Until 1929 the Highland League, the pinnacle of Football in the North of Scotland and a competitive and well supported League, did not feature a single team from Ross & Cromarty. In 1929 a group of officials from the amatuer side Dingwall Victors decided it was about time something was done to alter this but agreed that the town of Dingwall alone could not support a team playing in this league. For that reason the "Vics" were disbanded but from their ashes arose a new team - Ross County FC.
As a nod to their predecessors, the home ground established in Dingwall was given the name Victoria Park, while for a badge they chose the Caberfeidh or Stag's Head from the regimental badge of the Seaforth Highlanders - the regiment in which many locals had fought and died during the Great War. The badge decided the team's nickname, and to this day they are affectionately known as the Staggies. The first game played by Ross County was against a Highland League select and was watched by over 1,200 spectators - ample demonstration that the newly formed club had the support necessary to become a force in the League.
If there had been any doubt over their ability to live with the more established teams then it didn't last long. In their first season Ross County lifted the North of Scotland Cup, and over the years gained a reputation for playing attractive and high quality football as they lifted several further trophies both before and after the Second World War.
It was not until Season 1966/67 that the club succeeded in winning the Highland League Championship. The team that achieved this did so with a squad comprised largely of local boys such as right back Sandy Wallace, but with a sprinkling of people from further afield. Sandy, who later managed County and continues to work for the Club on a voluntary basis still has fond memories of that first League success: "What I remember about that season was that we really were a team - we all knew each others talents and limitations and played accordingly. There was a smattering of real ability there as well with ex seniors like Jimmy Hosie, Don MacMillan and Jackie Lornie - and of course we got the little bit of luck that every team needs to be successful!"
The next League success was not to come until 1990/91, but the team then successfully repeated the trick the following season. It was these back to back successes which gave the club's then Chairman Hector MacLennan the confidence to apply for membership of the Scottish Football League when restructuring saw a requirement for new teams to be admitted for the 1994/95 season.
Following a carefully orchestrated campaign, Hector travelled down to make his presentation to the League accompanied by Club Secretary Donnie MacBean. Donnie recalls how the day went: "Hector and myself travelled down by train and took the opportunity to go over our presentation and draw up some cue cards. I don't mind telling you that I was nervous - especially when we arrived and saw that other teams had gone to great lengths such as having pipers playing and fancy video presentations. Having got over the urge to turn around and jump on the first train home, Hector and myself stood up and made our pitch - we had done a lot of work and were confident of our facts, and I think that must have been what swung it in our favour."
Thanks to the skills of Hector and Donnie as well as the countless people who had worked behind the scenes to prepare the bid, Ross County succeeded in gaining admission to the Third Division along with near neighbours Inverness Caledonian Thistle. The club then began a programme of building both on and off the park. A programme of Stadium works saw capacity and seating increased as well as adding additional functionality to the ground by providing rooms for use as Conference venues as well as Matchday Hospitality.
The strengthened team rose to the new challenges presented by the League and in Season 1998-99 they won the Third Division Championship. Although there must have been some doubt as to whether the team could survive in the Second Division, they did more than just survive and the following Season Ross County again benefited from League reconstruction, the expansion of the SPL to 12 teams meaning that the Club won promotion to the First Division even though they had only finished third in the table.
Having attained First Division status, Ross County worked hard to develop as a club. Work began to develop the team and facilities to a standard where SPL football was an attainable goal, and a key step came with the appointment of George Adams as Director of Football in 2005. George had an illustrious career as a Head of Youth taking in spells at Aberdeen during the glory days under Fergie as well as covering both sides of the Old Firm at various times as well as helping Motherwell emerge from Administration during his time as Director of Football there. In coming to Ross County he believed SPL football was an attainable goal and set about overhauling the whole Club. Whilst the transition period was not easy, a season long return to the Second Division was in many ways the first step in building and renewing foundations which have subsequently taken the Club to the greatest successes in the Club's history.
Winning the Second Division took the Club back to the First Division, and equally importantly saw Derek Adams move into the Manager's office. First Division football was not the height of either Derek or George's ambitions and in 2009/10 the Club had it's best season ever - although the challenge for the league ultimately failed in the face of fixture congestion and a small squad, this was a price willingly paid by most Staggies fans as they reached the Scottish Cup Quarter final for the first time in the Club's history.
