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.
This coming Wednesday sees both clubs fighting it out for a place in the Betfred League Cup Quarter Final at Dens.
We managed to catch up again with @DabChat to give his perspective from the other side of the street.
United got their League campaign off to a flyer on Saturday with a 1-0 victory over Inverness Caley Thistle. How did they team preform?
Yes it was a great start against one of the teams who are expected to challenge and away from home. We played some good stuff but it was clear we were still lacking. No recognised striker until Keatings came on and a few players who would have played suspended so all pleasing.
Last week saw Cammy Bell leave the club though not before some light hearted ribbing about the tweet that the club sent out. Will he be a loss for the squad?
Yes Cammy is away, it was clear him and his agent were trying to force a move and who can blame him. 4 hours travelling a day just to train is not ideal. I am pleased with how the club handled it, this it was announced on Twitter is rubbish, it was on the club website to let the fans know the situation. It's all been blown out of proportion but the facts remain. The boy wanted away, the club posted letting the fans know they would listen to offers.
Personally I felt he was overrated. Consistently let the defence down by not coming for crosses and it cost us in big games. The young lad Lewis from Southampton has looked good so far so all good.
The Fraser Fyvie saga then drew to a close and he signed up to be a Dundee United player. What will he add to your midfield?
Fyvie is a player I've rated for a long time and am delighted we finally got the deal done.
A box to box midfielder who can pass and create. Fyvie, Briels, Stanton, Flood and Allardice We now have depth in that area and Ray can now pick and choose which games he has to play Flood. Last season he was overplayed in my opinion and ended up burnt out, losing form at the business end of the season, so that wasn't ideal.
The first Dundee Derby ended in a 1-1 draw with United taking the bonus point in a 4-3 penalty shout-out win. How did it feel to see the return of these games?
The last Derby was class. A great build up, quality atmosphere and ultimately an entertaining game. You just need to look at the attendance to see what it means to the fans.
With your season ticket sales reportedly struggling ,another Derby so soon will be a welcome bonus financially for both sides.
You finished top of Group C to win the right to be the seeded team and then were drawn against us again at Dens Park. Were you happy with this draw?
I like the new cup set up however the one grumble would be around the seeding for the draw.
It would make more sense for the seeded teams to play at home, that way if you do well in your group you get rewarded. Either that or you can't draw the other team that came out of your group would also make sense.
With Dundee being beat at the weekend and the way United have started their campaign, along with their form in the League Cup, will confidence be riding high at Tannadice that they can claim the victory and a place in the Quarter Finals on Wednesday night?
We should be confident. Ray has put together a very capable squad and in my opinion, a far better looking squad than the team that got us relegated a couple of years ago.
It's a Derby though so confidence means very little. It's all about who wants it most, which team wins the individual battles and ultimately which team takes their chances.
You just need to look at the last game. You's dominated for large parts of the game but still never created that many clear cut chances.
You played without a recognised striker in our last meeting but will you be hopeful that James Keating and Scott McDonald will fit enough to make this game?
Hearing that all three strikers trained today, Keatings, McDonald and Nkoyi, so that's fantastic news. I'd expect none of them will be fit enough to play the full 90 so I'd expect Keatings to start and get 50-60 mins and McDonald to come on from the bench for the final 30.
Not only is that great for our striking options but also in terms of getting McMullan back to his preferred wide position. Let's hope he gives young Kerr a torrid time.
Paul McMullan showed he was a threat against us last time. Even though we struggled at times to create one ourselves, what player would you be keeping an eye out for on Wednesday?
Heard big Moussa took a sore one at the weekend, that could be a blessing in disguise for your lot.
He didn't impress versus us in the last game. In fact, he made it very easy for big Edge and Durnan to play against him. They relish fighting high balls and the physical challenge. It's when teams get the ball down and turn them that they struggle.
The one player who did catch the eye was the fast winger Deacon. You can see how he ended up on Arsenals books. He got at Scobbie all game but fortunately for us, his end product wasn't the best. If he gets that right this week, he could end up having a big say in the match outcome.
For us, I'm hoping that with Keatings starting and McMullan wide, this allows us to start Frasier in the hole.
He gets a tough time from our own fans but the boy has bags of ability, can end up being the match winner with his trickery and hopefully get some of the boo boys off his case.
Who do you think will proceed from the other League Cup ties?
