After nearly making the top six last season 2011-12 was to be disappointing. ICT spent the season in the relegation zone and SPL safety was only assured three games from the end on 2 May 2012. The national game was dominated by the troubles at Rangers and in February 2012 they went into administration. Their future in the Scottish leagues – and the ramifications for the SPL – were the subject of much speculation which would only be clarified in the summer.
The summer of 2011 saw a massive change in the first team squad including the departure of four players with entries in the top 10 appearance records. Former captain Grant Munro left for Ross County after 13 seasons and 367 appearances. He was joined in Dingwall by Russell Duncan who made 353 appearances for ICT. Roy McBain joined Peterhead after making 342 appearances and Stuart Golabek signed for Highland League side Brora Rangers with 263 appearances in two spells under his belt. Adam Rooney’s 21 goals in 2010-11 had not surprisingly brought him to the attention of the wider football world and after much speculation he signed for Birmingham City. Eric Odhiambo went to Turkish side Denizlispor, Dani Sanchez went down under to New Zealand’s Wellington Phoenix FC and Gil Blumenshtein joined Hapoel Ashkelon in his native Israel. Stuart Duff was offered a new contract but decided to move south – he played trial matches for Ayr United before going to Malta’s Qormi. Chris Innes played as a trialist for East Fife but did not join them and in February 2012 he signed for Paul Sheerin’s Arbroath. Alex MacDonald returned to his parent club Burnley after the end of his loan spell.
After a series of trial matches new players joined from around Europe on a mixture of contracts and loan deals. Gregory Tade signed from Raith Rovers, Greg Tansey refused a new one year contract at Stockport County to sign for ICT and Thomas Piermayr left his native Austria for Inverness. Norwich City midfielder and Welsh internationalist Owain Tudor Jones signed a one year deal to join ICT after being on loan at Yeovil Town and Brentford and Andrew Shinnie joined his brother Graeme in the squad after being released by Rangers and loan spells at Dundee. Northern Ireland under 21 internationalist Billy McKay signed from Northampton Town and Josh Meekings arrived after being released by Ipswich Town. Loan deals led to the arrival of Tom Aldred from Watford, David Davis from Wolves, Spaniard Roman Golobart from Wigan and Aiden Chippendale from Huddersfield Town. Tom Aldred’s loan period was cut short and he returned to Watford in August.
Pre-season matches included a series of visits to Highland League grounds then a trip to the deep south to play against Yeovil Town, Bristol Rovers and Aldershot. A 4-2 win against Yeovil and draws in the other two matches were a good return for the long journey. The final pre-season match was a fundraiser at Buckie to support the charities that helped Daniel Strong, son of Buckie goalkeeper Darren, through his battle with a brain tumour.
July and August were not good months with just one SPL point from five matches and a long period spent in twelfth place. The first home match of this spell was against Hibs on 30 July and it was very close – a Garry O’Connor goal in stoppage time separated the sides and gave Hibs their first win in Inverness. A thrilling away match at Dunfermline on 6 August looked like producing the first win but a Martin Hardie free kick in added time earned the Pars a 3-3 draw. A 2-1 home victory against Kilmarnock on 27 August lightened the mood a little and meant a move up to eleventh with four points. It was 1-1 until the 89th minute when Graeme Shinnie netted the winner. The Scottish Communities League Cup campaign was over almost as soon as it began with a 1-0 defeat away to First Division Ayr United in round two on 24 August. One draw and two defeats in September led to a fall back to twelfth with just five points – despite strong performances in away defeats to Dundee United and Celtic.
October and November were a little better with two wins and one draw in seven matches but the total of 12 points was not enough to climb out of bottom spot. The draw was at home to Dunfermline and once more what looked like a win against the Pars was thwarted by a late goal, this time by former ICT trialist Liam Buchanan who netted a penalty for 1-1 in the 86th minute. The highlight of this period was a high scoring match at Kilmarnock on 5 November when an Andrew Shinnie hat-trick helped his side to a remarkable 6-3 victory. In November manager Terry Butcher was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame – a rare honour for an Englishman!
