Adams revels in double assault
At just 34 years old, Ross County boss Derek Adams is one of the youngest managers in the game but he's quickly starting to prove age is no barrier. Technically he could still be playing for the Staggies but is far more content plotting a Highland uprising from the dug-out.
The former Aberdeen, Burnley, County and Motherwell player squares up to the biggest test of his fledgling managerial career when his men face Celtic in Saturday's Scottish Cup semi-final clash at Hampden.
More mature gaffers have been forced to wait and wait for their chance to experience the splendour of the Scottish national arena but it's taken Adams little over two years since he swapped his boots for a blazer. Adams has been winning plenty of plaudits for Ross County's displays, with many pundits tipping him for bigger and better things.
But true to form, he's remaining calm and composed and has been quick to play down the hype linking him with an even more meteoric rise up the managerial ladder.
"It's nice to be talked about in certain terms but I'm quite grounded and realise success could quite quickly turn into disappointment," Adams said. "I'm pleased with the progress I've made in my first managerial job and I'm still constantly learning.
"Things have developed quite quickly, with Saturday's Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic the biggest game of my managerial career. But while Celtic undoubtedly have some top quality players in their ranks, we certainly don't fear them at all. We've got to believe we can win the game."
Regardless of whether County shock Neil Lennon's Celtic, they'll be brought back to reality immediately as Adams has scheduled a training session almost 200 miles north of Hampden back in Dingwall on Sunday.
That's because they're still very much in the hunt for promotion with a place in the Scottish Premier League at stake and face Morton back in the central belt on Tuesday. Then again, the Ross County players will hardly have expected anything less given the manager's meticulous attention to detail.
He'll draw on his experiences of playing in a Scottish Cup semi-final for Motherwell against Rangers in 2003 to prepare his men for the battle with the Bhoys. And his professional approach is certainly getting the best out of his squad as they battle for glory on two different fronts.
The midweek league draw with Queen of the South has done little to dampen the spirits of the Highlanders, although they did lose some ground on the league leaders.
Adams said: "I wouldn't say I've found it easy going into management - far from it - but thankfully making the transition has been quite straightforward. I've always thought of myself as a good communicator so the players know what I expect from them.
"Man management is a huge part of the job and getting the best out of players is another important factor and I'll need to get them to perform on Saturday.
"When a young player sees something happen for them on the pitch that you've suggested, it's a great feeling for both parties and I'll have them well briefed on what to expect from Celtic."
While Adams might appear to be tender in years compared to his managerial peers he's certainly got experienced heads around him he can call on for vital advice.
His father, George, is the director of football at Ross County and previously played for Aberdeen as well as working under Sir Alex Ferguson at East Stirlingshire. Adams Snr is also a respected youth guru, having ironically helped to unearth top talents like Celtic's Aiden McGeady, who'll be charged with shooting down County.
Craig Brewster is also part of the Ross County management team and he's been another supportive figure Adams Jnr has been able to lean on. There's little doubt all three will have been locked in talks this week about how to silence the likes of McGeady and Robbie Keane, while the wise men will also be mindful league glory remains a realistic aim.
"I have often discussed certain things with my dad and Craig and it's great to have them around as sounding boards," the manager said. "However, I've not always received the answers I was looking for when I've questioned them about things and it's up to me to make the final decision.
"I'll have some tough ones to make in terms of who to pick this weekend and we've got the league campaign beyond the semi-final to consider. It's not going to be easy playing so many games between now and the end of the season but we've got a very fit group of players.
"Our squad is relatively tight so there's little margin for error but the magnitude of the games coming up means everyone is up for the battle.
"We have nine games to play within four weeks. In the last week of the season, we have to play Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. It's the price you pay for cup runs but we wouldn't change it as we have a semi-final as our reward.
"All the lads are really looking forward to the match with Celtic and it is one we all have to make the most of. We've done our homework and know all about their attacking threat with guys like Keane but we have to do our best to stop their danger men."
The cup run is also reportedly set to generate a vital £500,000 windfall for Ross County that will ultimately line Adams' transfer kitty. But the Scottish Cup has also come at a cost for influential midfielder Paul Lawson, who is in danger of missing out on the clash with his former club Celtic.
Lawson suffered a hamstring strain during the historic 2-1 victory over Hibs in the quarter-final at Victoria Park. However, while the former Scotland Under-21 might not want to suffer Hampden heartache, Adams won't risk his star man if he fails to make a full recovery with several other vital games on the horizon.
Ross County are fourth in the First Division 13 points behind leaders and north rivals Inverness Caley Thistle but have three games in hand. Adams is refusing to give up on the fight for the championship, although the extra games the cup has created could come back to haunt them.
Adams said: "It's great for Highland football that Inverness Caley Thistle are doing well right now but I still feel there'll be a real twist before the end of the league campaign. It's been an interesting season so far what with Dundee leading the race first and now they've been pegged back.
"We're still very much in the equation and, although we'll face so many games between now and the end of the season, we won't give up without a fight."
If Adams was to enjoy double success in both the cup and league, his stock would only rise further and place him firmly in the limelight.