DEREK Adams had a wee habit of leaving out a list of the Ross County players who would be conducting that day's media interviews, so that when the reporters arrived at the Global Energy Arena they could look at the sheet of paper and prepare their questions.

No list was waiting when the journalists turned up to speak to Adams yesterday. No Adams, either.

Roy MacGregor is an avuncular chap. The Ross County chairman, a religious man, can be quite the charmer, friendly and helpful as he expertly promotes his club as a progressive little underdog in the SPFL Premiership and Highland society. There is much more to him than that.

Loading article content

Men do not become multi-millionaires by shying away from big, unpopular decisions. For months there have been strains eroding the mood between key figures at the club. The easy and soft option for MacGregor yesterday was to do nothing. Instead, in sacking his manager and his director of football, father and son team Derek and George Adams, he bared his teeth. The County chairman described it as the hardest decision he had ever taken in the game. You can bet he reached it with utter certainty.

County are a small club with a small staff. Everyone exists in each other's pockets. Derek and George were part of the fabric around the Global Energy Arena, an inextricable part of a remarkable success story. Well, inextricable until yesterday. What MacGregor and his board of directors did by sacking them was put instinct before all their eye-witness evidence accrued over nearly seven years.

It is easy for outsiders to lose sight of how remarkable it is that Ross County are in the Premiership at all, let alone beginning their third consecutive season. They finished fifth two seasons ago. Fifth! Last season they were seventh. Derek, supported and advised throughout by George, delivered minor miracles and it is unfair to cheapen that achievement - as some have done - by likening it to some sort of false, Gretna-style financial boosting.

County are currently bottom of the league having lost all four of their opening matches. Would Adams have kept them up? It's reasonable to argue that he had a better chance than most.

No-one knows that better than MacGregor. He does not need to be lectured by anyone about the alchemy delivered by the manager he has just given the elbow. The promotions, the run to the 2010 Scottish Cup final including that Hampden rout of Celtic: MacGregor lived through and savoured them all. There was more reason to believe Adams would keep County off 12th place this season than that Tommy Craig would do so for St Mirren.

But MacGregor's instinct was that the relationship between his board and his manager and director of football had come to an end, had become toxic and damaging. The "chemistry" was no longer right, he said. It seems that MacGregor had a view of County's place and its future which differed from George's in particular. One hankered for a return to a more community-based club, closer to its roots, while the other thought it capable of having broader ambitions than that. Grievances and disagreements over budgets widened the division.

County fans are entitled to worry about what comes next. MacGregor's track record in managerial appointments is poor: Scott Leitch, Dick Campbell, John Robertson, Willie McStay and Jimmy Calderwood all came and went. Only Neale Cooper and Adams were conspicuous successes. Owen Coyle, once a County player, was mentioned as a possible contender yesterday.

Derek Adams is not everyone's cup of tea, to put it mildly. Plenty of supporters - even some County ones - will have taken satisfaction from him being brought down yesterday. But this much is clear: he has something. His steady improvement of County, taking them to a higher rung than their natural level, was deeply impressive. He is still only 39. Job offers will come his way.

What probably ended forever yesterday was the prospect of him working again with his dad. It is hard to see how another club will be able to find not one vacancy but two, and the pair cannot limit their own prospects by insisting that they come only as a duo.

Derek and George Adams had something special up in Dingwall. They will mourn the loss of that for a while now, but they can look back on the best times with huge pride.