Ross Draper and Stuart Kettlewell were once combatants on opposite sides of the Highland divide, who clashed on several occasions. Indeed, Kettlewell once famously made Draper see red when tempers flared during a 2-1 home defeat for Inverness in January 2014.
Draper’s frustration got the better of him and he was adjudged to have elbowed his feisty Ross County midfield counterpart as the pair challenged for a high ball.
Looking back, Draper, pictured, suspects that Kettlewell made a meal of his challenge, claiming somewhat tongue in cheek: “I jumped with my arm in the air a little bit, maybe, but I always say he went down too easily. It was one of those where he was watching through his fingers!”
But there is no lasting enmity. Indeed Draper’s commitment and physical presence persuaded County’s co-management team of Kettlewell and Steve Ferguson to invest considerable faith in him when they succeeded Owen Coyle last March.
Tomorrow evening in Dingwall the one-time rivals will be united in their aim to reach the last eight in the Scottish Cup at Inverness’ expense.
“In terms of this location, this match is huge for both clubs,” said 30-year-old Draper. “For the supporters bragging rights are important, and with the match being on TV, there will be added spice and competitiveness.
“Our main aim is promotion, but the cup is very important. It’s an opportunity to win a trophy – and why would you turn your nose up at that? You’re in it to win it.”
Draper’s arrival 18 months ago after five years with Caley Thistle was prompted by the feeling that his career was in danger of stagnating in the wake of the 2015 Scottish Cup winners’ relegation to the Championship.
“I hadn’t really enjoyed football for a couple of seasons,” he said. “When you are down there you get in the habit of losing games and forget what it’s like to win.”