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New boss Derek Adams targets European chase for Ross County

The now three-time manager of the Dingwall club sets the bar high as the side seek to push away from danger and chase success at the top end of the Premiership.

Derek Adams is once more the manager of Ross County. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.
Derek Adams is once more the manager of Ross County. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

Derek Adams jumped at the chance to manage Ross County for a third time – insisting he can help the club hit the heights of a chase for European football.

The 48-year-old former Aberdeen and Staggies midfielder has been in the Dingwall hot-seat from 2007 to 2010 and from 2011 to 2014, and on Monday, he left Morecambe to sign a one-year rolling contract back in Dingwall.

In his first stint, he led the Highlanders to the Second Division crown in 2008 before two years later taking the team to the Scottish Cup final via a stunning 2-0 semi-final win against Celtic.

They lost 3-0 to Dundee United in the showpiece at Hampden.

After a short spell as number two to Colin Calderwood at Hibs, he returned to County and steered the side into the top-flight with a title success with five games to spare.

Taking their form into the SPL, as the Premiership was called then, their unbeaten run hit 40 fixtures between the two top leagues.

The happy days for Adams of fifth and seventh-place finishes came to a halt in August 2014 when a poor start to the new term saw chairman Roy MacGregor sack him.

Derek Adams is back in charge of Ross County. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

Promotions at clubs down south

Since then, he’s guided Plymouth and Morecambe to promotions from England’s League Two in 2017 and 2021 and ended his second spell at Morecambe on Monday with the side ninth in that division to answer chief MacGregor’s call.

Last Wednesday, Malky Mackay’s two-and-a-half-year spell period in charge of County came to an end after eight winless games which have left them only off bottom spot in the Premiership on goal difference.

Two years ago, Mackay replaced John Hughes, who kept the club up in 10th spot, and the former Watford, Cardiff City and Wigan Athletic gaffer, took the Staggies to a sixth-place finish.

Last term, they required a remarkable recovery in the Premiership play-off final to see off Partick Thistle to remain in the Premiership. So far, two wins from 12 league games led MacGregor to call time on Mackay’s period at the helm.

New Ross County manager Derek Adams, left, is welcomed back to the club by chief executive Steven Ferguson. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Adams wants to drive club forward

Adams, who resumes his Ross County career at home to mid-table Kilmarnock this Saturday, is determined the Dingwall team can be more than relegation survivors.

He said: “I want to move the football club forward. Can we finish as a top six team on a regular basis?

“That is difficult. We understand that. There have only been a few times in its history its been achieved.

“Can we possibly qualify for European football? That’s something we’ve got to strive for because Ross County as a club never thought it would get out of the Highland League, never mind get into the Premiership. We always want to strive on and push for success.

“It’s about winning football matches. It’s about getting those three points.

“We have Kilmarnock on Saturday, so it’s about winning the next games.

“The group of players we have will be hungry and ready to go. I have to work out a way of getting the positive results quite quickly.”

Pride after nine years in England

Adams believes being at three English clubs over the past decade, including a spell at Bradford City, has added worth to what he brings back to County.

He said: “You don’t last nine years in England if you’re not successful.

“English football is really difficult. You only have to look at how many Scottish managers go to England and quite quickly they come back up the road.

“There are not many Scottish managers in England these days. It’s a difficult market to be in.

“I am a better manager now than when I left because of that experience.

“I am probably a bit more mellow than I was before.

“When you are more experienced, you take on board things and listen.

“When you are a younger coach or manager, it is your way you’re going to go and you maybe don’t listen to people. I listen to people a lot more these days.

“It doesn’t mean I always take on what they’re saying, but the advice I am given I then have to weigh up and ask is it the right thing to do.”

Cowie to remain as assistant boss

And Adams confirmed that assistant manager Don Cowie, who starred for Watford, Cardiff and Wigan as well as Inverness, Hearts and Ross County, will remain in place, as will all the backroom staff, with a hint at possible changes further down the line.

Ross County assistant boss Don Cowie. Image: SNS Group.

He added: “Don is an ex-team mate of mine and I’m looking forward to working with him.

“He’s been down in England himself so he understands that scene, he understands the coaching element of things. So he will be very good in the backroom team.

“An old manager used to say: ‘Don’t go into a club and have preconceived ideas because there might be good people there you don’t know about.’ That counts for staff and for players. So I will come in, assess things.

“Some people might be here who haven’t had an opportunity in previous years – I have been there. I will assess everything from now on.”