Celtic will cruise past Killie, Livi to cause an upset away against Falkirk, Hibs with a comfortable win, Thistle on pens, Aberdeen will beat Hamilton, Rangers in extra time, Ross County home win.
Oh and of course the Dabs to progress. It may go to pens again though.
We spoke to Hamilton Accies fans Twitter page WeAreHamilton to ask them about how their transfer activity has went this summer, how it felt winning the play-off final and what player we should look out for today.
So, what made you support Hamilton? What drew you to the club?
With both my mum and dads families being divided between the Old Firm it didn't look likely that I would turn out to be an accies fan, however for the first 11 years of my life, I was raised within a mere 3 minute walk to NDP (New Douglas Park).
One of my best friends, God rest his soul, John Paterson lived below me in the flats and his dad is the man who runs The Accies away supporters bus. So pretty much since a very young age, my Saturdays were occupied by going both home and away to the games with him. My first accies game was 19 years ago when I was 3.
What’s your feelings on the clubs transfer activity this summer? If I’m right in saying, there hasn’t been a lot of coming and goings for the Accies?
The transfer window is meant to be one of the most exciting times to be a football fan. Unfortunately with accies there is very rarely anything to get excited about and this season in particular has been even more dire than usual.
Managing to get Skondoras signed on for another year was very pleasing. The only signing so far Xavier Tomas has looked really shaky in the games I have seen him and he doesn't look upto much whatsoever but hopefully that will change.
We only have one first team striker currently and he certainly isn't going to score more than 8 goals this season. We've been crying out all window to bring at least one in and still we're yet to do anything. But as per usual we will wait to the very end, if not after the window and bring someone in who hasn't been able to tie down a club anywhere else.
Do you feel the team has improved from the season before?
You kept your Premiership status with a play-off final win over Dundee United. How was the nerves going into these matches and was the outcome expected within the ranks of Hamilton fans?
I would be lying if I said I wasn't sh*ting myself. I didn't give us much of a hope whatsoever.
After the first match in which I thought we played brilliant that made the nervousness even worse because I felt since we didn't get that crucial goal at Tannadice, it was going to come back and bite us. But we got there eventually and what a feeling it was to say we've managed to stay in the top league once again and prove everyone wrong as per usual.
I don't think you'll find many accies fans that could say they were confident going into the tie.
You kicked off your Premiership season with a defeat to Aberdeen and that was followed by another loss to the Dons midweek, this time in the League Cup. How did Accies perform despite the defeats?
The first game I felt we actually played very well for the most part of the game, however I think we could have played for another week and wouldn't have scored. We didn't threaten whatsoever and if we don't sort that ASAP we are certain for the drop. Getting the red card obviously didn't help us but Aberdeen were deserving winners despite the good effort from most players.
The second game I thought we were well and truly hopeless. The centre half partnership of Sarris and Tomas was scary to watch for the most of it. It was another game of having nothing in final third to threaten. We weren't up to much whatsoever and again Aberdeen deserved the win.
One good thing to come from the game was the performance of youngsters Scott Mcmann and Steven Boyd. Mcmann has came on to a fantastic game the past season and is by far one of our most consistent players, you very rarely get a bad performance from the boy. Wee Boydy is one to watch aswell, a great young talent. I can see really good things coming from him in the next few seasons.
We’ve have seen some pretty tasty encounters between Dundee and Hamilton in the past. What one stands out the most for you?
Recently we've had a lot of crucial victories against Dundee. They have been wins that have been more relief than anything and have been celebrated extra special. It's a tough decision cause I've got a few, but the Dundee game that stands out most would be two seasons ago when we won 1-0 at dens to stay up. Carlton Morris got the winner and it meant we secured safety for another season. As you say, most Accies Dundee games seem to be fiesty ones, like a small derby.
What player from each side should the other consider a threat?
Accies - Easy, Ali Crawford.
Dundee - Faissal El Bakhtaoui. He didn't have the best opening season with yous last year but I think this season he will definitely rekindle the form he did for Dunfermline.
What would you like to see Hamilton achieve this season?
If our board showed a little bit of ambition and spent money on bringing in a decent few players I think we could definitely fight it out for a comfortable position however, that won't be the case. If you offered me safety once again just now then I would take it in a heartbeat. I would love to go on a good Scottish Cup run, to see Accies at Hampden would be a dream come true for pretty much every single fan.
Most importantly, what’s your score predictions for Saturday?
With the lack of threat up top, unfortunately my prediction for Saturdays game is Accies 0-2 Dundee.
