Ross County prepare for life after losing striker Liam Boyce

Liam Boyce
Former Ross County striker Liam Boyce will "become a coach" one day, according to Billy Dodds

Liam Boyce struck fear into the hearts of Scottish Premiership defenders; now Ross County are nursing a headache as to how best to replace him.

The 26-year-old striker netted 23 goals for County last season, lifting them from a relegation battle and finishing the term as the Premiership's leading scorer.

His predatory powers alerted Burton Albion and a move to the English Championship followed.

The Northern Ireland international's departure leaves a void at County, partially filled by the arrival of Thomas Mikkelsen.

County's pre-season preparations included a trip to La Manga ahead of their tilt at the new Premiership season.

"We're working hard," Ross County assistant boss Billy Dodds tells BBC Scotland. "It's double sessions and work, I'm afraid, even though we're in a lovely spot.

"The holidays are over. We get a month (off) and it flies by very quickly. It's back to the grind. The boys have been great and we've been back for nearly two weeks now."

On Liam Boyce

"He was huge for us. You look at what happened at Dundee when you took out Kane Hemmings and Greg Stewart last season - they struggled to score goals. So, if you take that number of goals out of any team then it hurts you. It was a great feat for Liam Boyce to be the top scorer in Scotland.

Thomas Mikkelsen
Thomas Mikkelsen scored eight goals for Dundee United while on loan at Tannadice last season

"If you take 23 goals out of your team then you need to replace them, it's as simple as that. That's why we've signed Thomas Mikkelsen from Odense. We're hoping he plays his part. Craig Curran and Alex Schalk are more than capable and they both played big parts last year. I'm sure they'll step up to the plate.

"Craig, Alex and Thomas can help to fill the void left by Liam. Boycie was great for the club and deserves his chance on a bigger stage. There were a few clubs in for him but Burton met the buy-out clause. He could've chosen where he was going but he's such a great lad in terms of thinking about the next stage of his career.

"A lot of footballers don't do that - they just live for the moment and get on with it. But Boycie's got a plan. He had the choice of a few clubs and opted for Burton Albion. After speaking to him, it was a case of 'I want to go to the [English] Championship, and if I do well, then you never know what might happen'.

"That was in his thoughts, it wasn't just money. He's an articulate man and he always looked at the training we were doing. I've said to him: 'There's a coach in you.' He looks at the training and talks about the set-up - he was interested in every part of the game. It wouldn't surprise me if he becomes a coach later on in life."

How much of the Boyce fee will be spent on the squad?

"We've been backed by [chairman] Roy MacGregor ever since we came here. We find it difficult to get players to come to the Highlands and we always have done. However, [manager] Jim [McIntyre] and I know what it takes now. We batter away, we chip away, we might take so many rejections from players to get two or three in and that's the way it's going to be."

Ross County boss Jim McIntyre and assistant Billy Dodds
Dodds (right) says he and manager Jim McIntyre are "chipping away" to recruit players

On squad additions

"We've added a couple of boys: Sean Kelly and Jamie Lindsay and we've also signed Thomas Mikkelsen. We'd still like to get one or two more faces in but the squad's building nicely and we're fairly happy with it."

Exploring the loan market?

"We've just taken the boy Jamie Lindsay from Celtic, who was at Morton last year. We've signed him for the season and are delighted with him. He's a bundle of energy and has a great attitude. I spoke to Jim Duffy about him and he couldn't have spoken more highly of him. He's been out here in La Manga with us and done really well. We want energy and hunger in our team."

On targets for the coming season

"It's getting harder. Now we've got Hibs back in the top flight and most of the other big clubs back. A lot of clubs will be delighted [to secure] a place in the top six; others will be delighted to remain in the Premier League. We want to try to get top six but it's getting more difficult. As long as we're in the Premier League…

"We've got a great squad and we were disappointed not to finish in the top six last season. It will probably be even more difficult this season. If we stay up and finish seventh again we can't be too disappointed. We're desperate for a good cup run."

Missing the Highland derby next term

"We would have loved Inverness to have stayed up. You cannot beat the local rivalry and I hope they come straight back up this year - and we hope Dundee United come up too, whether that's through the play-offs or automatically. They're two clubs I wish were in the Premier League and that can only be healthier for Scottish football."

Highland derby
Save for potential cup clashes, there will be no Highland derbies

Hopes for the future?

"Our facilities are phenomenal. Players know that - once they come here and see it for themselves, it's a bit of a wow factor. It's not just the training ground, it's the dressing rooms, the gymnasium, the indoor facilities. It's got the wow factor and players who have come up from England say it's some of the best facilities they've played in.

"If players aren't in the top bracket down in England, the Premier League and Championship, then we're certainly up there. That's what we sell to them when they come. We have players who have done it in England, like Andrew Davies who has played at the top level. He comes up here and loves it. Once they get here they love it and Roy's a great backer.

"It's great for players to come up here and see it for themselves. But I'm not going to kid you: to get players up here, we've had so many knockbacks. If we get three or four players out of that then we've done our job."

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