HE is 38.

He has taken a small club to the top of his native land in the regularly frozen north. He is renowned as a coach who works wonders on a small budget.

Derek Adams laughs at the mischief of calling him the Ronny Deila of the Highlands. But the Ross County manager also makes a point. "We could be in Norway," he says. "Not many people know what happens up here."

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Events in Dingwall yesterday included Adams completing a deal with Jake Jervis, a 22-year-old striker released by Portsmouth and previously on loan at Turkish club Elazigspor. Joe Cardle, the 27-year-old winger, has also been signed from Raith Rovers.

"We want to get another five players in," says Adams, who was awaiting the arrival of another prospect in Dingwall yesterday afternoon. The Ross County ethos is to find value. Adams is the prime driver of this sleek model.

"I am now in my seventh season here, apart from that short spell at Hibernian," he says. "I suppose it is similar to the new Celtic manager in that we have sought to progress the club every season. We have taken the club from the second division, reached a Scottish Cup final and finished fifth in the top division last year and seventh this year."

His budget is thought to be the smallest in the league but his side's position in the division shows he can find way a way to defeat the truism that money is all on planet football.

"It has been exceptionally hard," he says. "But every season the first question is: where do we go from here? You try to stay in the league, that's the priority, but you contemplate higher than that, finishing as far up the league as you can, having a good cup run."

There are practicalities to the strategy. "We must use the transfers windows wisely to adapt the squad to events at the time," he says.

He looks at players with both "pedigree" and "hunger". Of Cardle and Jervis, he says: "Joe believes he can play in the Premiership and I like that. Jake has had a number of loan spells and for 22 he has a lot of experience. Both want to be better players and I appreciate that."

He says: "Every player want to play at the highest level. My job is sometimes to tell them: 'Come here and prove it'."

The Ross County "due diligence" involves Adams devoting a substantial time to research, whether in statistics or on DVD. But he also needs to meet the prospect.

"We bring them up here. We show them the club, the surroundings. We speak to them to get an idea of what they want and look at their pedigree through background checks.

"But sometimes you have to take a risk on a player and have to believe that you are the person who can rejuvenate their career. We have shown over a period of time that we have been able to do that."

Ideally, players are in the early 20s and the contracts offered are of one or two years so that there is both the opportunity to impress without the risk of being saddled with an under-performer. Those who succeed in Dingwall have the "hunger". Adams does not just distil this in a team or a player. He passes it on.

It is part of his personality but he keeps it bubbling in the system by his perception that both he and Ross County are the subjects of criticism.

"You always know that there are people wanting to have a knock at you and a wee jibe here and there. That adds to the fuel," he says. "It is about driving your workforce on but trying to do as best personally."

The season has been sprinkled with fractious moments on the touchline for Adams, most notably being barged to the ground by Jamie Hamill, then of Hearts, and a robust exchange of views with Danny Lennon, then of St Mirren.

Adams reflects briskly on the major lesson learned during the campaign. "Keeping calm," he says.

"It is about not allowing yourself to get carried away by the media and others talking about where may clubs may or may not end up. It is about sticking to your principles, knowing where you are going."

He says of life as a manager: "You have to have that steeliness, that unwavering nerve, not be broken, You have a shield of armour around you. The negative bounces off you."

His positivity is shown by his reaction to the split in the SPFL Premiership when Ross County won three of their five matches to finish top of the bottom group.

"I always talked to my players about finishing seventh. We never mentioned the possibility of the play-off spot. That was never the part of any discussion," he says.

"It was going to be physically and mentally tough but I believed we had both the quality and the ability."

He now has to prepare for a season that will be routinely testing. Yesterday he was in Dingwall, next week he will be on holiday. He has taken breaks before to go to Europe to watch how the top sides operate but he resists the temptation for a longer sabbatical in the mould of Davie Moyes. "Sometimes with the pressure and the scrutiny that is on managers you feel you could do with a longer break," he says. "But after one or two weeks you want to get back into it."

He adds, however: "We will take our time just a little bit to get the other players in. I am looking forward to a holiday. It will be nice to get a break."

The sun may be on his back but the World Cup will be on the television and agents will be on the phone. Wherever he is in the world, it is planet football for Adams.