With the Premiership season kicking off this Saturday at Dens against Ross County, we spoke to @jailender about the Staggies, his views on Billy McKay crossing the divide and how it’s felt to see his team go from playing in the Highland league to cementing their place in the Premiership.
I'll ask what I've done with every other one of our guests so far. What made you become a Ross County fan?
It’s an easy answer – They are my local team. I used to go periodically as a kid to their games when they were in the Highland League. I lived just down the road from Billy Ferries, who became a County legend in the late 80’s /early 90’s, and I used to travel with his Dad and brother to the games. I lived about 25 miles from Dingwall then, and couldn’t get to all the games
When they were elected to the Scottish Football League I was that bit older and able to drive myself by then so I bought my first season ticket for that first season in the SFL.
It's been some story for County since you joined the SFL/SPFL. Could you have ever imagined witnessing the success the club have had in such a short space of time?
It has been a tremendous success story over the last 23 years. Even just being elected to the SFL was a success as at the time, the Inverness Franchise team were dead certs to be elected, and everyone else thought that the SFL would spread football around the country and take in a team from the Borders probably Gala Fairydean, so for both Highland teams to be elected was a surprise.
Back then to think that 20 years later the club would be an established Premier League team and have won the League Cup was unthinkable, especially when you factor in that along the way the stadium pretty much also had to be built from scratch – something that very few other teams in the lower leagues have had to do.
You've also managed to become a mainstay in the Premiership and will compete in this league for your 6th consecutive season. How does it feel to see the club cement their place in the top league?
Being in the Premier league is nothing short of an honour. When you see some of the clubs that have failed to retain their Premier status over that same period, it makes you realise just exactly how well the club is doing.
Each season fans expectations get bigger and bigger, but to be realistic County are punching well above their weight by being in the Premier League, and while some fans will want a top six finish, or to win one of the cups, a successful season for County is retaining their Premier League status – anything more is a bonus.
Liam Boyce has been a thorn in many a clubs side the past few years and It seemed to feel like he scored against us in every visit. With him now sold, just how much of an impact will that have on the team?
Liam Boyce will be a big loss to the club. He’s been the club’s top scorer for the last few seasons and he chipped in with 48% of our goals last season – so that is a huge gap to fill.
Its more than his goals though, he was arguably one of the best footballing players at the club and his assists last season were largely forgotten because of the goals he scored.
The responsibility will now fall on the rest of the team to chip in with goals. We’ve added Thomas Mikklesen and Billy Mckay to the team, hopefully they can form a partnership along with Craig Curran and Alex Schalk that will get the goals.
Our other issue last season was that we needed to score at least two goals to get a point given that our defence wasn’t the best – early indications are we’ve tightened up at the back so hopefully we don’t need as many goals this season.
We heard this week that Liam Boyce has suffered a knee injury at Burton Albion. I think it’s fair to say that the majority of County fans feel for him as they wanted him to succeed there just to prove how good the Scottish league actually is.
Billy McKay eh? Inverness fans weren't too happy when he signed for you but how did County supporters take to the news?
The news Billy Mckay signed wasn’t the biggest shock to County fans as it had been rumoured locally for a few weeks before. As for how the fans took the news, it was more of a “get it up ya” to the Inverness fans than a shock at signing one of their players.
Over the years plenty of players have gone both ways over the Kessock Bridge, with the most notable being “Mr Caley” Ross Tokely signing, so fans are used to their players coming here.
But in fairness if Billy Mckay scores as often for us as he did against us then he’ll soon win over the County fans.
How have the other new signings fared so far in pre-season and the League Cup?
It’s been hard to gauge the signings as most of our games have been against lower league opposition.
Sean Kelly at left back looks to be a good addition, and fills what was one of our weaker areas last season. As mentioned before Thomas Mikklesen has joined as a striker and with people comparing him to Liam Boyce he is always going to struggle to be seen as a success unless he can match Boyce’s scoring feats.
Midfield still seems to be a problem area for us. Jim O’Brien joining after being on loan last season is a good bit of business, but I still think we need a “thug” type of player in there – we’re sometimes too nice and get overrun by other teams!
Can you tell us one player that Dundee should be weary of? Also, if you were able to pick a player from our team that would make the County team, who would it be?
Once fit I think Billy Mckay will be seen as the main threat to any team we face, although I think the main driving force behind County this season will be Jim O’Brien – if you stop him playing you’ll probably stop us playing.
Although Michael Gardyne has looked impressive in pre-season and always has the ability play that pass that will carve open any defence.
As for what Dundee player I’d take at County – Sofien Moussa seems to have hit the ground running during the pre-season and league cup matches, so I’d have to say him
What targets should the club be setting for the League and cup competitions this season?
I touched on this earlier but I think being realistic, surviving in the Premier League has to be the main target. The league is probably the strongest it has been for many years. Hopefully we’ll not have the nervous end to the season and maybe a 7th place can be achieved again.
Cups are probably our best chance of success, without trying to belittle the achievements of teams who win cups, but it really is just a case of winning five or six games, and in a one off situation we are capable of winning any game. It all depends on the luck of the draw as well, but cups runs are nice, so hopefully quarter or semi-finals this season.
We face a rerun of the same opening day match last year but at the opposite venue. What's your prediction for this?
Hopefully we do better than we did in last season’s opener where we were well and truly beaten.
We do look better prepared this season than what we were 12 months ago, but Dens park is never an easy place to visit – I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends in a 1-1 draw.
I think we can all agree that Celtic will win this league but who do you think will finish second, eleventh and twelfth?
I agree Celtic will probably win the league, but not as easy as they did last season
Second place is going to be tight, but I actually think Rangers will edge out Aberdeen for second place.
11th Place - I think will be Kilmarnock
12th Place – Everyone’s underdog I suspect and go for Hamilton.