Relegation – the word that all football people fear. A top six finish is often said to be the goal of all Premiership teams but first and foremost they all want to stay in the top flight. For Caley Thistle relegation happened and next season life will be very different in the Championship. A sad ending to a wonderful seven seasons in the Premiership. Fans can look back on some great achievements culminating in the Scottish Cup win and third place in the league in 2014/15. Now it is time to regroup and strive for a speedy return to the top tier.
The first story after the close of 2015/16 was the search for a new manager. The departure of John Hughes was a blow but the bookmakers soon stopped taking bets on his replacement with Richie Foran the clear favourite. While fans waited for the new manager to be announced the draw took place for the Betfred Cup, the revamped League Cup. The early stages embraced a regional-based format with eight groups of five, four in the North Section and four in the South. The eight group winners plus the four best runners-up joined the clubs playing in Europe in the last 16. An innovative feature was that matches drawn after 90 minutes went to a penalty shoot-out. Each team gained a point from the draw with an additional point awarded to the shoot-out winners. Caley Thistle were seeded and drawn in group C with Dundee United, Dunfermline, Arbroath and Cowdenbeath.
Ten days after the departure of John Hughes the much-anticipated announcement was made on the Club’s website – the bookies were right and Richie Foran would be the club’s eighth manager. He was to retire from playing and concentrate on management with Brian Rice as his number two. A board statement paid tribute to Foran’s playing career and stated that he was the unanimous choice from a high number of applications. Eyebrows were raised at the four year length of contract for an untried manager but chairman Kenny Cameron stated that the board believed that this demonstrated commitment on both sides.
The exit door was busy. Pre contract agreements saw James Vincent and Danny Williams head for Dundee, Nat Wedderburn signed for Dunfermline Athletic, Jordan Roberts headed south to Crawley Town, Danny Devine joined Partick Thistle, Liam Hughes went to Barrow and former number one ‘keeper Dean Brill left for Motherwell. Brill’s ICT career was halted by a severe knee injury sustained against Celtic in April 2015, just as he was returning from a previous period of absence. Andrea Mutombo left in May 2016 but he did not find another club until 2017 when he signed for Croatian side RNK Split.
The entrance door also saw traffic with Billy King arriving on loan from Hearts, Scott Boden signing from Newport County, Kevin McNaughton coming from Wigan Athletic and ex-QPR winger Jake Mulraney heading for Inverness. As the summer transfer window drew to a close on 31 August defender Brad McKay arrived after his release from St Johnstone and midfielder Larnell Cole signed on loan from Fulham.
Young defender Jason Brown spent loan spells during 2016/17 at Arbroath and Cove Rangers. Young goalkeeper Cammy Mackay went off on loan to Elgin City in August but returned from September to December when back-up ‘keeper Ryan Esson was injured. He then returned to Elgin.
In June there was success for the under 12 and under 15 squads. The 16 strong under 12 squad headed for Orkney to take part in the Northern Counties Trophy. The tournament was played on a seven-a-side basis and ICT were represented by a Home and an Away side. In the event both reached the final and the Away side came out on top thanks to goals from Joe May and Rory Williamson. The trip ended with an 11-a-side match against Orkney/Shetland and ICT made it a clean sweep with a 3-0 win. An under 15 squad of 18 went further afield with a visit to Spain to take part in the Iber Cup on the Costa Del Sol. Opposition in the group stage came from two Spanish sides and one from Portugal – three wins led on to a quarter final tie against another Portuguese side. Amidst soaring temperatures ICT won 3-0 and went on to meet Spanish side Puerta Blanca CF in the semi final. It ended 2-2 but ICT went through 5-4 on penalties with goalkeeper Martin MacKinnon saving two kicks. The final was against Argentina’s SC Villa Maria and it proved to be a tough match. ICT came out on top 2-0 with a penalty goal from Lewis Mitchell and a goal on the final whistle from Connor Bunce. Captain Jack Brown proudly lifted the trophy.
The traditional pre-season tour of the Highlands resulted in successful away matches against Fraserburgh (William West Testimonial), Brora Rangers, Nairn County, Buckie Thistle (Andy Low Testimonial), Clachnacuddin, Elgin City and Forres Mechanics – all victories except 3-3 at Fraserburgh and 1-1 at Brora.
Richie Foran’s competitive managerial career started on Saturday 16 July at Cowdenbeath’s Central Park – a familiar venue in the early days of CT and ICT but one not visited since 1997. This opening fixture in the Betfred Cup took place in very windy conditions and ended in a 2-1 win for ICT. The margin of victory should have been higher but the naming of Cowdenbeath ‘keeper David McGurn as ‘Betfred Man of the Match’ tells its own story. The bar also came to the home side’s rescue on more than one occasion. The ICT goals came from Ross Draper and Gary Warren.. A good start for the new management team.
