The only aspect that could improve Jamie McCart’s time at Inverness Caley Thistle would be a happy ending.
The promising Celtic youth defender admits he could hardly have wished for more from his invaluable immersion in first-team culture and the sharp learning curve of a Premiership dressing room during his loan spell from Celtic.
Golden boy status and easy victories within the Glasgow giants’ development squad have been replaced by the brass tacks and intense demands of the relegation dogfight.
To cap it all this week, a former Scotland international defender with 55 caps and two World Cup finals appearances – Maurice Malpas – just joined the coaching staff.
According to the 19-year-old McCart, son of Celtic head of youth Chris, these rich experiences will stay with him a lifetime and strengthen his chances of forging a career at the highest level.
Yet all of it comes with a niggling sense of guilt, as the young defender is first to concede that not everybody at Caley Thistle is drawing as much enjoyment out of this flirtation with a disastrous drop to the Championship.
Tonight he will set foot in Ross County’s ground regarding the live televised occasion as yet another chance to repay his temporary club for the wealth of experience gained.
McCart said: “For me, everything about this loan spell has been great – an absolutely invaluable experience.
“In every game, every training session, I’m learning from the first-team players and coaches here and from the first-team environment.
“Obviously, it has been disappointing, too, given recent results and the fact there is a wee bit of a gap to be bridged at the bottom of the table now.
“But everyone in the dressing room is confident we can get the wins and get out of this – even get out of the play-off spot. We’ll just take it one game at a time.
“For me it has been everything I could have hoped for when I joined. I’ve been getting first-team appearances and working to solidify my place in the team. I just hope we can get the results we need now, in the last five matches.
“Maurice coming in has just been brilliant. He is bringing his input to training and, anytime anything happens, he is always giving his pointers and trying to help us as defenders.
“I’ve already learned so much and someone like Maurice being here can only add to that.”
If McCart is any measure of the broader mood in the Inverness dressing room, there remains a powerful belief the club can survive.
He said: “What makes me so confident? Just the squad of players we have, the quality. We’ve had good performances but just not been able to hold out. We’ve created so many chances.
“The belief comes from the manager and the backroom staff that we can get out of this position. It transfers to the players in training – we’re looking good, looking sharp.
“There’s belief throughout the team. This is definitely a Premiership club. We’re disappointed we’re in this position because we shouldn’t be anywhere near it.”