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Competition for places at Ross County strong enough to give manager Malky Mackay selection headache ahead of Edinburgh trip to face Hearts


By Andrew Henderson

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Ross County manager Malky Mackay has admitted he will have a headache picking a starting 11 this season.

The Staggies' strength in depth was evident last time out in a 7–0 win against East Fife, which included William Akio and Kazeem Olaigbe coming off the bench to register two assists and two goals respectively.

While Akio later picked up an injury that will rule him out of tomorrow's trip to Tynecastle, it was a sign that County have various different options all over the pitch for the 2022/23 campaign.

Malky Mackay will have tough decisions to make over his team selection. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Malky Mackay will have tough decisions to make over his team selection. Picture: Ken Macpherson

If they keep performing to the standard on show last weekend, then, Mackay will find it tough to pick a team week-to-week.

“We wanted to get to a stage where in every position we have two players, and there’s strength and succession planning," he explained.

“It was part of the whole talent identification and recruitment strategy that I spoke to Steven (Ferguson) and Roy (MacGregor) about. Could we get it to a point where we had strength, and a little bit of depth to the squad?

“Right now, we are starting to get that. It’s important for us.

“Yes, it brings headaches, but it brings good headaches. It also brings competition for places, knowing someone cannot rest on their laurels knowing that somebody could come off the bench, go into a position and play the next 10 games and they will not get back on.

“They are really at it. The newer ones are getting up to speed on how we train, the intensity levels we train at and how we go about the working week.

“They are there now. The week going into East Fife we could see it. I have seen it even more this week, in the Tuesday and Wednesday sessions.

“They are all vying for this place at Tynecastle, but it’s a long season. There is a lot to happen in terms of suspensions, injuries and form.

“They are all going to be needed, and it’s up to me to give some sugar to the ones that aren’t going to be starting but have a huge part to play this season."

Taking cup momentum into the league

County topped their Premier Sports Cup group with 11 points out of 12, launching them into the Premiership with plenty of reason to be confident.

Although some may point to the cup matches being against lower league opposition, you only have to look at the fates of Hibernian, St Mirren and St Johnstone to know that being a top flight side is no guarantee of success.

There was plenty, then, for Mackay to be happy about, but now the challenge is for his players to take that form into the league.

“It was really important this year for us to play the whole competition, and get through into the knockout stages for lots of reasons," Mackay reasoned.

“It was another 10 new players into the club, and trying to get them all minutes while mixing game time with having to win games.

“I know there have been various comments on the format, but I really like it. It gives a little bit of an edge to every game – no matter the teams you are playing against, the result matters.

“At the weekend, for us to be as clinical and free-flowing as we were on a beautiful pitch, it was a good day.

“I’m not really caring what anybody says, nobody has beaten anybody 7–0 in this cup over the last three or four weeks. For us to be so clinical, and for our new guys to be able to adapt to that, I was absolutely delighted.

“Now we turn our attention to Premiership football. Hearts are a very good team, and at their stadium I’ve got no illusions as to how tough this is going to be at the weekend."


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