ROSS County have sacked manager Derek Adams and his father, director of football George Adams. In a shock move, the Dingwall club will move forward without the influence of a family which has been an intrinsic part of the club’s success.
Chairman Roy MacGregor refused to detail the full reasoning behind the shock change, but hinted at a breakdown in “chemistry” behind the scenes at the club.
First-team coach Steven Ferguson will now team up with skipper Richard Brittain and vice-captain Scott Boyd to take the team to Hamilton Accies for tomorrow’s Premiership match. MacGregor stressed he currently had no replacements in mind for Adams and favoured moving away from the director of football model pursued by the club over the past seven years.
The club informed the pair at a meeting on Wednesday night before informing the players and fans yesterday.
“Chairman Roy MacGregor wishes to recognise the contribution both have made to the journey that Ross County FC have made over their years with the club and wish both well in their future careers,” read a statement. “Further details of the club’s continuing restructuring will be made available as plans are ratified over the following days.”
That decision, made after the club started the current Premiership campaign with four defeats, represents a fundamental shake-up.
“In the life of football clubs, sometimes change needs to happen,” said MacGregor. “In the life of Ross County we just feel that change for a number of reasons has had to be made.
“On a personal basis, it’s probably been the most difficult decision I’ve made in football. Not only were Derek and George personal friends, they gave the club so much history. In many ways the club wouldn’t be where it was today if it wasn’t for the contribution of those two gentlemen.”
In what was a unique situation, the strong-willed and driven father-and-son combination presided over some of the club’s most momentous moments, including the ascent through the leagues and victory over Celtic to secure a place in the 2010 Scottish Cup final.
“As part of the financial realities of working at Ross County, I have become accustomed to working in a challenging environment,” said Derek Adams. “For the last few seasons, while working with a low wage budget we have had to build almost entirely new teams to start each season without ever spending a transfer fee which has been a massive challenge that we have been able to meet by retaining our Premiership status.
“While this has been extremely challenging, I believe it makes the journey we have taken even more remarkable and I am very proud to have been a part of it.”
His father was key in helping identify signing targets, having served his apprenticeship under Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen, before proving his eye for a player at Motherwell and Rangers. “I have always believed that the test of a manager is in consistently outperforming his resources and I believe I achieved that with Ross County,” said his son.
But the slow start to the current season has been a source of concern to those running the club. Keen to retain their top-flight status and fully aware that the current strength of the Championship teams renders a top-ten finish more important than ever this season, the board have been unwilling to risk waiting to see if the football manager and his patriarchal director of football have made the correct recruitments and have the ability to turn fortunes around as they did over the past two seasons when they recovered from tough spells to finish fifth and then seventh.
The former Motherwell and Aberdeen midfielder, who also had two playing spells with the Dingwall outfit, was in his second period as County boss, having left for a brief spell as Hibernian assistant manager. But, enjoying a close relationship with his father, inside and also away from the game, the duo had engineered promotions and advancements few could have imagined when the club was voted into the official league set-up during the 1994-95 season.
Adams senior was enlisted in 2005, while his son was given the managerial reins in October 2007 and, apart from a forgettable six-month spell as Colin Calderwood’s assistant at Hibs, the Adams have monopolised control over football matters at the Highland club ever since.
“During my time at the club, I have watched with immense pride as Ross County has grown from the Scottish Second Division through two promotions to the Scottish Premiership, where we are now in our third season,” said the 2011-12 PFA Scotland Manager of the Year, in a statement issued yesterday. “The fact we achieved this progress while setting an unbeaten record in Scottish league football for the modern era of 40 matches and reaching a Scottish Cup Final along the way gives my coaching team and myself great satisfaction.
“Considering the fact that Ross County has had, I believe, one of the lowest, if not the lowest, wage bills in the league in the last couple of seasons, I believe this shows our ‘David’ has notched victories against the ‘Goliaths’ of Scottish football more often than we might have reasonably expected. This is most clearly demonstrated by our victories against Celtic, especially in the Scottish Cup semi-final when at that time we were a First Division side.”
In an interview two years ago, Adams talked about returning following that aborted sojourn south to Hibs. He said that the chairman had shown “a bit of bottle” to bring him back but he said he had shown his mental toughness too. “You don’t go back somewhere you’ve been successful – everyone always says that, right? I don’t believe in that because I believe in my own ability. There’ll be a day when I’ll move away again, there’s no doubt about that. The club will move on and I’ll move on. Eventually that will happen but hopefully I will leave with my head held high.”
The Adams era has indeed come to an end but, given the tone of his statement, it appears his pride is intact.