SPL preeview: Ross County
The manager of the SPL new boys has a fierce will to win learned from the best, writes Alasdair Fraser
THERE is a fascinating dichotomy in Derek Adams’ nature that may, or may not, mark him out as a managerial great in the making.
On the one hand, the 37-year-old Ross County manager – the SPL’s youngest this season – is a congenial, non-swearing tee-totaller known, away from football, for a sensitivity and caring attitude towards County staff and others.
On the other hand, he is the man who infamously threw a fist in the face of one of his own players, Sean Higgins, in the dressing room back in December 2008.
If there were shades of Sir Alex Ferguson and the David Beckham flying boot in it all, it might not be entirely have been co-incidental.
Adams was there, deep in the Ferguson inner sanctum, while his father George was Aberdeen’s chief scout. “I was fortunate enough to be kicking around Pittodrie pretty much from the age of five or six,” Adams recalls.
“I flew on the reserve team plane to Gothenburg the night they won the European Cup Winners’ Cup. There are incidents and memories that stick with you forever. I’ve seen Fergie and Archie Knox having fights over snooker or head tennis. They had that fierce winning mentality in everything they did, even on the baize. They would bring in all the young YTS kids and the likes of myself to watch them going full at it in the snooker room.
“You would suddenly hear a cue being dropped or a deliberate cough to put the other off his shot.
“That was the gamesmanship and fierce competitive edge they instilled in everyone. It was to let the young players know what winning was all about – at least, that’s what I took from it.
“It became second nature to me and, the older I got and the more I made my way in football, the more I called upon it. It becomes win-at-all-costs and I do value that fierce winning mentality.”
Adams deliberately cut short a playing career that spanned clubs such as Aberdeen, Motherwell and Livingston at the age of 32 to enter management.
Fergie’s influence has spawned bosses including Gordon Strachan, Alex McLeish, Mark McGhee, Willie Miller, Eric Black and Neale Cooper from among the Gothenburg veterans alone.
And Adams, it might be argued.
In the heat of matches and immediate post-match interviews, Adams’ intensity can simmer uncomfortably near the surface. But he recovered from the Higgins incident and also an unprecedented – but partially overturned – 18-match SFA ban to secure Ross County a Scottish Cup final appearance and a second league title last season.
He is, arguably, one of the brightest managerial prospects in the country but candidly admits to grappling with his temper.
Six months working as assistant to the serenely-calm Colin Calderwood at Hibs, however, has helped. “I learned a lot under Colin, although I realised I wanted to be my own man,” Adams explained.
“Colin probably changed me as a person. For better or worse, I’ve become more relaxed in the job.
“It can be difficult. I don’t deal so well with things outwith my control.
“I have a side that looks after and cares for people. And I have a side that is win-at-all-costs. It’s never easy, but you need both. You don’t get anywhere in football by being nice. It stops the minute the football starts.”
You suspect that is a sentiment Sir Alex himself would approve of.
As County prepare for their SPL debut, Ferguson might barely recognise the shy wee lad who used to knock around his old office at Pittodrie.
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