Inverness manager Terry Butcher revealed defender Gary Warren had signed a new two-year deal on the eve of the derby with Ross County – highlighting his belief that football in the Highlands is continuing to rise.
The centre-back signed his deal ahead of a game that sees fourth-placed County host their third-placed neighbours in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, with both sides looking to extend their advantage in the race for a top-six place.
County go into the game unbeaten in nine fixtures while Inverness lost only once in 21 games earlier in the season. And Butcher is delighted to be going into the game with football in the region in such good health. Butcher said: “Gary Warren has signed a new two-year deal. We are delighted because he is an important member of a very strong defence and he is playing the best football of his career. Apart from the Dundee United game when he was suspended, he has played in every minute of the previous 34 matches. He has got six goals as well which is impressive for a defender.
“He’s a first-class defender and is improving all the time. I think it sends out a signal to a lot of people, if you come up here, see the place, play football for us, you’ll soon come to love the place. You will enjoy your football and your life as well. One or two others have agreed to sign and we will announce that next week.”
Meanwhile, Ross County manager Derek Adams is confident his players can handle the pressure of being favourites for the top-four derby.
The Dingwall side are aiming for their fifth straight win while Caley Thistle have won one out of their last eight games and Adams accepts that form puts an added onus on his players.
Adams said: “I think obviously we are the favourites because we are on a run of nine games unbeaten and we have won a lot of them. So that’s fair to say. We have got that pressure on us. Inverness have had that pressure on them earlier this season and they won the match in the league. We will have to handle that. It’s something we don’t really want but if that’s what people are saying then let’s see if we can win the match and take it on our shoulders.”
Caley Thistle have won two out three derbies this season, including a Scottish Cup replay, but Adams still remembers their two victories over Terry Butcher’s side in the season when Inverness were promoted. Adams said: “We were obviously hard done by in the Scottish Cup here – they have scored two goals that were offside. I keep harping on about it but that’s the fact. But on league business we have done well against them in the First Division. We had the upper hand then. We have made a number of changes to the side since we played them. I think as a team we have strengthened.”
County’s 1-0 win at Aberdeen ensured the Dons have taken just two points from 18 against the Highland pair. And Craig Brown’s side might not get another chance to beat one of their northern rivals this season as the Dons struggle to make the top six amid a shift in power in the north. Adams said: “At the start of the season no-one would have thought Inverness and Ross County would have been in the top half of the table but the clubs have shocked a lot of people. That’s testament to the players from both sides - how well they have played and for what we have done for the Highlands, I’m delighted for both sides.”