Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s future remains clouded approaching the live televised match against relegation rivals Hamilton Accies. The last thing the Highlanders need today is clarity.
Clarity would mean defeat today and a combination of results elsewhere that consigns them to Championship football after a total of 12 years in Scotland’s top flight, broken only by one brief dip into the old First Division.
Only a fifth victory of the season can re-energise the Inverness team and Richie Foran, the manager, is demanding the players “man up” and prepare for the fight of their lives.
With four fixtures remaining, Foran’s struggling side are bottom of the table, seven points behind Motherwell, whom Hamilton lead on goal difference.
The Irishman, just as he did before last Friday’s crushing defeat by Ross County, rates the match as the biggest of his life and just as pivotal to the careers of a whole clutch of his endangered squad.
“Of course, players are still playing for contracts and their careers. They’re playing for their futures,” Foran said. “We’ve not spoken about winning, drawing or losing the game. All we’ve spoken about is passion and pride for this club because the supporters deserve to see that at least.
“Previously I was concentrating more on our shape and tactics going into matches, although I’ve always emphasised passion, pride and work-rate. After the defeat to Ross County, we have players who are angry, disappointed and hurt, but there’s nothing we can do about the past. We can only affect the next four games. The full focus is on winning the game – no talk about anything else.
“I’m looking for more passion, hunger and desire than we showed on Friday night.
“I’m not sure about delivering points, but in terms of playing for the jersey and playing for the club, fighting for every ball, that’s what we need to do. The battle is there. I’ll pick a physical team and they need to be mentally stronger than we have been. It’ll be a huge boost for us if we win. There’s still 12 points up for grabs. But talk is cheap – go out there, man up and perform on the park.”
Foran has never shied away from blaming himself for defeats or from hammering his players publicly when he has felt the need. Equally, though, he recognises how even some of the big hearts in his dressing room have been affected by the slow slide towards relegation disaster.
“A lack of confidence can affect it as well. I’ve played the game and when you’re low in confidence you become low in energy,” he said. “When you’re high in confidence you become high in energy and you can press and outwork teams. There will be a few of them affected by low confidence. Individual mistakes have been a problem for us and we’ve been getting punished. We’ve been creating chances but you have to be willing to put your head on the ball where you might get hurt. We haven’t got enough players like that. We need to be nasty and hungry. I questioned the lads this week so I need to see a reaction.”
Hamilton attacker Dougie Imrie knows he cannot allow sentiment to surface against his former club today. The 33-year-old was relegated from the Premiership with the Highlanders in 2009 following a dramatic last-day 1-0 home defeat by Falkirk. However, he was also sent down with Accies in 2011 and in his second spell with the Lanarkshire club is desperate to avoid the same fate, even if Caley Thistle are to suffer again.
Imrie said: “It is not a nice position for Inverness to be in, I have been there before with them. I have been there before with Hamilton as well, so I know how it is.
“I am disappointed to see Inverness there because it is a nice club and a lovely place to stay. Obviously they have not had a great season but I am at Hamilton now so I can only do my best for Hamilton and whatever happens, happens.”