins suffered a broken foot and is recovering from surgery, while midfielder Jack Burroughs, who has come in from Coventry, was the best option to move back to that position, but he also suffered an injury.
That led to another midfielder, former Blackburn Rovers player Ben Paton, brother of team-mate Harry, slotting in well at left-back for games against Rangers and Aberdeen.
Mackay was delighted to get a dozen players in, but admits the squad remains on the light side with the window now closed until winter.
He added: “We are light in the full-back areas as Jake Vokins is not here and Connor Randall is in at right-back. We have 16 out and 12 in, so there are still gaps there.
“Realistically, the chairman, Roy MacGregor, myself and chief executive Steven Ferguson have worked wonders. We have talked daily over the last three months about how to tweak the squad and what is still needed.
“There is a transparency, which is good, and there has been backing in terms of the budget that we have and the model that we’re in. They realised we needed to get players in and it’s not finished.”
Recruitment department long-lasting
What will also continue longer term, according to the boss, is the Dingwall club now having a well-oiled transfer department, ready to plan before beyond the next sales period.
He said: “Whether it’s me or anyone else, this will be an ongoing process. We need to change the way we work in terms of transfers at this club. That’s why I brought in Enda Barron (performance analyst) and we now have a small recruitment department.
“We go away now from being agent-driven to being club-driven with the help of agents.
“No matter who is in the manager’s seat, the club now have an area where there is a way of working and we are starting to now look two windows ahead. We look at what’s next and that’s where our succession plan comes from.
“Who is going out of contract? Whose contract do you want to extend? Who will we look at from other clubs?
“It’s a science and it’s an area which is booming in Britain at the moment. Recruitment is huge at every football club and you have to ensure you drive it rather than the market driving you.”