Our first guest to take part is Raith Rover fan and Terrace Podcast contributor, Andy Harrow.
Dundee take on Raith Rovers at Starks Park this Tuesday in the Betfred Cup, KO 7:45pm .Read what Andy had to say!
To kick off this new feature, as a lifelong Raith Rovers fan, what’s your first memories of supporting the club?
The first game my Dad took me to was the 7-0 victory over St. Mirren on the opening match of the 1992/93 season, but the memory of my second game is more vivid – a 5-0 shellacking to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in the Scottish Cup. Our goalkeeper got injured, which meant tough-tackling central midfielder, Davie Sinclair, spent the majority of the game between the sticks. He was utterly abject. To make matters worse, we had a man sent off and Bobby Williamson scored a hat-trick.
Last season saw Rovers lose their Championship status in the play offs. Did you think the club would be fighting relegation last term?
Not initially, no! We’d finished fourth the previous season and although the appointment of Gary Locke tempered expectations, we should have finished no worse than seventh with the bones of the same squad. After a promising start, our form fell off a cliff and we didn’t win a single game between November and February. By that stage, it was pretty clear we were in serious trouble. The appointment of John Hughes, with hindsight, did nothing to help slow our descent to League One and the play-off defeat to Brechin was as depressing as it was predictable.
John Hughes left almost immediately after your relegation was confirmed and replaced with Barry Smith by a few weeks later. Were you happy with Smith’s appointment and what was the general view of the fans regarding it?
If the reaction to Barry Smith’s appointment could be described in a single gesture, it would be a shrug. He’s not a particularly exciting appointment – he’s not an especially young manager and his recent track record isn’t stellar – but he showed at Dundee he’s capable of galvanising a squad and achieving success, so fans are willing to give him a chance. Plus, he’s neither Gary Locke nor John Hughes, so he’s immediately got that going for him.
Understandably, there has been a good few coming and goings through the doors at Starks Park. Are you happy with the deals that have been done so far?
The most surprising aspect this pre-season is how few new signings we’ve made. The two strikers we’ve brought in –Liam Buchanan and Ramsden’s Cup hero, Greig Spence – look astute transfers, given the number of goals they pilfered in League One last season, while our new centre half, Euan Murray, looks competent. Otherwise, the bulk of the squad from last season have signed on for a shot at redemption. It’s also a big season for our young players to prove themselves, especially Ross Callachan and Lewis Vaughan. Both have offered glimpses of their talent and, assuming we don’t loan either to a league rival in January, it’s a chance to prove they can deliver on a consistent basis.
What’s the aim for Raith Rovers this season in the League?
Promotion as champions. As one of only three full-time clubs (including a shambolic Airdrie), we should be near the top throughout, but our record in the playoffs (no wins, ever) means we need to secure top spot. I can’t see us staying full-time if we spend a second season in League One.
How do you feel the new format of the Betfred League Cup has gone so far?
I like it, actually. It gives each team a few juicy fixtures at the start of the season and last year’s version threw up quite a few surprises (as I’m sure you’ll remember…)
As us Dundee fans know, it can throw up a few cup upsets. With Group B consisting of Dundee Raith, Dundee United, Cowdenbeath and Buckie Thistle, is their potential for a few shocks?
Would Dundee losing to their city neighbours be an upset these days? Otherwise, Raith are probably best placed – we’ve improved as pre-season has progressed and beat Ross County on penalties in this competition last season. Buckie Thistle might beat Cowdenbeath, given how poor the Blue Brazil were last season.
Can you name a player from each team that the opposition should be wary of?
Dundee – it would be just the thing for Craig Wighton to deliver his best ever display at Stark’s Park. Otherwise, I’ve seen footage of the punch Randy Wolters packs, so I’d be a bit wary of him too.
Dundee United – James Keatings once scored a hat-trick at Stark’s and should be a shrewd signing for United.
Cowdenbeath – A Cowdenbeath-supporting friend has suggested Cammy Muirhead. He came through the Fife Academy and scored against Buckie.
Buckie Thistle – I would be lying if I said I knew any of Buckie’s players.
Who do you think will reach the final of the League Cup and eventually win the trophy?
It’s hard to see past Celtic given their form last season and Hearts will be the ceremonial whipping boys in the final.
How do you think Dundee will do in the League this season after struggling last term?
