Why did Adams' Ross County return go so badly wrong?
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Why did Adams' Ross County return go so badly wrong?

Feb 10, 2024

Derek Adams’ third stint as Ross County manager lasted 79 days. Two wins from 12 games.

It’s a far cry from the 154 matches he oversaw from October 2007 to November 2010 and a further 131 from May 2011 to August 2014.

Across those two spells, he took the Dingwall club up two divisions to the top flight, reached a Scottish Cup final and picked up a PFA manager of the year award.

So what went so spectacularly wrong this time?

“It’s probably better that I keep my thoughts to myself,” the 48-year-old told BBC Scotland in the aftermath of an extraordinarily scathing critique of Scottish football.

Then he immediately doubled down, insisting he stood by his harsh words that had caused such a stir.

In case you’ve forgotten what was said, here are some edited highlights:

  • “The standard is shocking”
  • “One of the worst games I’ve ever seen”
  • “I see the standard and I think ‘wow – any chance?'”
  • “I’ve left a team in League Two [Morecambe] that’s miles better than this team”
  • “We had the bottom budget in League Two and they were 100 times better”

Those remarks came immediately after the sting of defeat to a late Dundee goal.

He did express regret over the Morecambe comparison but insisted he was trying to motivate his players. Those players haven’t won a game since.

Adams was five games into his short reign when he delivered that outburst. He had taken County from 11th place to eighth with seven points from his first three outings.

Now County find themselves back in 11th spot and out of the Scottish Cup after a drubbing at home to Partick Thistle.

Adams “threw his players under the bus”, according to Peter Mackay from the Staggies View podcast.

“I think it’s clear to see as a supporter when you’re watching on the pitch that the dressing room and the players weren’t united after that interview,” he told the BBC Scottish Football Podcast.

Seven new faces were recruited across the winter window, all featuring in Tuesday’s 5-0 humbling at Motherwell which proved to be Adams’ last stand.

A big January influx is not unusual at County, but such an abject display prompted Sportscene pundit Neil McCann to say: “The team look dead to me.”

Is Cowie the answer?

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He certainly knows the club after serving with distinction for so long as a player, although that familiarity did not work out for Adams.

Top of his list will be galvanising a disaffected squad, quickly followed by tightening up a defence that kept clean sheets in Adams’ first three matches but looked all at sea against Motherwell.

At the other end of the pitch, 13-goal Simon Murray needs some help. County netted just eight times in Adams’ 11 league games at the helm, and had the second-worst shot conversion rate at 7.08% as well as the lowest expected goals (xG) total of 9.54.

After visits to Ibrox and Dens Park, County play four out of five league games at home, starting with Livingston, who are six points adrift at the bottom.

Win that one and the threat of automatic relegation is likely to be eased considerably.

County preserved their top-flight status in remarkable fashion last season, coming back from 3-0 down on aggregate deep into the second half of the home leg of their play-off with Partick Thistle.

Cowie needs to tap into that kind of spirit or else another fraught finale awaits.

‘We’ve come back from a lot worse’ – what fans are saying

Davie: Inevitable that Adams had to go. Disappointing, but I was never convinced it was a good appointment. No County fans wanted him to fail, as that means the team fails, but his comments after the Dundee game destroyed the dressing room. Are the players he brought in better than what we already have? I don’t think so. They are definitely not 100 times better!

Dougie: It was always a massive gamble to bring Adams back. It’s not worked and now we are left with the players he has brought in that against Motherwell didn’t look up to the standard we need. I also think it was hasty to get rid of Malky Mackay.

Graeme: The supporters deserve better. In his 12-game tenure, Adams displayed minimal humility. His frequent outbursts tarnished the team’s reputation three times. We now require a manager with a more grounded perspective, one who doesn’t overestimate their ability.

James: When a manager is blaming everyone but himself, the writing is on the wall. The league is stronger without him.

Gerry: Good riddance to Adams. He treated Ross County and Scottish football with sheer contempt with his bizarre comments. Had the demeanour of a man who didn’t want to be there. Strange appointment to start with, would like to see County go for Rhys McCabe.

Gordon: Adam’s position was untenable immediately after he made the original outburst slaughtering the abilities of his players. He had to go and better for all concerned that he has.

Anon: Hard to believe it has unravelled so quickly. Del is a County legend, no-one would have expected this after 12 games. Unfortunately, he made some terrible judgements and appears to have lost support of the team. Sad outcome. We need to move on and rebuild the team spirit. We are still in with a shout for survival. We’ve come back from a lot worse.

Sandy: Unfortunately, the pressure of the job to appears to have been too much for Derek to handle. Roy MacGregor has made some shocking appointments over recent seasons and now needs to choose wisely or it’s relegation, either by play-off or automatically. Bring back Yogi [John Hughes] and give him time to build a team.

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