Last week, Ross County announced a number of new contracts for first team players.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that Jordan Tillson, Jordan White, Adam Mackinnon, and Matthew Wright have been rewarded for their good form and development with new 2 year deals. Ross Munro and Logan Ross have had an additional year added to their current contracts, and will continue their progress with goalkeeping coach Scott Thomson. On Friday, it was announced that captain Keith Watson has also had his deal extended by a year.
It is brilliant to see that the Staggies are tying down both first team regulars and exciting youth prospects down for the future, as it shows that the club are moving away from the days of massive summer squad turnovers that we’ve seen so often at the club, with masses of players out of contract.
Since being signed by former County boss Josh Hughes towards the tail end of the 2021 January transfer window, White proved himself an absolute success, and nailed down the lone striker spot that Malky Mackay deploys as his own.
After a torrid six month spell with Motherwell, where he didn’t once hit the back of the net, you would be forgiven for dismissing the big striker as a panic signing after the departure of Ross Stewart to Sunderland. White wasted no time in proving his doubters wrong, making his debut off the bench to score one and assist another in a crucial relegation clash against Hamilton Accies at New Douglas Park.
Since then, he has notched a further 8 goals and 9 assists in 45 matches, but arguably more importantly, constantly almost single-handedly drags the Staggies up the pitch in times where a break from opposition pressure is desperately needed. He has drawn criticism at times, but always made up for his errors in the most important moments, such as when he nodded in the winner against Celtic.
Seeing the news that White had signed an extension was immensely pleasing, as we can enjoy the benefits of his presence up front for an extra two years!
This summer will mark two and a half years since Jordan Tillson made the 612 mile journey from Exeter to Dingwall to become a Ross County player. It’s taken a while, but after 70 appearances for the Staggies, Tillson seems to be a mainstay in the side.
Under Stuart Kettlewell and John Hughes, Tillson was nowhere near out of the question as a starter, but he was often used as a late sub to break up the play and shore things up towards the end. Since Malky Mackay’s appointment though, he has gradually become one of the first names on the team sheet. With the same work rate and tough tackling ability he’s always had, he also seems to have added some additional composure to his game. Where previously he may have conceded possession, Tillson now will more often pick a snappy pass under pressure.
Speaking to RCFCTV, Tillson made it clear that he’s at home in the Highlands, saying “I feel like I’ve settled quite well to the area and I’ve been up here two years already. It’s nice to know that I’m going to be here another two years and cement some roots down”.
Like with White, seeing Tillson sign a contract extension is magnificent news, and he will surely be an important component of Mackay’s vision for the future.
One of the final remaining members of the Ross County side to clinch promotion back to the Premiership at the first time of asking, Keith Watson now sits in the position of Staggies captain, and having signed a year’s extension, will continue to do so until at least the end of the 2022/23 season.
He has seen slightly less game time as his time at the club has progressed, but remains a very important member of the squad, being trusted to play both centre back and right back when called upon, whether he starts or comes off the bench.
This season, County players have often spoken about a renewed dressing room atmosphere that has been positive and motivational. There will be many reasons for this, but with the conduct that Watson has displayed in a Staggies shirt since 2018 it can be assumed that he is one of the main ones as the official, appointed leader of the group.
I mentioned his declining game time earlier, but even with 8 appearances off the bench, Watson has 20 appearances this season, and is nowhere near to being a hands off captain. Here’s hoping he leads the boys out many more times yet.
The lack of academy players making the first team has been a gripe for Staggies fans over the course of the last decade or so. Wright, Mackinnon and Ross earning new deals shows that the club trusts them to follow in the footsteps of Josh Reid, who would have been great to keep but was sold for a six figure fee to Coventry City.
Wright has paved his way furthest into the first team, with his fairytale last-gasp equaliser against Rangers to show for it. Mackinnon is also beginning to move further away from the fringes of the team, consistently being a part of matchday squads and recently debuting in the Premiership late on in the 3-1 win against St. Johnstone.
Both Wright and Mackinnon were on loan at Brora Rangers for the first half of this season, and the former stole the headlines with a staggering 15 Highland League goals in as many appearances and 4 assists as an afterthought. Mackinnon’s spell with the Cattachs was more low-key, but still very productive, as he returned to the Staggies with 9 Highland League appearances under his belt.
Ross is still on loan in the Highland League at 14th placed side Lossiemouth, and has raked in 24 appearances. This experience in senior football for an 18 year old goalkeeper will no doubt be utterly invaluable, and help him reach the next level in terms of challenging County’s older goalkeepers.
Munro is another academy product, but is further along in his development than the aforementioned three. He most notably was the Staggies’ cup keeper in the 2018/19 Challenge Cup run that culminated in a 3-1 final victory over Connah’s Quay Nomads. He has since enjoyed a successful loan spell with Raith Rovers (who were in League 1 at the time), and emergency loans with Cowdenbeath and Annan Athletic in League 2.
At the start of every season back in the Premiership County fans have wondered if it would be the season that Munro would be the recognised second goalkeeper, but the loan signings of Nathan Baxter, Ross Doohan, Joe Hilton and most recently Maynard-Brewer have prevented this, being the ones tasked with battling Laidlaw for the starting spot. However, this doesn’t take away from how highly rated Munro is, and at the risk of sounding like a Liverpool fan pre Jurgen Klopp, next year may indeed be his year to shine.