As a hugely successful entrepreneur, it’s easy to imagine Roy MacGregor not taking too kindly to being told home truths about the football club he owned by someone only recently appointed manager.
But it says everything about Jim McIntyre that he wasn’t cowed by the thought of telling MacGregor where the club were going wrong. It says everything about MacGregor that not only did he listen to the unsolicited advice, he acted on it.
The upshot is a team not only bidding to finish in the top four of the top flight, but also one with an opportunity to win a first major honour in tomorrow’s League Cup final against Hibs.
McIntyre, who joined as manager in September 2014 from Queen of the South, is reaping the rewards for his brutal honesty just days into the job. Having surveyed the scene at the then struggling Highlands club, he concluded they were only “playing at it”.
When he arrived, County were certainly toiling after losing their first five league matches of the season. McIntyre quickly assessed the situation and saw there was work to be done off the pitch as well as on it.
“The facilities were here but they needed to be brought up to date with the 21st century,” he said yesterday. “There is no other way of putting it.
“The gym was not conducive to producing the type of athletes you need at the top level. To be quite frank, we were playing at it until we got a modern state-of-the-art facility.
“We brought in a sports scientist, a goalkeeper coach, all things that are imperative at the top level, specialists in their field. The difference in the players is like night and day.
“We ripped two dressing rooms apart and made them into a proper training facility. We spent a lot more money on the pitches and we now have an outdoor astro and a new indoor astro will be ready in the next month or so.
“All of a sudden we have gone from an environment where the structure is there, but not the right equipment. It was a wee bit run down if you like. Now we have a top facility. If you walk around them now, they are top notch.
“Roy deserves credit for that. It is one thing saying these things will help us but it takes money to do these things, and I recognise I am very fortunate to have a chairman who has given me that backing.
“But equally you have to get the results to get that backing.”
McInytre certainly managed to produce those – eventually. A run of ten wins in their last 14 matches last season warded off the once seemingly inevitable prospect of relegation.
The team are currently fourth in the Premiership and have another cup final to relish, nearly six years after losing a Scottish Cup final 3-0 to Dundee United. McIntyre won the Scottish Cup as a player with Kilmarnock in 1997 and believes victory tomorrow would out-strip even this achievement.
He doesn’t want to join the 2010 County vintage in being remembered for only finishing runners-up, as commendable as that was for the then First Division club.
“Yes, I think so,” he said, when asked if leading County to a first major trophy success would surpass Kilmarnock’s 1-0 win over Falkirk 19 years ago. “But I do not want to put that achievement down, because that was fabulous. Any time a provincial club wins a cup it is fantastic for their history and they should get the credit they deserve.
“The 2010 team for instance, you can see them in photographs all around here,” he added. “It is important that is recognised, but at the same time this is the chance for us to make our own memories.
“That’s the team that got to the final. Hopefully we can go and win silverware and that can be the pinnacle for this team.”
The thrill would be made more intense by knowing he’d repaid MacGregor, the chairman who refrained from sacking McIntyre for insolence just days after appointing him.
“It would mean everything to get the trophy and hand it to Roy,” admitted McIntyre. “It is the easiest thing in the world for any manager to say that and not actually mean it. But you are only as good as the support you have. We are not magicians. You need backing, you need help.”