IF MARLEY Watkins required any extra motivation in this monumental week for Inverness Caley Thistle, he only has to draw on the remarkable story of his boyhood heroes.
The 23-year-old attacker grew up in Swansea as a youth squad member, supporting the senior team with a passion.
There was a time when following the Swans was far less glamorous than it is today. In many ways, their giddying rebirth since the mid-2000s mirrors the journey of Watkins’ current employers.
Like the Welsh side, Caley Thistle have scaled the leagues, defied financial disadvantages and established themselves as a force. Then there is the small matter of a historic first national final. Swansea’s 5-0 beating of Bradford City in the Carling Cup final in February last year brought home their first major silverware.
In seven days, Caley Thistle will seek to achieve the same in the Scottish League Cup final against Aberdeen. Watkins is only too happy to describe his club as the Swansea of Scotland.
“I am a Swansea lad and I was at that famous game ten years ago when they needed to beat Hull to stay in the Football League,” Watkins recalled. “They were right at the bottom of the league but look what happened. Ten years on they are competing in the Premiership and in Europe – and they won the Carling Cup.
“We can definitely take inspiration from them. You can see the similarities. Inverness Caley Thistle have only been in existence for 20 years and they have come through the leagues and are now an established Premiership club. It is a great testament to the work done by people like Kenny Cameron, the chairman, and many others. It’s a great club and, hopefully, we can do the same as Swansea.”
Watkins, pictured below, can sense the cup fever in the Highland capital. “Everyone is buzzing and there’s a lot of excitement. There are always people commenting about it when you are out and about.
“When you look back at the highlights [of my career] for me so far, I’d probably say winning my first contract as a pro was the best to date. But this is a whole new level. It’s massive to be in with a chance to win one final and still in the hunt for another as well as finishing high in the league.”
United will be eager for revenge in today’s Scottish Cup quarter-final after Caley Thistle dumped them out of the League Cup at the same stage earlier this season.
“We know we will need to play well to beat Dundee United,” said Watkins. “I don’t know if they are out for revenge but they are a good side. But we have a lot of quality as well, and there is a confidence that we can win the game.”