Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager Terry Butcher believes their season will be classed as a major success even if they do not qualify for the Europa League.
But he is focused on securing one final thrill by beating neighbours Ross County in Dingwall, a result that would guarantee a first season in Europe for the Highland side.
Third-placed Caley Thistle have a one-point, and six-goal, lead over St Johnstone ahead of their final Clydesdale Bank Premier League game of the season tomorrow. However, Butcher is urging his men not to think of Europe and to concentrate on the dynamics of their Highland derby.
Butcher said: “The boys are up for it. It’s been fierce in training, a few tackles flying in. Everyone is desperate to get out there and win the game. The European thing is a real bonus. It would be the icing on the cake of a special season. It will be extremely special if we win the match and qualify for Europe. But we don’t really focus on Europe, we are just focusing on doing well in the game itself.
“It’s a Highland derby and it does take care of itself. It’s one of those games that are extremely keenly-fought, a few battles going on and a few challenges and a high intensity.
“That’s the nature of the Highland derby. Both teams can play football if they are allowed to play football.
“The two matches over there have been one extreme to the other, a six-goal thriller and a goalless draw. Maybe this will be something in the middle.
“It’s tailor-made for a cracking end to the season. No matter the result, both clubs can celebrate having fantastic seasons and both clubs can come out as winners.”
County’s hopes of making tomorrow’s game a potential European decider ended with a 2-0 defeat at Motherwell on Sunday but Butcher believes the game can still be a celebration for both clubs.
“Our aim at the start of the season was to finish above Ross County,” Butcher said. “We are going to do that. If we finished above them we couldn’t get relegated.
“I don’t think either club could have foreseen such a wonderful season with some wonderful football too.”
Ross County midfielder Mark Fotheringham admits he finds the friendly Highland rivalry refreshing – although he will be in no mood to do Inverness a favour tomorrow.
For a player who began his career at Celtic, Fotheringham welcomes the mutual respect between two clubs who have over-achieved this season, given that many pundits suggested last summer that they would be fighting it out at the other end of the table.
Fotheringham said: “I was in the gym the other day having a stretch on our day off and I bumped into one of the Inverness guys and I was up shaking his hand. It’s nice to see the lads. It’s not like that type of atmosphere when I was a kid at Celtic and I had to hide in the bottom of a taxi and had my green colours on coming home from a game and there was an Orange walk.
“It’s nothing like that, up here it’s all about the good, friendly atmosphere. When the whistle blows, we are competitive guys so we are going out there to win the game and that’s the only thing on our minds.”
Fotheringham added: “We know it’s a derby and you have got to go out and win for the bragging rights for the fans.
“We are just glad both teams are doing well for the Highlands. It’s good for this part of Scotland.”
County have not beaten Inverness this season in five games but Fotheringham has no inferiority complex, especially with both games at the Global Energy Stadium ending in draws.
“We are not too bothered about records because in the games so far we have given a really good account of ourselves,” he said.
“But the main thing is to get points on the board and we want to win the game and finish the season on a high.”