Another season of bottom-six misery, I’m afraid. Hamilton will surely – surely! – be relegated in the automatic berth this season, but Dundee’s squad still looks relatively weak. Admittedly, Scott Allen seems a good signing and a few of the news guys are relative unknown quantities, so it might depend how useful they are.
The new format to the League Cup has opened the door for the Champions of the Highland League and Lowland League to compete. What’s the buzz like around the club and fans now that Thistle will be competing in a National cup competition?
It was a great idea by the SPFL to allow the Champions in to the Betfred Scottish League Cup.
The buzz around the town has been great and the fans have been looking forward to the games. The only thing missing would have been perhaps a Saturday home game especially against Dundee or United.
Your first two games against Cowdenbeath and Dundee United have ended Dundee or United in defeat. How do you think Buckie preformed in both despite the losses?
We actually performed quite well in the first game but we conceded a couple of poor headed goals which didn't help our cause but scoring twice was great for our travelling support. We lost the fourth goal late when we went to three at the back and looked like grabbing an equaliser. I think Cowdenbeath were a bit flattered by the score line. Playing into a howling gale and pouring rain in the first half didn't help especially as the wind abated and the rain went off in the second half.
United appeared fitter and faster than us in the first half, in saying that, we had two decent chances which had we taken them may have put a bit of doubt in their minds. However we got to grips with them in the second half and certainly held our own. We actually performed well in the second half. Hopefully two games against higher opposition within three days will not tell against us.
What do you think the club expected to achieve in the group stages?
On speaking to the manager, he had his sights firmly set on our Highland League opening match, and was going to use these matches to improve the overall and match fitness of our squad. In saying that he also sets ambitious goals for the team but being realistic the game against Cowdenbeath was our best opportunity to take points. Had we played them in our final game there might have been a different outcome.
Our stadium may not be the biggest in Scottish football but will the players be looking forward to playing in a bigger venue than they are accustomed to in the Highland League?
Players are definitely looking forward to the game. Who knows this might be their only opportunity to play on a Premier League ground. Having been to Dens before you're stadium looks pretty big to me! I'm sure it will take our players time to adjust to an enclosed stadium compared to the Highland League pitches.
You are the current Highland League Champions. Now that the pyramid structure is in place, does the club see itself aiming to reaching the SPFL? Maybe one day emulating the achievements of Inverness Caley Thistle and Ross County?
Pyramid structure sounds great but when the reality hits home of having to travel to Annan/Berwick etc. midweek we might have second thoughts. In saying that Elgin seem to be having the best crowds in their division over the last few seasons and we could certainly compete with them. If there was regionalisation for the two bottom leagues (like the Betfred Cup) this might put a different complexion on the way we view things.
It is great to see our old foes from yesteryear competing so well in the top leagues.
What will the Buckie Thistle fans hopes for this season be? Back-to-back Title wins?
I'm sure the fans will be looking for us to win the title again but many of them are realistic and realise that it was a tremendous feat to win the league last year against teams with more financial resources and access to wider playing pools.
We suffered injuries to four or five key players at the tail end of last season. Two of them are definitely out long term but if the others make it for the start of the season allied to our new signings - you never know !!
If you could name one Buckie Thistle player to watch out for, who would it be? Also, if you could pick one Dundee player to tell Buckie to be careful of, who would you point out?
Kevin Fraser was voted Highland League player of the year so he is definitely one to keep an eye open for. He is the captain of the team and plays central midfield. He is slight of frame but makes up for this with plenty of skill, guts and determination.
Darren O'Dea - With his experience he seems to have galvanised your team. Not only by shoring up your defence but also a danger in the opposition box at set pieces
What players would you tell Dundee to be weary of from the two teams you have already encountered, Cowdenbeath and Dundee United?
Difficult to say for Cowdenbeath - they were more a workmanlike team with no outstanding individuals - in my opinion.
As I said earlier, Dundee United being a full time team all looked fitter and sharper than us in the first half and their forward players, McMullan, King and Keatings gave us plenty of problems.
Can you give us your prediction on who you think will reach the League Cup Final and eventually lift the trophy?
I think it will be the same teams as last year, unfortunately I have to say Celtic with Aberdeen as runners-up.
Now the big prediction. Who will come out on top between our two teams on Saturday?
Well now that is a difficult question. What we are hoping for is that there is a large crowd especially as it is Dundee's first competitive home game.
The winners will be................Dundee.
Thank you to David for taking time out and speaking to The Dark Blues Website.