DEREK Adams is relishing his return to the pressure-cooker of football management.
The new head Pilgrim has been away from the game’s front line since the beginning of last season, when his second spell as manager of Scottish Premiership side Ross County was brought to an end by the Staggies’ Director of Football, his father George.
During his enforced sabbatical, the double-title-winning Glaswegian discovered a mellow side to a naturally competitive nature that has been instilled in him since dad played under the antagonists’ antagonist Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen, and he travelled far and wide to increase his knowledge of the global game.
However, neither was ever going to be more than a temporary fill-in for getting back into the dugout.
“I miss Saturdays,” he told Scottish daily newspaper The Herald last month. “I miss the pressure. I enjoy pressure because it asks you questions.”
Derek Adams has packed a lot into a footballing life for one who only turns 40 later this month: more than 300 games as a striker in Scotland for Motherwell, Ayr United, Aberdeen, Livingston and Ross County between 1996-2009 (and two for Burnley); and nearly as many as UEFA Pro Licence-holding gaffer for County, with an impressive win-rate of 43%.
Between 2007-2014, broken only by a six-month spell as assistant manager to Colin Calderwood at Hibernian, he guided the unfashionable highland club into the top six of the Scottish Premiership, winning the Second Division title in 2008 and the First Division four years later. That achievement – with five games to spare as they finished the season 24 points ahead of second-placed Dundee – earned him the PFA Scotland Manager of the Year award ahead of Premiership winners’ Celtic boss Neil Lennon.
He also took County to their first ever Scottish FA Cup final appearance, in 2010, beating Premiership sides Hibernian and Celtic on their way to an eventual 3-0 defeat by Dundee United, and two Scottish Challenge Cup finals – in 2008-09, losing on penalties to Airdrie United, and 2010-11, defeating Queen of the South 2-0.
The First Division title was won on the back of a 34-match unbeaten run that continued into the first six games of their debut campaign in the Premiership in which they finished in fifth place, just one point away from qualifying for Europe, a feat which earned Derek a second successive Manager of the Year nomination.
The following campaign saw County survive for a third season in the top flight, after four games of which Derek was sacked. In a coaching career packed with positives, he was keen to seek the silver lining to the cloud under which he departed.
“Sometimes it works out for the best,” he told the Scottish Herald. “It was a huge disappointment leaving Ross County and it came from nowhere, but the break has helped me. It has refined some of my ideas and made me more convinced of others.
He has watched games on both sides of the Atlantic; made notes about how the likes of Dinamo Kiev, Freiburg and Mainz go about their training; and picked the brains of Paulo Sousa and David Moyes.
“I probably needed a chance to step away from it all,” he said. “I now feel I can look at people and situations in a different manner. I have probably mellowed a wee bit.”
Thus says a man who was once handed a touchline ban of 18 matches (later reduced on appeal to 14) for an accumulation of indiscretions, quite an achievement from someone who does not even swear.
“I have always been that way,” teetotal Derek told the Scottish Daily Mail earlier this year. “I can shout and bawl with the best of people, but I just don’t feel I need to swear.
“People probably think, if you don’t swear and drink, you’re a bit different here. But I do make up for it in terms of anger, I suppose.
“I’m probably a lot different on the pitch from how I am off it. When it comes to Saturday afternoon, that’s when it all comes, but you can say a lot of successful managers are a bit hot to handle.”
His time away from the sharp end of a game in which he has been immersed since turning professional as a 16-year-old has allowed him to distil a philosophy which includes developing home-grown players.
“That is what should be a priority at any club,” he said. “I loved that at Ross County. I loved talking to the young boys at matches on a Saturday morning before going to the first-team match. It showed them I was interested in them enough to spend time with them on match day.
“I am looking for the right club with ambition to get to a higher level. I want to work with people who have a drive and vision for a club and who want to promote youngsters.
“Everyone must be pulling in the right direction. In the team, you must have a structure and a stringent ethos in training which focuses on organisation.
“If you have the hunger and desire — and I do — you hope people will recognise that. I’ve had plenty of leisure time. It’s time to get back to work.”