Inverness Caley Thistle: The View From the Opposition
After a few weeks off with the Winter Break for Dundee, we are back in business this weekend with Inverness our visitors to Dens Park in the Scottish Cup.
The Caley Jags have been a bogey team of ours since they left the Highland leagues to join the SFL. We have only beaten them five times in twenty-eight matches with two of them coming in the Scottish Cup Semi Final and the Challenge Cup Final.
We spoke to Don Taylor from Caley Thistle Online to get the lowdown on our opponents who have recently found their feet in the Championship and find themselves fighting it out for a play-off spot for a quick return to the top league.
The last time both of our teams met, Caley won 2-0 at Dens and gave the club hope that they could move off the bottom of the league and into the play-off spot. Unfortunately, it was not to be and Inverness suffered relegation to the Championship. I know it was last season but what went wrong?
In two words, Richie Foran. We persevered with him for two long and his stubbornness to listen to advice. He was the cheap option and that backfired badly. One other thing that was instrumental in our demise was a horrendous injury list.
Richie Foran lost his job and surprisingly, john Robertson was brought back for his second stint as manager with Inverness. After being out of management for four to five years, this must have come as a shock to the fans?
A shock is an understatement. We are led to believe that Robbo never even applied for the job but was called to see if he was interested. I don't think it was a name any of the fans thought about given the length of time Robbo had been out of the limelight. He is, however, a likeable lad.
You struggled in the first nine game of the new season but eventually found your feet when you came away with the three points at Tannadice against Dundee United. What took you so long to find your feet in this league?
With relegation, the wage bill had to be trimmed. We kept the backbone of the relegated side, but they were low on confidence. Due to wage cuts and our top players leaving, we had to recruit from the bottom drawer. The new manager came in and only had a couple of weeks to sort out a starting XI. We brought in players that nobody had heard of, but with money tight it's all we could do. Think Billy Mckay, Ross Draper, Greg Tansey, Alex Fisher and a geezer called Josh Meekings all moving on. Higher earners Owain Fon Williams & David Raven were frozen out. In came guys like Zak Elbouzedi, Connor Bell, Matt Elsdon, Collin Seedorf and Felitciano Zschusschen. We called him big Susan, it was much easier. Anyway, we believe he is not around now.
Falkirk have suffered this season from a similar problem and they are still struggling to get started.
Since then, you moved out the bottom two and have been on a steady incline ever since. Now you find yourselves just three points off a play-off spot. After the start you had, is grabbing a play-off spot the goal for the team?
I think it has to be the realistic target. It's not the easiest of divisions to get out of at the top end. The second prize is a play-off place and three other teams can achieve that. It's who can finish the season strongest that will have the best chance to progress. At the moment, we are doing our chances no harm, but that can change quickly.
We can’t speak about your revival in the league without bringing up the new club record of seven consecutive clean sheets that the team managed to keep. A fantastic achievement!
Absolutely. We began the season in disarray conceding comedy goals on a regular basis. Robbo identified the problem that we all knew and laid it on the line for the defence. Stop the errors and we can build on that. That has been done but it took a few combinations to find out that Coll Donaldson was the guy needed to knit the defence together. Clean sheets breed confidence and Mark Ridgers has benefitted from that more than most. His recent performances show that he now trusts the guys in front of him, and more importantly they trust him. The run of clean sheets whilst pleasing, is a bonus.
Going back to John Robertson just now, what was your thoughts when he was first appointed to what you think now? Is he the right man to lead Caley back to the top league?
I have to own up here, I am a Robbo fan and was more than happy to have him back unlike most of our fans. In fairness, it was easy to see why they were sceptical. Robbo had not managed for a number of years and many felt he might be out of touch with how the game has moved on since he last took Inverness into the SPL. I think it's fair to say that he has won most of the fans round with his effervescence and straight talking. Can he get us back up? After such a dismal start we are starting to believe. A play-off position is within our grasp, we will have to wait and see if that materialises.
There has been plenty of changes in the squad this summer. Is there any new faces that Dundee should be weary of?
Without giving anything away, a player we went down with has been given a new lease of life. Jake Mulraney has pace to burn and will be a handful for most defenders. Striking has been our achilles heel this season so far but we are beginning to reap the rewards now. George Oakley has taken over as the main striker just now and we have new signing Nathan Austin waiting to come through after a slight injury problem. We are confident that Coll Donaldson will break Dundee hearts this weekend and that will go down well with the Dark Blue fans. He has been absolutely immense for us recently. Another who is like a new signing is Aaron Doran. He was sidelined for the best part of two seasons but is now on the mend and getting back to his best. If Iain Vigurs can stay on the park, he has skill in abundance and will be influential in midfield. All in, Dundee should be wary of Inverness all over the park and this will be a good test to see where we stand right now.
Also, if you had to tell your own team of one player from our team to keep an eye on, who would you pick?
I don't know really, maybe Josh Meekings defending near the goal line might be worthy of scrutiny. El Bakhtaoui has his moments. Paul McGowan can be a tenacious midfielder and he can create for others. Not seen any of your new signings so I'll leave it at that.
We have previously taken on each another in the Scottish Cup back in 2003 when Dundee won 1-0 to proceed to the final. What was your memories of that match?
We had a tremendous side back then with great strikers like Dennis Wyness and Paul Ritchie with Barry Robson out wide. What we would give for that quality right now. We started the game better and Wyness smacked the bar with a ferocious shot from 30 yards. “Here we go” we all thought but it was not to be as Georgi Nemsadze scored a second half goal. Dundee eased into the game and their undoubted talent shone through in the end. Back then Dundee boasted an array of foreign stars. We had Bobby Mann, Roy Macbain, Ross Tokely, Stuart Golabek, Russel Duncan etc. Great occasion for Inverness at the time, something we went on to better in 2015.
Finally, prediction time. How do you see this finishing?
In previous years, we had a great record at Dens Park. Because of our total rebuild, it's more difficult to work out. Guys like Mark Ridgers, Coll Donaldson, Gary Warren and Brad Mckay will be vital to our survival at Dens Park. It could go tits up, but I will be looking for at least a replay and a win back up North. Mon the Caley Jags!