Thanks to Scott Burns, father of Ross Burns, a DBC 2005 player and a sports writer with the Scottish Daily Express, we are delighted to provide you with an exclusive interview with Derek Adams, Ross County Manager and former professional footballer with Aberdeen, Burnley, Ross County, Motherwell and Livingston.
Read on to gain an insight on what it takes to be a player at the top level and how Derek’s time at Dyce Boys Club helped shape his future in football. Make sure you read to the end when Derek give his top tip to youngsters on what it takes to develop as a footballer.
Lastly, the club would like to express their thanks to Willie Vass ( willievass.photoshelter.com) for the use of his photographs for this article.
What are you memories from your time with Dyce Boy’s club?
“I played at Dyce for a couple of seasons under joint-managers, Norman Mackay and Alex Sanderson , while Dick Lovell also helped out as well. “They were all different characters. “Alex was very strict, Norman was a good coach while Dick was a great man-manager and helped to look after the boys. “Dyce were one of the top teams in the Aberdeen area at the time and those three were really good guys who wanted to do well for Dyce Boys Club. “I played in the same team as Roy McBain, who also went on to play at the top level with Inverness and Ross County. “We had a good team and we also won the Scottish Cup at the under-15 age group. “It was funny because I actually played as a sweeper for Dyce that season. “Dyce gave me a really good football grounding. “The coaches always looked after you and you always felt like you were in a professional environment. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Dyce.”
What position did you play for Dyce?
“I think I played in just about every outfield position. “I played at left-back, right-back, sweeper, midfield and also up-front. “I went to Dyce as a midfield player then they started to move me around. “We went out to a tournament in Norway and I came back as a striker. “I also played as sweeper, I don’t know how I ended up there. “Maybe because I could read the game quite well but it wasn’t a position I really enjoyed. “I preferred to be in the thick of the action and that is why I ended up back in the midfield. “But it was good playing in all those different positions as a youngster because it definitely made me a better player. “I got appreciation of playing in those different positions and if you look at Holland that is something they employ amongst all their young footballers.”
How did Aberdeen’s interest in you come about?
What do you mean I was pulling his shirt???
“I was training with Aberdeen when I was at Dyce. “I would have been a YTS player when I first signed for Aberdeen. “I spent most of my time at Dyce before I signed professional forms with Aberdeen. “Dyce and one of my other old clubs got a bit of money from Aberdeen for helping to develop me.”
How did you end up at Burnley?
“I was three years at Aberdeen. “Jimmy Mullen had been the assistant manager at Aberdeen before he went down to Burnley. “He had remembered me as a YTS kid at Aberdeen and he took me down there. “I spent a year-and-a-half in England. “It was difficult because I was still young and I was six hours away from home but it was a good experience to go down and learn my trade at Burnley.”
Dropping down to Ross County was a gamble but you must have felt it paid off when you got your move to Motherwell?
“I came back up the road to Ross County from Burnley. County were in the Third Division at that time. “We were still part-time and I was earning something like £50-a-week. “I trained two nights a week and I continued to work. “I also went and did an HNC at college in electronic engineering. “I think a lot of players should try and work before they go into football full-time because if would give them a real appreciation of being a professional footballer. “You always want to get back playing full-time football and thankfully I got that opportunity after two seasons with Ross County when Motherwell came in for me.”
Do you think what happened to you at Ross County is a good example for kids who might not make it at their first attempt in professional football?
Derek in his Livingston days, here up against Neil Lennon.
“I think there is a lot more of that these days, where a young kid goes to a senior club and they think they have made it. “Then when they don’t they start to drift away. “If that happens they have to start dropping down the levels. “The most important thing is to get games but at the same time you have to make sure you keep doing the right things. “You have to maintain a good appetite for the game and then going out to do the best you can on the pitch. “If you do that and you could do well then it could act as a spur to get the bigger clubs interested again.”
What was it like at Motherwell playing alongside top players like Andy Goram and John Spencer?
The Motherwell days…
“Motherwell bought me for a £150,000, which was a lot of money at that time. “They had some top experienced players like John Spencer, Andy Goram and Shaun Teale. “They all helped me and we also played under Billy Davies, who is a top manager in his own right. “Billy moved Motherwell on to the next level. “I remember watching all these top players in training and playing alongside them really helped me.”
What was it like coming back to sign for Aberdeen?
Point to prove – back home at AFC.
“Aberdeen are a massive club. “I didn’t play the first time around, when I was there for three years, so I wanted to go back and make my mark. “I felt I did that. “I went back to Pittodrie and scored a few goals and did quite well. “Then when Jimmy Calderwood we had a very good season when we finished in the top four.”
What is your main playing highlight?
“That was playing in the Scottish Cup semi-final for Motherwell versus Rangers at Hampden. “We lost 4-3 after we had been up 2-1 at half-time. “I managed to score that day and although we lost that was still a major highlight for me from my playing days. “It was also great going to Celtic Park and Ibrox to play as well.”
Best player you came up against?
Derek in action against Henrik Larsson
“I was fortunate to sign for Motherwell at the start of the Scottish Premier League when there was quite a bit of money swishing about. “So there were a lot of top players over here, like Henrik Larsson, Mark Viduka and Lubo Moravcik at Celtic, Tugay and the De Boer brothers (Ronald and Frank) at Rangers, along with the likes of Barry Ferguson, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Lorenzo Amoruzo and Jorg Albertz. “These guys were all top players and it was a privilege to play against them all.”
Best team you played against?
“I would probably have to go for the Rangers team from Dick Advocaat’s first season at Ibrox. “They were on top of their game and had quality from back to front, from Stefan Klos to Artur Numan, Lorenzo Amoruso and Michael Mols.”
“It is Ibrox. “The atmosphere generated when the stadium is full is absolutely unbelievable. “It is a good venue to play in.”
Best bit of advice you were given as a footballer?
“Billy Davies always used to say that you have to look after your body, refuelling and making sure you are always in peak condition. “It is also important to work on your passing because if you can’t pass the ball and can’t run then you will struggle in the modern game. “Billy stipulated that and I think following that lead helped me in my professional career.”
Who is our favourite current player in world football and why?
“I have to say Lionel Messi. “You can’t score as many goals as he does and not say him. “I think technically he is ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is a fantastic player but Messi can do things with the ball that nobody else in the world can.”
When did you decide to go into management?
The player becomes the manager….
“I took over at Ross County when I was 32. “It was very early. “I was still playing but when I got the job I hung up the boots. “I had wanted to become a manager for a couple of seasons and to get that opportunity at Second Division was too good to turn down. “I knew we needed to win promotion to the First Division. “It was a risk on my part but one that was worth taking. “Sir Alex Ferguson always used to say to his players that if you don’t take risks then you are never going to do anything. “Over the last six years at Ross County we have taken a lot of risks but we have come a long way.”
What have been the highlights of your time in football management?
“There have been a lot from my time at Ross County. “We won two championships and getting to two Challenge Cup finals was also great but getting to the Scottish Cup final is probably the biggest one of them all. “To take a village team to a Scottish Cup final is something to be proud of.”
Best piece of advice you could give a young player?
Listen to your coaches, work hard and have a good attitude.
“I would have to say that you should listen to your coaches. “You also have to be dedicated and to work hard on your game. “It is okay thinking you are a good player and listening to other people saying you are a good player but you have to go out there on the pitch and prove it yourself. “If you are a defender get out there and defend, if you are a striker score goals and if you are a midfielder and then go and create. “You get a lot of people who talk a good game but doing it out on the pitch is where it really matters.”