More than 14 years since he first walked through the office doors, Ross County’s former general manager RANALD GILBERT has left Victoria Park for pastures new. Before leaving though he took the opportunity to share a few memories.
“IT HAS been an amazing time for me and for the club. I first started temping in the office during my university holidays and I could never have dreamed then that it would have been the start of more than a decade working full time for the club.
“I think I’ve been extremely lucky. If you were going to pick any period in the club’s history to be part of it would be the last eight years.
“But before I can talk about the highs, I have to talk about why I feel those years were even more special than they look on paper.
“It wasn’t too long after I joined the staff permanently that the club went through some tough times off the pitch, leading to some hard work to get things back on an even keel financially.
“Working alongside the fans who formed Save Our Staggies gave me a real insight into how much the club meant to them, as well as introducing me to some great people.
“Obviously part of that process was restructuring the team, and I have to own up to having a relegation on my CV when we dropped to the Second Division.
“It was a strange day as we were playing Gretna, who won the league in the very last minute, which meant there was a distinct mix of emotions within the stadium. To be honest it was all a bit much for me. I ended up literally hiding under my desk trying to take it all in!
“It’s a memory I will always treasure though as the director of football (George Adams) found me and dragged me up none too gently and said: ‘Son, sometimes you have to take a wee step backwards before you can make a big jump forwards.’ That phrase obviously came back to me many times over the next few years.
“In fairness, a lot of what had been started in that relegation season was then continued in the Second Division and proved a great platform for the club. Derek taking the reigns that season was really interesting, as he brought such an enthusiasm and energy to the role that it was quite infectious. I think that rubbed off on most people at the club.
“The roll of achievements has been rattled off many times and I don’t think I need to repeat it again, but there are a few special memories along the way.
“The season of 2009/10 was a special one for everyone. As I’ve said often, the Scottish Cup run nearly killed me with all the work that had to be done, but I wouldn’t swap the memories for the world. Funnily enough, despite the fact that I still think Steven Craig’s goal against Celtic is the best Scottish Cup goal I’ve ever seen for any team, it’s not my favourite goal of that season.
“That was the season Caley Thistle were back in the First Division, and as a fan, derbies have a special place in your heart. So Iain Vigurs’ back heel in the 3-1 victory in the first derby of the season will always stand out, especially as I was living with a Caley fan at the time.
“The promotion to the SPL was, of course, not only special for the club but also for the whole area. Being part of the club gave me a great insight into how well respected its achievements have been within Scottish Football.
“But it also gave me a good perspective on how important it has been for the town and the county, as well as the Highlands in general.
“To see almost 4,000 people travelling to matches every second week over our first two seasons in the top flight brings it home to you how much of an economic benefit there is to the community. I’ve talked to fans from all over Europe and the world who’d timed their trip to the Highlands to coincide with a home game.”
Having enjoyed such a long and action-packed career with the club – which saw him move from the reception desk to the general manager’s office – why did he feel the time was right to leave now?
“I think football’s an unusually challenging environment and the pressures of the workload, as well as knowing you’re part of bigger team, means that you push yourself hard.
“It’s not a job you can just clock off from when it reaches 5pm. I felt that after reaching 10 years full-time in May, the time was probably right for me to look for a new challenge, but also to step aside and let new people bring their own ideas and enthusiasm to the club.
“It was a difficult decision and one I thought long and hard over, but ultimately I think it was the right one.
“The most important thing I have to say is a huge thank you to a number of people – the staff I’ve worked with over the years for their support, guidance and the craic we’ve had in the office; the board of directors for the opportunity they have given me working at the club and, last but not least, the fans.
“I’ve said to a lot of people over the past few weeks that what I will miss most is seeing so many great characters and wonderful people on a regular basis.”
If it’s the people he will miss most, what is it that he’s looking forward to most having hung up his metaphorical boots?
“Well, I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks recharging my batteries and then finding a new challenge to put my energy into.
“What I’m really looking forward to is getting back to being a fan.
“It’s great to think that I’ll be able to enjoy the big matches in the club’s future with a pint beforehand and no extra work to worry about when the team are successful.”