Kettlewell demands show of mental fortitude from Ross County squad against Celtic in Betfred Cup
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Stuart Kettlewell has denied “throwing players under the bus” after last weekend’s defeat at Kilmarnock – and insists he retains faith in his young squad’s ability.
But the Ross County manager is demanding his players show greater mental strength and demonstrate they can deal with the psychological demands of top-flight football.
Approaching this Sunday’s huge League Cup test away to Celtic, the Staggies boss knows County will need a significantly better collective performance than they produced against 10-man Kilmarnock last Saturday.
Describing his scathing post-match assessment of the Rugby Park capitulation as the truth, rather than harsh, Kettlewell is seeking a reaction at Celtic Park.
County may not win the game against a team criticised lately, but still chasing a historic quadruple treble, but he expects a much fiercer streak of competitiveness against the cup holders.
“I’ve said often enough I’m more than happy to play young players, but we need to see that leadership and ability to deal with adverse situations,” Kettlewell stressed.
“We can’t shrink or hide behind someone else. That’s part of the learning curve for them. If I believe in them and think they are good enough to play, it’s not just on their ability, it’s on that emotional intelligence in dealing with any situation presented to them.
“We need to pick some of the younger ones up for Celtic Park, but there shouldn’t be much motivation required. They should be able to enjoy that experience.”
Kettlewell defended his stark criticism of the Kilmarnock performance, stressing it was an honest assessment rather than a form of deflection.
“I realise the hard work it has taken from many people to get us where we are now,” the Staggies former midfielder said
“The emotion and passion from me after the game is genuine, not because I want to throw them under the bus or point fingers at other people to save my own back.
“I just believe we have an opportunity to do something good at this club. I feel we get good backing, the staff facilitate a situation where players can improve and evolve as a group.
“When we let ourselves down, I think it’s important you are told the truth. I don’t want to dance around it or give them a pat on the back. They need to know where they have come up short. That’s what I did, but I’m very clear in my thinking on what we need to do this week to improve on Sunday.”
Kettlewell, who has again lost Tom Grivosti (hamstring) to injury and also has doubts over Jordan Tillson and Regan Charles-Cook, will point his players to past club history for inspiration.
County won the trophy in 2016 and have twice defeated Celtic in major semi finals.
“We have a good history in cup competitions as a club over the last 10 or 11 years,” he said. “Nobody expects us to win the game, but I think it’s a brilliant opportunity to try to upset the odds.”