Friday, April 13, 2012

Ross County: Job Done

Purple-faced and incandescent, a collective paroxysm settled on Scotland this week.

Faced with a big decision the SPL scurried to find solace in their default selfishness and proposed voting to save their own souls, even if it meant trampling over the women and children in the rush to the lifeboats.

The result was a set of SPL proposals that pleased nobody and sent blood pressure soaring across the country.

Oddly, for an organisation so hellbent on maximising its commercial potential, the SPL's approach to marketing borders on the masochistic.

You'd kick them even harder and more often if you didn't suspect they must secretly enjoy it.

Sadly our preoccupation with who may or may not be playing in next season's SPL risked overshadowing the achievement of a team who most certainly will be playing SPL football next season.

Congratulations, then, to Ross County.

It's 18 years since County joined the Scottish Football League.

18 years. It's not been a meteoric rise. It's been steady: progress, the odd setback, a Scottish Cup final. All building towards the ultimate goal of promotion to the SPL.

A goal achieved this year by the simple expedient of having the strongest squad in the First Division.

And, in Derek Adams, a manager who could get the best out of them.

A second chance for Adams and one that he's grabbed.

It wasn't that long ago that he was leaving Dingwall and heading for Leith, unveiled as Colin Calderwood's assistant at Easter Road.

Eyebrows were raised and the union proved a brief marriage of inconvenience.

If it was remarkable that the teetotal Adams wasn't driven to drink in the Easter Road madhouse it seemed even stranger that he should return to Dingwall so quickly.

Clearly, however, chairman Roy MacGregor liked what he got with Adams and absence - and travails under Willie McStay and Jimmy Calderwood - made the heart grow fonder.

Derek was back and this time there was going to be no messing about. Promotion, the unfinished business, would be delivered.

And so it has been.

County are now 30 games unbeaten. On Wednesday a 3-1 win at Ayr put the seal on a title that had been delivered by a Chris Higgins equaliser for Queen of the South at Dundee 24 hours earlier.

18 years is a long time. The last eight years must have felt even longer, with Inverness beating County to the SPL punch.

The waiting's now over.

New blood for the SPL and another widening of what used to be quite a constrictive Scottish footballing geography.

A time for rejoicing?

In Dingwall certainly.

Elsewhere?

It appears not everyone is in the party mood.

The litany of gripes grows: finances (I'm not currently privy to the information but the ascent seems less dramatically funded than, say, Gretna), attendances (actually very consistent - small, yes, but steady enough to plan a budget), tactics (30 games undefeated isn't to be sniffed at and success is never that dull for supporters); travel times (a bind for visiting fans, of course, but this is Scotland not Russia); they've not got a proper ground (they do, but the SPL has daft rules and a brief groundshare with Inverness, while not ideal, will allow them to satisfy the bureaucracy).

The list will lengthen.

Some of the moaning will come from aggrieved First Division rivals.

Some of it will come because many of us like a good moan more than we like a good news story. We want to be upset, it's a football thing mixed with a Scottish thing to create a thrawn contrariness that defies one to be impressed by anything. It's a common type of fitba' prickery.

And, who knows, some of it might be entirely justified, grounded in reason and fact and allowing for a good old case of "told you so" when Dingwall dreams become northern nightmares.

All that's for the future.

Right now we've got Ross County proving, while other areas of the game crash and burn, that clubs can progress through our system.

They've done that with community support, a dedicated chairman, an eye on development, a young manager who has grown in the role and some decent players. They've even given the SPL a brand new derby to look forward to.

We need more stories like this.

So congratulations and good luck to the Staggies.

Find out how promotion was won with the excellent Ross County Tactics

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