Cup win would repay Staggies faithful
Marcus Fraser would rate an Irn-Bru Cup final party tonight as the first down payment on a debt owed to Ross County supporters after last season’s relegation disaster.
The Staggies skipper could easily have bailed out on the Dingwall club in the summer under freedom of contract following a miserable finish to a campaign of struggle and toil.
Jim McIntyre’s sacking, and the slump that followed Owen Coyle’s arrival as replacement, served as prelude to the grim ending of six years spent living it up in Scotland’s top flight.
Fraser courted interest from Premiership clubs in the flat aftermath of the drop to the Championship but, weighing up his options, soon resolved to stay.
The decision came from a sense of responsibility and unfinished business, as well as a genuine affinity with the club that had plucked him from Celtic in January 2015.
With a top-flight return very much a possibility, today’s final is the first opportunity for payback.
Coyle has been made scapegoat for the fall from grace, but 24-year-old defender Fraser admitted: “As players, you’ve always got to take responsibility for what happened. Certainly I did and always will.
“We want to repay the fans with performances on the pitch. If trophies can come with it, it gives that wee bit back to them they are due.
“We’ll just look to do what we’ve been doing all season – play well and try to win the game.
“It was a horrible experience after the last game of last season at St Johnstone. It’s hard take – so difficult.
“A lot of things go through your mind. What were we going to do next year? What should I do? It was a hard season and it took a bit of time to just to get over it and stop thinking about what happened.
“After that, I had some down time and I realised, particularly when I spoke to the management, that I wanted to give Ross County another crack.
“I wanted to show we could prove everyone wrong by having a good league campaign in the Championship – and hopefully win another trophy.”
More than a few clubs – including neighbours Caley Thistle, relegated the year before – have found the transition to Championship life troublesome.
County, eight points ahead in the title race, have more than a fighting chance of escaping at the first time of asking, avoiding the kind of relegation hangover that has afflicted others.
Fraser said: “The mental toughness of this group has been important. When we have had defeats and setbacks this season, we’ve always responded well.
“That’s a big part of being successful – how you respond when things go against you.
“On the whole this season, we’ve done that. We haven’t dwelled on last season, which was really important.”
Should County prevail against the current Welsh league leaders, it would be Fraser’s first trophy since becoming club captain after agreeing to stay last June.
To win it, the defender feels he and fellow survivors of three years ago can draw on the experience of winning the League Cup final at Hampden Park.
The setting will be very different in Inverness, but Fraser stressed: “Any cup competition that comes your way, it is special to win it. Obviously, being captain maybe brings that wee bit extra.
“Everyone is looking forward to the game and the chance to win another trophy is massive for the club.
“We maybe can draw on the experiences of three years ago when we won the League Cup. I was quite new to Ross County at the time, just a year and half in the door.
“Everything happened so quickly and, when you think back to that day, it was just massive beating Hibs at Hampden Park and bringing home a major trophy for Ross County.
“Again, you see how important it was to the fans. We had an open-top bus parade and stuff like that. It was massive – I’d love to experience another cup final win.”