TERRY Butcher is enjoying the “wonderful pressure” of trying to extend Inverness’ unbeaten run when they take on crisis club Hearts in their Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash today.
Caley have recovered fully from a ropey start to the season and are unbeaten in nine games, a run which has taken them into third place in the table and into the semi-finals of the Scottish Communities League Cup where, coincidentally, they were drawn against the Tynecastle side on Thursday. The Edinburgh club is fighting for a lot more than points today after being issued with a winding up order by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs over a tax bill of almost £450,000 which has put the continued existence of the club in severe doubt.
Inverness manager Butcher has expressed concern that “one of the great sides of Scottish football” may be living on borrowed time, but says he’s focused only on maintaining his own team’s upward curve.
“It is wonderful pressure,” he said. “In the early part of the season we were equal bottom with Dundee, it was only goal difference that was keeping us off the bottom. Last year we were at the bottom for three months and that’s not nice. It’s not nice to look at the table, the papers, the websites and television and see your name at the bottom. Now it is the reverse. It is wonderful to see your name up there, we have been fifth, then fourth and now we are in the top three which is a fantastic achievement.
“It is all heady stuff but it is brilliant, we are enjoying being where we are and it keeps the players going. We went 21 matches unbeaten in our promotion season so it’s not the best run we have been on at Inverness but probably is our best run in the SPL. We are just de- lighted and we want to keep it going.”
Butcher will be without midfielder Ross Draper, who twisted his ankle near the end of last week’s 2-1 win at Kilmarnock. He said: “Ross’s studs caught in the turf and his ankle twisted. He hasn’t missed a training session this season and it was strange to not see him there, but someone will fill his shoes.”
Hearts will attempt to put their off-field problems to the side for 90 minutes, something they have had plenty of practice of doing in recent seasons. Midfielder Ryan Stevenson will return after missing last weekend’s defeat by Dundee with concussion while Scotland Under-21 goalkeeper Mark Ridgers and right-back Jamie Hamill are still unavailable following knee injuries.
l The Heart of Midlothian Remembrance Service will take place tomorrow at Grosvenor Street. A statement on the club website read: “All supporters are invited to attend the ceremony, which commemorates the sacrifice and service of the Heart of Midlothian family in the Great War and in the worldwide conflicts that followed. The service will begin at 10.30am sharp, with a reading from a first-team player and music from the Salvation Army band. Hearts first team squad and club officials will be in attendance on the day and, as always, football supporters, friends and families of all clubs are welcome to attend.”