Paul Quinn vows holders Ross County will respect Betfred Cup minnows
Ross County defender Paul Quinn has warned the team's status as Betfred Cup holders means they cannot take anything for granted in the group stages.
The Highlands side begin their defence of the trophy against Montrose at Links Park on Saturday.
It was County's first major trophy in their 87-year history but 30-year-old defender Quinn insists they will need to be wary against the League Two side.
"We use the same word every single week and that's 'respect'," he said. "We all know what's just happened to Celtic the other day.
"I don't think there's any club that can afford to overlook a competitive League Cup match, especially when you're the holders.
"It has to be a priority to go and give your opponents respect and then try and win the game from there."
County are also in a group with Raith, Alloa and Highland League champions Cove Rangers.
The group stage itself and inclusion of last season's Highland and Lowland League winners are two of a number of format changes to this year's competition, which also include a penalty shoot-out to decide drawn games, a bonus point for winning that shoot-out and a far earlier start - with the final set to take place in November.
Quinn thinks that starting the Betfred Cup in July might help teams hit the ground running when their league campaigns begin next month.
"We need to be ready and I'm sure we will be ready for all the challenges that face us," Quinn said. "It probably shortens how many pre-season games you would usually have. Then again last season when I was at Aberdeen we had a similar situation with the European games and it kicked off a really good season for us.
"You know the stronger mentalities will be looking to go out and perform well early, get the results that they need and then use that going into the start of the season come August."
Ross County have been busy in the off-season, strengthening their squad with five signings - former Scotland international Jay McEveley, ex-County player Erik Cikos, Kenny van der Weg, Aaron McCarey, and Christopher Routis - and Quinn says they have adapted well to their new Highland surroundings.
"I think the lads that have come in have been excellent," he said. "First and foremost they're top pros, every one of them are top lads that have settled in really quickly. Also they can all play. They've shown grit and determination. It's an exciting time."
Montrose will be without Ross McCabe.
The midfielder has turned down the opportunity to return to Links Park for the new season while Paul Watson will also be absent as he is not yet ready to return following a hip problem which blighted him last term.
Manager Paul Hegarty said: "It is a really hard opening fixture as County have a strong squad and are very proud holders of this cup.
"We were able to get a good number of players signed up at the end of last season so we are reasonably settled but this is a real test."