It was a different story a week later in Inverness when Dundee United earned a 1-1 draw. Scott Boden’s debut competitive goal gave ICT a half time lead but the visitors equalised a minute after the break. 1-1 at full time meant a penalty shoot-out for an extra point. United raced ahead to take it 4-1. The following Tuesday it was down to Dunfermline for match three of the group stage. It ended 5-1 despite a lively Dunfermline performance with Iain Vigurs scoring a classic hat-trick – right foot, left foot and head. The other ICT scorers were Billy King and Carl Tremarco. Caley Thistle moved onto seven points in the group – the same as Dundee United. All to play for at the weekend. There was no need to worry as Arbroath’s visit north the following Saturday ended with an emphatic 7-0 victory. A Scott Boden hat-trick, two from Carl Tremarco and one each from Billy King and Iain Vigurs put ICT onto 10 points. Dundee United beat Dunfermline the next day to go to 10 points but ICT topped the group on goal difference. One extra bonus was the appearance on the bench of Aaron Doran after a year out.
The Irn-Bru Cup competition started in Inverness on 2 August with Caley Thistle’s under 20 team (shown by the SPFL as Inverness Caledonian Thistle Colts) taking on Arbroath. This was the re-invented Challenge Cup which now included the Premiership clubs’ under 20 sides, four clubs each from the Highland and Lowland Leagues and two clubs each from Wales and Northern Ireland (joining in the fourth round). In the first round clubs were split into North and South regions with two pools in each. The aim was to avoid under 20 sides playing each other and similarly Highland and Lowland sides avoiding rivals from their respective leagues. An innovative format but time would tell whether it ignited the fans’ interest. In the event the Colts went out in round one when a strong Arbroath side gained revenge for the Betfred Cup drubbing with a 3-0 win.
The Ladbroke Premiership programme started on Saturday 6 August away to Partick Thistle. It did not go well as Partick won 2-0. The following Tuesday it was down to Alloa for round 2 of the Betfred Cup – the start of the knock-out stage. Caley Thistle have created many shocks over the years but it was Alloa’s turn to make the headlines. They were on a roll of five wins from five games and a 1-0 win against Caley Thistle made it six. Four days later a difficult week was completed with 3-2 league defeat at the hands of local rivals Ross County in Inverness. A hat-trick from Liam Boyce was the key to the result in an incident packed match. County were always on top and the day was made worse for ICT when Kevin McNaughton hobbled off after 27 minutes with what turned out to be a long-term Achilles injury. The barren start to the season continued on 20 August away to Hearts. Nothing went right and a rampant Hearts won 5-1 including two goals from former ICT player Don Cowie.
The league duck was broken at home to St Johnstone on 27 August but it was a close run thing. Ross Draper made it 1-0 in 59 minutes but 20 minutes later Richard Foster equalised. Josh Meekings forced home a winner in added time to much relief for the Inverness camp. The St Johnstone victory ended the August programme and ICT sat in 12th spot.
League hostilities restarted on 10 September after an international break and it was off to Aberdeen. The Dons now included a quartet of ex-ICT players in their squad – Adam Rooney, Jonny Hayes, Graeme Shinnie and, most recently, Miles Storey. Storey remained on the bench but the others all played. Aberdeen took the lead through Niall McGinn in 51 minutes but Iain Vigurs equalised with an excellent 25 yard strike in 68 minutes. The point earned moved ICT off the bottom of the Premiership but only by one spot.
On Sunday 18 September Celtic came to Inverness after a traumatic week. They had beaten Rangers 5-1 in the league then were trounced 7-0 by Barcelona in the Champions’ League. How would they react to all this? It turned out to be a classic encounter with Celtic taking the lead through Rogic in 17 minutes but Billy King equalising in 28 minutes. The main talking point of the match came three minutes later when Ross Draper powered in on the Celtic goal but was taken down by Sviatchenko. Following the new rules if on the edge of the box it should have been a free kick and a red card. If in the box it was a penalty and a yellow. The debate should have been around the position of the foul but instead referee Don Robertson gave nothing. TV pictures confirmed that the location was in doubt but a foul was plain for all to see – except, of course, the man who mattered. This unnerved the Caley Thistle team and they quickly lost a rather cheap second goal to Sinclair. In the second half Celtic threw everything at the home defence and they were only thwarted by a five star display by Owain Fon Williams and some last ditch defending. With a minute to go Alex Fisher headed in for 2-2 and a share of the points. Arguably justice was done. These were the first points dropped by Celtic this season.
