He was well versed on the difficulty of the fixture list that awaited him when he first took the helm at Hibernian and knew that games against Celtic and Rangers would be difficult to salvage points from. He was still annoyed at the way his men all-but acquiesced to Steven Gerrard’s side, though.
With dialogue an important part of his managerial style, he says there were some honest conversations, collectively and individually, in the wake of that defeat. The response to those exchanges and similar heart-to-hearts have convinced him that he does not need to carry out extensive surgery on the Easter Road squad during the upcoming transfer window and gives him the belief that his men, who have climbed to fifth place in the Premiership ahead of this afternoon’s head-to-head with Livingston, can continue to improve.
“I had a good chat with [midfielder Scott Allan] post-Rangers because we were really passive last Friday and didn’t do the basic part of the game well,” explained Ross, pictured inset.
“I’m not saying we would have won the game by doing that because Rangers are a good team but we made it easy for them and I spoke to Scotty about it and then we showed them some stuff collectively.”
It was information his men absorbed on the evidence of their victorious showing in the Boxing Day capital derby.
“I chatted to him at Tynecastle post-match because the two goals are both assists from him. This season people have gone viral over his passing yet against Hearts one was a hook-on into the box and the other is pressing and winning the ball back in a high area. That’s just as important and it’s great he has instant reward if you like for doing that.
“The other side of the game will always be there for him but it’s about making sure he continues to do that.
“The good thing about Scott is that he is willing to do it and that’s maybe the misunderstanding about him – he is willing but it just doesn’t come natural to him. That’s fine. You just have to keep reminding him.
“Pottsy [assistant manager John Potter] does that a lot during games and it’s my job to do that when I get the chance to speak to him. He cares a lot about his football – he wants to get better and he knew right away. I spoke to him in the changing room and he knew. He has got as much pleasure out of that as the pass at Ibrox earlier in the season. The pass against Aberdeen.
“That side of the game is arguably easier for him which sounds ridiculous because those sorts of passes are so hard to do. But he has that natural ability. What he showed in the derby is not natural to him. That’s not a criticism because everybody has different attributes. But the willingness there and it’s just about keeping on at him to do it.”
That ability to converse with his players, pinpointing attributes and what areas he has to work on to aid their development was heralded by others before Ross’s arrival, though, according to Darren McGregor.
“I’d spoken to a few lads who’d played under him at Alloa and other teams and they spoke really highly of him as a person, they liked his honesty and directness,” said McGregor. “Those are traits I like myself.”
There is also an intelligence and an empathy to the way he manages, tapping in to his own experiences of setbacks and sickeners, the return to junior football and the convoluted route to his career highlights.
“I think that brings an appreciation of what it’s like for players,” added McGregor, who stepped into the centre-half berth vacated by the suspended Ryan Porteous for the derby win. “He’d actually just left St Mirren when I was going in but Pottsy was there and was my captain that first year and he showed me the ropes. So he knows what I’m all about. You still have to go out and prove yourself to the manager obviously, but Pottsy is a great link, he’s exactly what he was like as a captain, very vocal, very organised.”