Although for many the Quarter Final away to Hibs was seen as a chance to have a great day out, this was not the way the Football Department viewed it and they were desperately disappointed to leave Easter Road with only a draw having battered their SPL opponents. The replay in Dingwall will hold a special place in the hearts of all who were there as County battled back from a goal down to secure a trip to Hampden courtesy of Scott Boyd's 89th minute winner.
Having been drawn against Celtic, again there was a view that this would be a great day out for the Staggies fans who could have no real expectation of beating Neil Lennon's side of International stars including an on loan Robbie Keane. Once again Derek's team defied the odds as the starting 11 played the full 90 minutes to earn a thoroughly deserved 2-0 victory over their illustrious rivals. Whilst ultimately the Cup run didn't have its fairy tale ending as Dundee United triumphed, the Staggies had earned their place in the 125th Scottish Cup final and gave each and every fan an unbelievable season.
The 2010/11 season was one of upheaval at the Club, as high hopes following the Cup Final appearance were frustrated by difficulties. Manager Derek Adams success had been noticed and Hibernian came calling and he left shortly after the start of the season to become Colin Calderwood's right hand man at Easter Road. Willie McStay and Jimmy Calderwood both had spells in charge of the team but it was only on the last day of the season that First Division survival was mathmatically secured. The high came a year to the day after the semi-final victory over Celtic as on the 10th of April 2011 County secured the Alba Challenge Cup with a 2-0 victory over Queen of the South. Perhaps it was no coincidence that this was achieved by a line up and formation that bore a striking resemblance to that which Adams had used with such success.
It had become apparent that Derek's departure had left extremely big boots to fill, and Chairman Roy MacGregor felt there was only one man to fill them although it took a bold move to approach the candidate and equal bravery on their part to say yes. Fortunately for the Club both men rose to the occassion and Derek Adams returned to take charge of the team which he had built and the rest, as they say, is history.
Several key signings were made over the summer to add to an already talented squad, and the Manager's mantra throughout the summer was that it would take time for the team to gel. Gel they certainly did though, as the team proceeded to win the First Division by a record breaking margin which saw second placed Dundee closer in terms of points to the team who finished bottom of the league than to the Staggies above them. This also meant that Ross County becoame the first Club in Scotland to secure four separate championship titles: Highland League, Third, Second and First Division.
Promotion to the SPL triggered a frenetic period of activity for the Club as the Stadium underwent a dramatic transformation to ensure it met all SPL requirements to enable the Club to kick off their seasoon without the need for a costly groundshare. The first work had actually been started before the title was secured, let alone before the last game of the Season as foundations were excavated and poured for a new Away Stand at the North end of the ground. Once the title presentation party was over, complete with a 5-1 victory on the pitch, confetti and fireworks and an open top bus parade, the diggers moved in to start the work on a grand scale. Within 24 hours the pitch was up and shortly after the new steelwork was being erected.
The work required some internal modifications, but the major challenges were increasing the number of seats from 2,700 to 6,200 and also installing Undersoil heating. The former was achieved by extending the East Stand, building a new Away Stand and a temporary Jubilee Stand as well as converting the 'Jailend' home terracing to seating. This last was an emotive subject but the Club worked hard to try and ensure that fans were given as much of a chance as possible to retain key elements of their matchday experience by choosing their spot as well as listing the people they wanted to be seated next to. The Undersoil heating was installed succesfully and at the same time the soil was excavated and regraded to improve root growth and drainage before grass was grown from seed. There was also extensive work undertaken to create new car parking and pedestrian access facilities outside the Stadium.
Thanks to the support of the large number of contractors involved as well as that of the Highland Council, Northern Constabulary and indeed the wider Highlands and Islands community the Global Energy Stadium passed all tests with flying colours, and was ready to see the First Division Championship flag unfurled on Saturday the 4th of August 2012 ahead of the Club's debut match in the SPL against Motherwell. Once again Derek and his team proved that they weren't phased by the occassion and not only earned a point in their opening fixture, but extended their unbeaten league run through the first 6 fixtures to take it to a whopping 40 games - unsurprisingly a Club record.
It was another season of pinching themselves for Staggies fans, as thanks to shrewd acquisitions in the transfer market the team went from strength to strength earning a place in the top 6 in their debut season before ultimately finishing in 5th position - above some of the most famous and illustrious names in Scottish Football. A truly remarkable achievement when one considers that 5 years earlier the Club had been playing in the third tier of Scottish Football.