Inverness CT are preparing for life in the Championship as they search for a new manager. Here Daryn Mac look at the club’s future prospects.
Super Caley go ballistic...
This headline from Inverness’ remarkable 3-1 win over John Barnes’ Celtic at Parkhead in 2000 has its rightful place in Scottish football folklore, stored away as a treasured memento of one of the greatest cup upsets.
Fast-forward seventeen years, though, and its words still hold true, but, unfortunately for the Highlanders after an altogether turgid campaign, now for all the wrong reasons.
Despite the core of their squad featuring several players from the Scottish Cup winning unit of a couple of years ago, the inexperience of Richie Foran had many predicting Inverness would drop out of the top flight. And so it proved.
Unprepared for the green light go that was the kick-off of the SPFL season, the motor clunked, spluttered and almost failed to start. They seemed to get themselves going with a decent run from autumn into early winter, before everything broke down.
A spirited late-season fightback after being floored by a dismal 4-0 thrashing off near neighbours Ross County proved in vain, leaving the squad to reflect on a showing that saw Inverness’ seven-year top-flight stay come to an abrupt halt.
So what next?
Despite signing a four-year deal only last summer, Foran has now received his P45 and will exit stage left, leaving Inverness to file through the usual motley crew that assembles whenever a vacancy of this ilk arrives.
Former player Paul Sheerin is the frontrunner for the job, having opened talks with the ICT board, while Paul Hartley and former boss Terry Butcher have also been linked.
Whoever takes the post, they have an almighty job on their hands to galvanise a squad battered and bruised from a punishing SPFL campaign and prepare them for the trials and tribulations of the Scottish Championship that lie just around the corner.
Limited finances have been a bugbear of previous incumbents to the hot-seat and relegation means the next manager will be dealt a similar card. With key players departing - Greg Tansey will move to Aberdeen, Josh Meekings has left on a free, forward Alex Fisher has signed for Motherwell, and Billy Mckay’s loan spell has come to an end - the early signs are ominous.
However, optimism can be sourced from the talent that still lies within the ranks, surely capable of competing with more gusto at a lower level. Carl Tremarco enjoyed a superb season before a knee injury brought the curtain down on his campaign. Ross Draper is tidy in possession when played in his preferred deep-lying midfield role while Iain Vigurs, despite his knack of switching into auto-pilot often bringing the wrath of the home support, holds undoubted ability in his left boot.
Further forward Liam Polworth hinted at his potential for goals from midfield in an impressive 2015/2016 season while Jake Mulraney has the skill and speed to torment Championship backlines, despite, as is often the case with flying wingers whose feet seem to move at a rate of knots their football brain can’t quite process, an infuriatingly inconsistent end product.
Inverness became renowned for a pleasing on the eye possession-based style of play under John Hughes before Richie Foran tore up that particular script. When they redraft the document for the upcoming Championship slog, the Caley hierarchy would be well served to go back to what they know best or risk another season of going ballistic for all the wrong reasons.