Roy MacGregor, the Ross County chairman, hinted yesterday that a breakdown in "chemistry" behind the scenes was behind the decision to sack Derek and George Adams from their positions as the manager and football director at the Highland club respectively.
Both the father-and-son team had been told late on Wednesday night that the club was terminating a lengthy and often successful - if somewhat stormy - relationship with them. Derek Adams had been County manager for six years, save for a six-month spell during which he served as assistant to Colin Calderwood at Hibernian, and steered the Dingwall side to considerable achievements.
As well as winning both the Second Division and First Division titles, County also defeated Hibs and Celtic to reach the Scottish Cup final in 2010, while also winning a Challenge Cup and securing fifth and seventh-place finishes in the top flight after earning promotion in 2012.
Memories of such success were not sufficient to appease the County board, though, with directors having grown increasingly restless as a result of the club's flirtation with relegation last season and a timid start to the new campaign. Adams had led his side to four consecutive defeats in the league.
The challenge of arresting that form - at first away to Hamilton Academical tomorrow - has fallen to first-team coach Steven Ferguson, who will be assisted in Lanarkshire by club captain Richard Brittain and vice-captain Scott Boyd. Former St Mirren manager Danny Lennon and erstwhile Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager Terry Butcher have been identified among the leading names linked with the vacant post on a permanent basis.
MacGregor acknowledged last night that he had no replacement in mind to take over as manager but that he favoured a move away from the director of football model pursued by the club since George Adams was appointed nine years ago. The 64-year-old had taken the post after working in youth development roles at Motherwell, Celtic and Rangers.
"In the life of football clubs, sometimes change needs to happen," said MacGregor, who announced the departure of Adams to the media who had been waiting for the County manager at the club's weekly press conference. "In the life of Ross County, we just feel change for a number of reasons has had to be made.
"On a personal basis, it has probably been the most difficult decision I've had to make in football. Not only were George and Derek personal friends, they were part of - and gave this club - so much history. In many ways, the club wouldn't be where it is today if it wasn't for the contribution of these two gentlemen.
"George was a major contributor to the development of this club, even before he was football director, during his time with Rangers and Celtic. So this goes back certainly over a decade. So to think that a change needed to be made was a fairly serious situation, but we feel both on and off the park this is the right time to make a change."
MacGregor contacted both Derek and George Adams on Wednesday evening to inform them of a board decision made that day. The County chairman acknowledged that there had been "disappointment" rather than shock from the two men.
The chairman refused to elaborate on what he meant by difficulties "on and off the park". He said instead: "I don't really want to go into that, out of respect for what has been done at the club. I have the utmost respect and goodwill for that team. I wish them both the very best in wherever they end up in football.
"I think there was disappointment from both sides, particularly Ross County's side. But the chemistry has got to be right. You know I'm
a great believer that alignment from boardroom to the fan
is a pretty important in the development of a club.
That alignment was not right. We just felt this was the right time to make a change."
MacGregor confirmed too that his club will now strive to forge stronger and more permanent roots within the playing squad after several seasons of repeated upheaval. However, he added that a club strategy of signing players on short-term contracts and loan deals had played no part in the decision to sack Adams.
"I think you bring in the
best players you can," said MacGregor. "We've been trying to find our feet in the Premier League. Short-term contracts are not the way the club is going to go. That's nothing to do with the football director or manager, that is about the club becoming mature.
"I felt the third year [in the top flight] was a pretty defining year in that you need to make long-term decisions to stay there. Year one was about getting in and finding our feet. Year two was about consolidating and year three is getting a term where you're going to be a Premier League club for the future. You've got to make sure you've got that fashioned in the proper way."
The County chairman has also acknowledged an intention to move away from the football director/manager model which existed during Adams' tenure. "The way this club was structured was quite unusual in having a football director and manager who were father and son," he added.
"That was unique, really.
By and large we got the benefit of that as a club. The football director got a budget that he worked with. The board had no influence on it at all.
"When a signing was being made, myself and the directors were aware nearly at the same time as the press. That was the way we wanted it. It was: 'there is your budget, you deal with it your way'. I wouldn't argue with that at all. Today what we've got, in terms of value-for-money in the dressing room is the best set of players we've ever had. We just feel we need to deal with that in a different way."