Thursday, August 28, 2014

Adams's attitude was his undoing

Derek Adams was presumably a victim of the wind changing one day several years ago
Last Boxing Day, Ross County lost 2-0 at home to Hibs.  I had the misfortune to be in the crowd, watching a match so poor that it nearly made my eyes bleed.  County were absolutely awful - the worst performance I could remember from a top flight team since the dying embers of Gretna's season at that level.  Gretna had been on the brink of going bust though.  What was County's excuse?

So I wasn't surprised to subsequently hear from a fly on the wall that there had been a right rammy in the dressing room at half-time.  According to said fly, Derek Adams rounded particularly on Dutch attacker Melvin De Leeuw, telling him he'd been rubbish for weeks, and that "I'll pay to put you on the next flight back to Amsterdam".  De Leeuw didn't take it lying down, angrily pointing out that he'd taken a big risk by leaving Holland, and that his family hadn't settled in Scotland and had returned to the Netherlands, and then apparently took out his fury on the dressing room toilet, which he unsuccessfully attempted to rip off the wall.

If it were another manager, it might be construed as an attempt to motivate an underperforming player.  But this is Derek Adams we're talking about.  Anyone who watched The Staggies last season would tell you that De Leeuw was the team's best player.  He was their top scorer, and created bags of chances for his teammates too.  Yet he only started half the team's games.  After Boxing Day, he didn't start another match till 15 March.

That, for me, just about sums up the problem with Adams.  He didn't so much have a chip on his shoulder as a winter's supply of firewood.  The universe and its dog were always against him.  He is a psychoanalyst's dream.

He is also a PR nightmare.  Usually the ire would be directed against opponents or officials - it would be possible to scour years of post-defeat comments without finding one that was even gratuitous towards an opponent, let alone praiseworthy.  Touchline aggro was never far away.  There are rumours that he was once seen smiling...back around 1996.  And when things went wrong on the park he would never be far away from getting stuck into his own players - literally in the case of Sean Higgins, who was punched by his manager after a game in 2008.  Plenty of his former players took to Twitter to gloat over his departure, including three members of the squad who won promotion to the SPL (Colin McMenamin, Michael Fraser and Jonathan Flynn).  As De Leeuw discovered, Adams was always happy to find a scapegoat.  Externally at least, he was never to blame for anything.  Heck, he even told the press today that "I outperformed my resources" - as if his chairman, Roy 'Uncle Pennybags' McGregor, had left him wanting at times!  A siege mentality in football is supposed to be 'my team against the world', not 'me against the world'.

It's a shame, because this guy is a very able and tactically astute manager, whose stock was extremely high less than eighteen months ago.  He took Ross County (in two different spells) from the third tier to the top flight and to a Scottish Cup final as well, building a very strong side in the process that not only held its own in the SPL, but with January reinforcement went on to a superb fifth placed finish.  I attended many of their matches in their Championship-winning season, and was rarely unimpressed.  Adams was not short of resources (in comparison with his peers in the second tier) but he used them wisely, building a team that ended up going 40 games unbeaten because a backline commanded by Grant Munro and Scott Boyd and protected by Paul Lawson was hard to score against, yet an attack led by Colin McMenamin and supported by Richard Brittain, Iain Vigurs and Michael Gardyne was capable of all sorts of havoc at the other end.  It was a terrific team, terrifically organized by their young boss.

And, two years later, all of them except Brittain and Boyd have left.  Incredibly, County have used fifty-three - that's not a typo - different players in the last two years.  For three transfer windows running, Adams has just about signed an entirely new team.  Contrast with the situation over the Moray Firth, where the Caley Thistle squad has been almost untouched in that period, and where team spirit is as strong as I have ever seen at a club.

This summer's activities hinted at trouble.  The club announced that left back Ben Gordon had signed a new contract...only for him to join Colchester a week later.  Brian McLean turned down another season and told the press of a "personality clash" with the boss.  Graham Carey seemed to disappear off the face of the earth for the whole summer, only to suddenly appear again for the pre-season tour of Holland as 'a trialist' before signing a new deal.  And, most galling, Stuart Kettlewell, not always the best player but certainly one of the most lionhearted, was let go.  This was despite the fact that the midfielder had delayed hip surgery for months to help out in their fight against relegation; after going for his op in the summer, he was released as he wouldn't be fit till the end of the year.

That decision shocked me, as County have a well-earned reputation as a community club and were expected to be rather more supportive of Kettlewell.  Anyone who has watched them so far this season would also say that their midfield could do with his bite and engine rather badly.  And it didn't seem like the sort of move that Roy McGregor, a thoroughly decent man, would make.

Dismissing a manager on a whim isn't the sort of move that McGregor makes either.  This decision will have been very carefully thought out, over a decent period of time.  So it's not really the recent results that have done for Adams.  They may have lost their opening four league games, but there's still thirty-four to go.  They were very unlucky to leave Tannadice as losers last weekend.  And they successfully navigated a real banana-skin of a League Cup tie at Stranraer 24 hours before his dismissal.  He's been sacked because his positives are finally being outweighed by the negative effect caused by his sour puss.


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