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Jack Baldwin enlisted by new interim manager Don Cowie to exert captain's influence on Ross County against Glasgow Rangers at Ibrox

By Alasdair Fraser

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Ross County captain Jack Baldwin celebrates December's victory over Motherwell. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Ross County captain Jack Baldwin celebrates December's victory over Motherwell. Picture: Ken Macpherson

Injured Jack Baldwin’s first request from new interim manager Don Cowie was to travel with the squad tonight and exert a captain’s influence against Rangers.

Baldwin, like Cowie, believes restoring the squad’s togetherness will be key to Ross County’s Premiership survival.

His presence on the team bus and in the Ibrox dressing room, then, will be more than just symbolic.

It underlined Cowie’s desire to bring the whole squad back together after fractious times since Malky Mackay’s sacking.

Baldwin, the former Peterborough, Sunderland and Bristol Rovers defender, was more than happy to accept.

He said: “Whenever there is a change of manager, there is always a change in atmosphere.

“Obviously, results and performances have been the driver for the way the camp has been in recent weeks.

“A change of manager gives us that chance to put that behind us, raise spirits again and get everybody together to go again.

“They are all grown men over there. They are all going to have their own opinions and thoughts.

“But it’s important for us to stick together as a group, and make sure there are no groups breaking off anywhere.

“The manager wants me to travel down to the game on Wednesday, which is nice. Being injured, you can be kept back doing your own rehab stuff.

“I think there are a few of us he wants around the team on Wednesday night. It will be good for us to go down and get that togetherness back, and be part of it all.

“While we are not directly influencing things on the pitch, we might be able to do our bit in the changing room before and after.”

Baldwin was diplomatic when asked about how difficult it had been for the County players after perceived criticism of their – and Scottish football’s – standards by Cowie’s predecessor Derek Adams.

Flourishes of furore greeted Adams comments during 79 days in charge, including a later admission he should have done more research on County’s current state before accepting the job.

Baldwin insisted the players had rolled with the punches, but admitted: “It’s never nice when you are criticised publicly.

“Obviously we are in the professional game, these things happen. A lot is demanded of us from fans, managers and coaches.

“It’s nothing we are not used to as players. Obviously it brings its own attention from the outside, of a kind that in normal circumstances may not be there.

“As professionals it’s something we have to deal with, take on the chin and get on with really.”

The 30-year-old skipper knows it will be tough against title-challenging Rangers, rejuvenated under Philippe Clemente.

Ross County's Jordan White celebrates scoring in a defeat at Ibrox in February 2023.
Ross County's Jordan White celebrates scoring in a defeat at Ibrox in February 2023.

But he is convinced second bottom County can turn it around, though, and ensure an 11th top-flight season from the last 12 years.

Baldwin said: “We can definitely turn it around and avoid play-offs. We’ve got such a talented group across there.

“With the new manager in place, he will look to raise spirits and get everybody believing in themselves again.

“I know how much the gaffer believes in us as a group. It will be a chance for him to influence us in that sense.

“It doesn’t get much tougher than the start on Wednesday, but it will be one we will relish as a team and look to push on from.

“Games don’t get much tougher than going to Ibrox, especially when they are chasing the league leaders as well.

“It’s going to be a tough test, but the gaffer will want us to go and express ourselves and play on the front foot.

“We can’t be too kamikaze with what we do, but at the same time he will want to put our stamp on the game as much as possible.

“We will go there with the belief we can get a result.

“In these games, we always go in as the underdog.

“It gives us that free-hit mentality. Going away to Ibrox, when they are chasing the league leaders in the position they are

in, they are obviously not going to be taking their foot off the gas.

Ross County's Jack Baldwin is jubilant after December's win over St Mirren.
Ross County's Jack Baldwin is jubilant after December's win over St Mirren.

“We know what to expect – probably even more so than normal.

“We are going to have to be resilient and hard to beat first and foremost. But I know the gaffer is going to want us to go down there and put our own stamp on the game, be brave and play on the front foot.”

Baldwin didn’t elaborate on the type of injury he is contending with, but stressed it was a niggly one rather than longer-term.

He said: “I have had a little issue that I have been managing pretty much since the start of the season.

“It kind of all came to a head against Aberdeen and, at half-time, I was really struggling and probably should have come off.

“I’m getting there. It has been very slow progress, but hopefully I’m not too far away.

“It’s one of those frustrating injuries where it’s very slow progress. It’s a niggly one where it’s so small, but it’s enough to keep you off the pitch and hinder your performance.

“Hopefully it will not be too much longer.”

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