Ross County fans: We can't afford to lose the dream

Margaret Paterson
Margaret Paterson at Ross County's home stadium [BBC]

"This is the dream - to be in the premier division," says life-long Ross County fan Margaret Paterson.

Her club - nicknamed the Staggies - are fighting for Scottish Premiership survival for the second season in a row.

Last season, County put their fans through a nail-biting penalty shoot-out against Partick Thistle to stay up.

This time, they go into Sunday's play-off final with a slender advantage after a 2-1 first leg win over Championship side Raith Rovers in Kirkcaldy on Thursday night.

Defeat in Dingwall would relegate County and see Rovers in the top flight for the first time since 1997.

Margaret, a local Highland councillor who has supported County since she was a girl, says her club has long punched above its weight.

"When you look at all the other premiership teams they are from cities.

"Our Staggies are from a wee town."

Margaret adds: "My brothers, who are older than me, are Ross County fans and I've supported them since they were in the Highland Division."

She also played football herself turning out for Black Isle team Culbokie Ladies when she was 15.

Margaret laughs: "I didn't last long because of the bruises al over my legs.

"But I've never lost a passion for football.

"I'll be there on Sunday with all the others shouting: 'Come on the Staggies'."

Margaret believes the club's premiership status is important not just in footballing terms.

"We can't afford to lose the dream for the economy of the area," she says.

"Ross County is tremendously important to Dingwall and the surrounding area."

Roberto Onesti
Fish and chip shop owner Roberto Onesti is among those hoping County stay up [BBC]

Roberto Onesti, owner of Renato's chip shop, says Ross County homes games in particular benefit local businesses.

He says: "I think it is very important to the town in general, the influx of people from the surrounding area and the travelling support.

"Being in the top division is a huge plus for the town."

Alexander McDonald, a fish merchant who visits Dingwall from Caithness, adds: "Ross County is everything to Dingwall.

"We are only a couple of hours away from Dingwall and come down for a few games, and many of my customers are Ross County fans."

Alexander McDonald
Alexander McDonald says County means everything to Dingwall [BBC]

Shaun Campbell, of Ross County Supporters Club, says Sunday will bring down the curtain on a tough season.

"It's been a roller coaster," he says.

"Thursday night was probably our most complete performance of the season.

"There was fight in the players too, which gives you confidence.

"But it's football and anything can happen," he adds cautiously, looking ahead to Sunday lunchtime's crunch game.

"And we don't ever do it the easy way.

"It feels like we always have to do things the most dramatic way we can.

"There's always some drama."

Raith Rovers vs Ross County
Raith Rovers' Samuel Stanton challenges Ross County's Yan Dhanda during Thursday night's first leg match [PA Media]

Ross Morren, of The County Corner podcast, says the hard times make the good occasions all the more memorable.

He recalls one season making a long trip for a mid-week game against Dundee after 10-match stretch without a win.

Ross says: "It was pouring with rain and I was thinking I was absolutely daft for driving down to be beaten at a game of water polo on a waterlogged pitch.

"By half time we were 4-0 up.

"If you stick by a club through the tough times sometimes you are rewarded with a special moment."

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