We might wish Derek Adams hadn’t said it - but maybe it needed saying

The Ross County manager’s evisceration of the Scottish game put cat among the pigeons

I wonder if Derek Adams still doesn’t do it. Swear, that is. In 2010 I interviewed him at Hibs where he’d just been appointed assistant manager. He mentioned this strict abstinence during the fascinating chat and then, after photos, came back and found me to say goodbye and stress that, no, swearie words never passed his lips.

How often does the average person do it? Around ten times a day, apparently, and I’m sure we can all think of some people who exceed that, using up Adams’ quota and then some. There was a survey recently which claimed that the odd expletive-filled rant can be beneficial. Specifically, it might help us to be fitter, happier, more persuasive and better able to withstand pain. Still, 13 years ago it was remarkable to me that Adams didn’t swear, even though this seemed to fit with the personality of a man of faith who was also teetotal. For after all: football’s football.

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And Scottish football’s Scottish football. Perpetual bottom-six is stressful. Flirting with the trap-door is stressful. And generally the business of being a manager is far more stressful than it was back in 2010 with a greater chance of ending up being sacked. So, really, when you unluckily lose a game in the 97th minute – your defender’s clearance rebounding into the net off an opposing player who’d pretty much been picking his nose at that moment – God would surely have forgiven you for letting a tiny bit rip with some industrial language.

Ross County manager Derek Adams made some scathing comments last weekend.Ross County manager Derek Adams made some scathing comments last weekend.
Ross County manager Derek Adams made some scathing comments last weekend.

And maybe Adams is thinking he might have been better off swearing last Saturday while taking out his frustration on a door, a tea-urn or a tactics board. And then gone before the cameras and, when asked what he’d said to his Ross County team, explained this would stay within the (beat-up) dressing-room. And to conclude, maybe trotted out the line: “We’ll pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and go again next week.” That’s always a good one.

Instead … well, we know what Adams did. As it says in the Bible, Isaiah 6:4, he “shook the Temple to its foundations”. His blast at the quality of our football – that is, the crying lack of any – sparked uproar. Many rushed to its defence, although this wasn’t quite the unanimous reaction.

At the front of those rushing were the TV and radio presenters, pundits and commentators. They brought to mind the scene in the disaster movie spoof Airplane! where newsmen following the drama of the stricken jet sprinted to a row of phoneboxes to file their latest dispatches and, hitting the back of the cubicles simultaneously, caused them all to crash to the ground.

Now, I’m not saying the broadcast meeja – or the written media for that matter – weren’t objective in their criticism of Adams but they have a vested interest. If Scottish football didn’t exist, or had truly slumped to an unmitigatingly awful standard, then many of them would be out of jobs. So they promote, talk up and rally round the game. All admirable in its way and if I’m not at a match I’m grateful for the radio coverage on Saturday afternoons. But there’s a lot of cheerleading which is sometimes in inverse proportion to the quality on the pitch.

The Staggies were floored by a very late winner from Dundee.The Staggies were floored by a very late winner from Dundee.
The Staggies were floored by a very late winner from Dundee.

A few years ago, in the pressroom at half-time in a game, one of the journos posed the question to his fellow scribblers: “If you weren’t doing this for a living would you pay to watch Scottish football?” No hands went up, which prompted a chorus of gloomy chuckles.

Admittedly this wasn’t a golden moment for Scottish football. The national team at major tournaments were still on the outside, looking in. Few if any present were old enough to have reported on France ’98. And of course this has to be factored in, too: we hacks are a cynical bunch almost all of the time.

Which is why the only views that really matter here are of those who do stump up admission every week: the fans. It is their game to obsess over, argue about endlessly, fall in and out of love with, hurl their scarves onto the park one week, buy replacement ones the next.

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Adams has apologised to the Ross County players for criticising them in such a public way but stands by his withering view of the general standard.

Our fans can wither with the best of them and each and every one, on a fairly regular basis, will have muttered darkly about a game/their team/the whole caboodle being, according to Adams, “shocking”. They’re allowed to do this but it chills somewhat when a manager does it, being one of the guys, after all, entrusted with the job of making football less shocking.

How many of you follow Bryan’s Gunn, the feed on X, formerly Twitter? If you don’t, you should. It hilariously records how often football people say the same things, over and over again. These are cliches and often a way of the manager avoiding saying what he really thinks. I’m sure that from time to time Adams has resorted to cliches but last week he most definitely said what he was thinking. I’m not surprised it was him who – cliche apert – put the cat among the pigeons, as he seems to be a man apart. Unsurprisingly, too, it was another man apart – David Martindale – who most firmly upheld Adams’ right to speak his mind.

We might wish that he didn’t say what he did, but maybe it needed saying.



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