Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Sutton considering Highland fling
Just nine short months ago Ross County were living in fantasy land. The Highland heroes sensationally knocked Celtic out of the Scottish Cup to earn the right to face Dundee United in the Hampden final last May.
The Dingwall giantkillers may have fallen at the last hurdle against their SPL opponents but they still won the hearts of many new admirers.
Fast forward to 2011 and it's a different story at County. Derek Adams, the mastermind behind the cup exploits, has gone, leaving to take up the post of assistant at Hibs to Colin Calderwood. And it seems as if Adams' shadow still looms large over Victoria Park stadium as his replacement, former Celt Willie McStay, lasted just nine games in charge.
County axed the former Ujpest manager following their draw at home to struggling Stirling Albion as he failed to win any of the nine matches at the helm. In fact that latest result leaves last season's Scottish Cup finalists down at the wrong end of the league.
The decision to sack McStay was met with an angry reaction from Alex Smith, the chairman of the Scottish managers and coaches association, due to the speed of his dismissal.
However, it's business as usual in Dingwall with early reports already linking usual suspects Gus MacPherson, Gordon Chisholm, Jimmy Calderwood and Garry Bollan with the vacant post. But one name in the frame has really captured the imagination with former Celtic striker Chris Sutton emerging as a possible candidate.
Sutton, who also served Norwich City, Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City and Aston Villa during his playing career, would certainly bring a different dimension north.
The 37-year-old, who won one England cap, is looking for a return to the game after initially cutting his managerial teeth with Lincoln City and could seek a new challenge in the Highlands. And County midfielder Paul Lawson, who played alongside Sutton at Celtic earlier in his career, reckons his former colleague would be an excellent choice.
Lawson insists he would certainly command an instant respect from the players both on and off the pitch.
"There have already been a few different names linked with the post but Chris Sutton is the one who really stands out for me," said Lawson. "I was lucky enough to train alongside him after working my way through the ranks at Celtic as a youngster. He was an unbelievable player and it was a real pleasure just to train with him because he was such a talent.
"Chris was also a big character in the dressing room and one of the more vocals figures of the team."
Lawson, who is battling back from injury, was slightly surprised when he discovered Sutton had decided to move into management after calling time on his playing career. But he would relish the opportunity to work with his old colleague again and he knows County have to return to winning ways again soon.
He added: "To be honest when I look back now Chris was probably one of the players I didn't expect to go into management. I was surprised when he took the Lincoln post but there's no doubt he has all the right experience and credentials to become a good manager.
"It's exciting for the players that someone like him has been linked with the post and he would certainly command the respect of the players if he did get the job. Chris would bring a fresh approach to the job and will have new ideas picked up along the way from the different managers he has worked with.
"But the most important thing for us as a group of players is to get points on the board so we can start moving up the league."
Sutton, who has yet to be approached by Ross County, may also seek comfort from the fact his countryman Terry Butcher has impressed just 16 miles down the road in charge at Inverness Caley Thistle.
Ross County director of football George Adams, the father of former boss Derek, will take charge of team affairs in the interim, starting with Saturday's trip to Dunfermline.
A statement issued by the club confirmed they have started to look for a replacement for McStay. It read: "The club has parted company with manager Willie McStay with immediate effect. The manager's departure follows a series of disappointing results in Ross County's First Division campaign.
"The board would like to express their thanks to Mr McStay for his commitment and effort during his time at the club and wish him well for the future. A recruitment effort by the board to identify and appoint a new manager will begin straight away."
Sutton could yet prove to be the ideal man to inject some new life into Ross County.