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Malky Mackay thrilled to secure Ross County’s Premiership future following last year’s extensive rebuild

Mackay guided County to dramatic victory against Partick Thistle in the Premiership play-offs.

Ross County boss Malky Mackay. Image: SNS
Ross County boss Malky Mackay. Image: SNS

Malky Mackay is thrilled last summer’s rebuilding efforts were enough to keep Ross County in the Premiership.

The Staggies secured top-flight status in dramatic fashion, staging a remarkable play-off turnaround against Partick Thistle to triumph on penalties.

It followed a difficult campaign which saw County finish second-bottom, having clawed back from being four points adrift at the foot of the table going into the split.

It followed a top-six finish in Mackay’s first season in charge the previous year.

Mackay was forced to reconstruct his squad last summer after losing a number of players, most notably the goalscoring threat of Regan Charles-Cook, Joseph Hungbo and Blair Spittal.

Although it appeared County were struggling in their efforts to succeed in the battle for survival, Mackay was delighted his side had enough to get over the line.

Ross County’s players during the penalty shoot-out against Partick Thistle. Image: SNS

Mackay said: “It’s always going to be a slight struggle for Ross County in attracting players because of the size of our club, our budget and what we’re perceived as.

“It’s never going to be an easy thing.

“I knew we were going to struggle losing the 24 goals we had last year, and there’s an unfortunate rebuild here every year. It’s just the measure of what we are.

“I would have loved to have kept my team from last year and built on that.

“We did offer better money for some players but they decided they wanted to move back to the central belt. That’s to do with personal situations, so it’s not about money either.”

Mackay wants to bring in players Staggies fans will embrace

Of the 15 players Mackay has brought in since last summer, only seven are under contract for next term.

The Staggies boss hopes to overcome geographical challenges to convince players of the merits of representing the Dingwall outfit.

Mackay added: “Once you get people here, for example Jack Baldwin, he has been sensational. He came up from England, and I wanted him to enjoy his football. He has moved his family up here and what a warrior he is.

Ross County’s Jack Baldwin celebrates after his side avoided relegation by beating Partick Thistle on penalties in the Premiership play-off final on Sunday. Image: SNS

“In the game on Sunday he made a couple of unbelievable challenges at the end.

“That’s the kind of guy I want at this football club – with the Ross County badge stamped on his chest.

“Those are the kind of guys our fans embrace, just as they embrace young Dylan Smith who is going to be a star up here.”

Pathway in place for young players

Mackay hopes some of the young players who were involved in County’s great escape will grow as a result of the experience.

Alness teenager Jamie Williamson was brought on during extra-time, at a point where County had used all their senior outfield substitutes.

Ross County teenager Jamie Williamson. Image: SNS

The Staggies boss also has high hopes for Matthew Wright, Adam Mackinnon, Logan Ross, Connall Ewan, Andrew Macleod and Ryan MacLeman, who spent the campaign out on loan.

He added: “Yan Dhanda has played more football this season than he has in his whole career. What a talent he’s going to be. He stood up really strong on Sunday and showed his calmness on the ball.

“Victor Loturi is a youngster on the verge of the Canada squad too. He’s another one who is young, calm on the ball and is going to grow with it.

Victor Loturi in action against Partick Thistle. Image: PA

“We have also got three or four youngsters who might have made the bench on Sunday, but we gave them to the Highland League because it was the best thing for their career.

“I wondered if that was the right call in the last few weeks, but it was for the good of their careers and the football club.

“The longer-term aspect of them going out to League One and the Highland League is for the good of the club.

“We’ll try and put a recruitment department in that will eventually have a structure and be able to bring in players who are ready, without it being guesswork.

“We also want to build a pathway from our academy to the first team.

“Jamie is one of the youth team who is not involved with us regularly. We didn’t have many left and needed that fifth sub so we got him involved. Great credit to him, because he really didn’t look out of place.”