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Making a lot with a little

23 October 2023

Derek Adams may be known for his delivery of success against the odds, but it’s how the odds have stacked up against him across his career that has defined the Scotsman.

Starting his management career in 2007, 16 years later Adams is still fighting the same battle to achieve after almost 700 games at the helm of clubs in Scotland and England. 

It was Ross County Chairman Roy MacGregor who took a leap of faith in backing the young-upcoming Adams back in the mid 2000s, appointing him as player-manager in November 2007 after a spell in caretaker charge shortly after his initial assignment as player-coach under then manager Dick Campbell.

“It was a really strange period at Ross County as Dick Campbell had come in and we had started the season very strongly.

“Different Chairmen look for different qualities in a manager - some look for experience, some look for inexperience and some look for a ‘safe pair of hands’ so for me, because I was so young at the time, I didn’t know if that was something the Chairman would look at, but he did and I became the Manager.”

Derek delivered major success in his first stint as Staggies boss, winning the promotion from the third tier in his first season, before shortly after taking County to the Scottish Cup final after a remarkable semi-final victory over Celtic. All of this done with ‘limited’ resources.

Adams said: “The road to the Scottish Cup final was crazy, we knew we were building a good team that could compete, but nobody really gave us a chance against Celtic - we were in the second tier, and they were at the top of the Premiership.

“Neil Lennon had just started his first spell as Celtic manager, and that was a really big defeat for them. On the day, I thought we were excellent, but we did probably let the occasion get to us in the final. 

“When you get those big moments, you have to know how to manage them and the squad maybe got a bit caught up in the moment but equally we came up against, at the time, easily, the third best team in Scotland, Dundee United.

“They had been flying under Craig Levein and then Peter Houston and they had real quality in their squad, with no consequence that many of their team went on to have remarkable careers.”

After his exploits with Ross County, Derek joined Hibernian as Assistant Manager to Colin Calderwood before returning to Dingwall just a few months later. 

With County fans feeling that his previous success would be hard to follow, Adams quickly put their concerns to bed. 

After building a solid spine to his team, Derek was able to build a sustainable and consistent squad equipped for his vision. The introduction of young talent such as Scott Boyd, Richie Brittain, Stuart Kettlewell, Paul Lawson, Iain Vigurs and Michael Gardyne gave the Gaffer a solid base to start from. 

In his first season back in the Victoria Park dugout, Derek Adams completed a job that many before hadn’t, he guided The Staggies to the Premiership for the first time in their history. In the process, he also collected the PFA Scotland Manager of the Season award as bold recognition of his success.

“To get to the Premiership was incredible, but to do it as part of a 40-game unbeaten run was even better,’’ he said.

“Across my whole time at Ross County we by far had the smallest budget in the top flight but at times we didn’t even have the biggest budget in the second tier when we were in the top flight.

“I had to be creative and find young, hungry and quality players that were coming out of the top academies or were not enjoying life at other clubs and when your recruitment model is that you are reliant on so many factors coming into play.

“Paul Lawson being an example, Paul was a Celtic Academy player, we knew that he probably wasn’t going to be kept on so we worked hard to get him to Dingwall, and he could be a player we would build around.

“Stuart Kettlewell was a completely different case, where he had been a 23-year-old Captain at Queens Park, had moved to Clyde, but Clyde at the time were in financial difficulties so we were able to land him on the back of those circumstances.

“We had to be really creative around the recruitment and that didn’t change across my time at the club.”

Read the full article including a deeper look in to his time with Plymouth Argyle and Morecambe in our monthly magazine - CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE

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