December was better with two wins and one draw from five matches. Three points from a 2-1 away win against St Mirren on 3 December lifted ICT from 12th to 9th and ICT came close to taking something from an away match against Rangers but an 83rd minute Kyle Lafferty goal gave the home side a 2-1 win despite intense Inverness pressure at 1-1. A 2-1 home win against Aberdeen followed by an away 1-1 draw against Hibs gained welcome points but results elsewhere left ICT to end the calendar year in tenth spot on 19 points.
January was a good month although it did not result in an improved SPL position. It was Scottish Cup time on 7 January in Inverness and former ICT player Andy Barrowman nearly gave Dunfermline victory – it took a 90th minute Jonny Hayes goal to take the match to a replay. This took place on the 18th and it went to extra time – it was 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes but ICT ran out 3-1 winners after extra time. Two 1-0 wins against Motherwell and Hearts and a 0-0 draw at Paisley in the league meant January ended on 26 points but still in 10th spot.
In the January transfer window Steve Williams joined ICT on loan from Bradford City, ex Walsall French player Claude Gnakpa joined on a short term deal and Sam Winnall came on loan from Wolves. Moving in the other direction was David Davis who returned to Wolves after the end of his loan period as did Aiden Chippendale to Huddersfield Town.
The cup run ended on 4 February with a 2-0 home defeat to Celtic. Three league games in February produced just one point but the total of 27 points was now eight ahead of Hibs and Dunfermline. ICT played Celtic on successive Saturdays as the cup defeat in Inverness was followed by a 1-0 defeat at Celtic Park despite the home side being reduced to ten men on the hour mark when Daniel Majstorovic saw a straight red. The man advantage only lasted 17 minutes as ICT’s Steve Williams received a second yellow and was off for an early shower. The other half of the Old Firm convincingly won 4-1 in Inverness on 26 February despite the Glasgow side having just gone into administration. One win and one draw from four matches in March maintained tenth place and opened the gap to 11 points. SPL safety was close but not definite.
The opening match of April on the first was an important one as Hibs were the visitors to Inverness. Hibs took the points 3-2 but Caley Thistle’s position remained unchanged – the main consequence was the opening up of a six point gap between eleventh placed Hibs and bottom club Dunfermline. A 0-0 draw with St Johnstone in Perth took ICT into the post split matches in tenth place with 32 points. Caley Thistle stuttered towards SPL safety and with two further defeats over the rest of April it needed results elsewhere to go their way. It could all have been settled at Kilmarnock on 28 April but in another high scoring match between the teams the home side narrowly won 4-3. On 2 May Dunfermline came to Inverness and the 0-0 draw left the relegation battle to be between the Pars and Hibs. With the tension off there were May wins away to St Mirren and at home to Hibs who by then were also safe.
The final tally of 39 points was the lowest achieved so far in the SPL apart from the 37 total in relegation season 2008/09. That was not what mattered – there would be SPL football in Inverness in 2012/13. The 2011/12 SPL season ended with Dunfermline relegated on just 25 points and Celtic champions on 93 points – a massive 20 points ahead of second placed Rangers who were penalised with a ten points deduction for going into administration.
In May 2011 former ICT player and assistant manager Duncan Shearer returned to the club on a full time basis to coach the under 19 side. Off the field there was a change at the top when in September Kenny Cameron replaced George Fraser as chairman – George Fraser had been in post since April 2008 and presided over the club under difficult financial circumstances. There was one board change with Sandy Catto standing down after sterling service going back to season 2000/01. In March 2012 the “Muirfield Mills” consortium of Inverness expatriates injected £250,000 into the club and local Chartered Surveyor Richard Smith was elected to the board as their representative.
With the season over, and SPL safety assured, it was time for the management team to rebuild the squad (again) and for the chairman to represent the club in the corridors of football power as the consequences of Rangers’ demise were faced.