The September programme finished rather early on the 24th at home to Dundee. The 3-1 victory ensured a climb from 11th to 8th – a major achievement in view of the difficult start to the season. Dundee came north with three former ICT players in their squad - Nick Ross, Danny Williams and James Vincent - but they must have wondered if they had made the right choice. In the event only Ross started and was replaced by Williams in 76 minutes. Vincent remained on the bench. The goals came from Lonsana Doumbouya, a Greg Tansey penalty and Liam Polworth. A late Nicky Low strike was merely a consolation for Dundee. September’s efforts earned Richie Foran the SPFL Premiership Manager of the Month award.
October started at Hamilton with Liam Polworth rescuing a point in added time. Caley Thistle trailed 1-0 from the 18th minute and looked like losing until Polworth struck a 25 yard low drive which beat stand-in ‘keeper Robbie Thomson – he had replaced the injured Remi Matthews eight minutes from time and this led to an additional six minutes to the regulation ninety. A satisfying point going into another international break.
Friday 14 October saw Rangers visit Inverness for the first time since February 2012. The televised match was much anticipated although some Rangers fans had a difficult time reaching the ground for kick-off after an accident on the A9 near Moy. Lonsana Doumbouya had a gilt-edged chance to put Caley Thistle ahead in the third minute but his header from close range was off target. Rangers dominated possession after that and in 22 minutes Kenny Miller chose this occasion to score his 100th Rangers goal – a superb long-range volley which gave Owain Fon Williams no chance. As time went on Caley Thistle managed to get back into the game but pressure on the Rangers defence came to nothing. On Saturday 22 October it looked like a repeat of the Rangers score when Kilmarnock came north – an early penalty goal for the visitors was cancelled out with four minutes left by Lonsana Doumbouya who netted from close range in a crowded penalty box. The precious point lifted Caley Thistle to sixth spot just ahead of Ross County and Kilmarnock on goal difference.
The following Wednesday an emphatic 3-0 win at Motherwell ensured that sixth place was retained – it was 0-0 at half time but goals from Carl Tremarco, Lonsana Doumbouya & Liam Polworth secured the points. The final match of October took place on the 29th at home to Hearts and in the words of BBC reporter Martin Dowden it was “… a truly brilliant end-to-end game of football”. The drama started in the warm-up when ‘keeper Owain Fon Williams injured his back and Cammy Mackay took his place. Daniel Hoban took the vacant bench spot. With just ten minutes on the clock Carl Tremarco limped off to be replaced by David Raven. Five minutes later Raven, now playing at left back, scored an excellent volleyed goal. Lonsana Doumbouya made it 2-0 after 32 minutes but, before half time, Hearts pulled one back then equalised in 51 minutes. Four minutes later Aaron Doran made it 3-2 only for Hearts to equalise again in 74 minutes. It ended 3-3 – a tremendous piece of entertainment but for Caley Thistle it was disappointing to take only one point. October ended with ICT in sixth spot. Celtic are racing away at the top but just ten points separate Rangers in second place from bottom club Dundee.
There were few fireworks when Caley Thistle faced Celtic at Celtic Park on 5 November, at least not from the visitors. Celtic were held to 0-0 at half time but they took the lead three minutes after the restart and extended their lead in 63 minutes. Greg Tansey received a second yellow card for a foul during the build-up to the second goal. It was damage limitation after that and Celtic managed just one more goal in 83 minutes. After another blank week to accommodate the England/Scotland World Cup qualifier Aberdeen were the visitors on 19 November – eight days ahead of their League Cup final against Celtic. Caley Thistle’s recent record against the Dons has been good but this time Aberdeen came out on top despite the League Cup distraction. It began well for the home side when Lonsana Doumbouya netted his fifth league goal of the season in 15 minutes but Aberdeen hit back with a Kenny McLean double and an Adam Rooney penalty to win 3-1.
The final match of November on the 26th was away to Dundee and a great disappointment. The 2-1 defeat sent ICT down to 10th just a point above bottom club Partick Thistle. A late red card for stand-in right back Lewis Horner was a blow but it did not make any difference to the score. The lower part of the Premiership is very tight – three clubs, including ICT, are on 14 points and three are on 15 – thus two points separate sixth from twelfth.
Into December and a trip to Perth on the third. The injury list had grown and Richie Foran had to make big changes to the defence. Josh Meekings moved to right back and his place in central defence was taken by Ross Draper. The end result was a shortage of fit players and youngsters filling four out of six bench places. St Johnstone ran out worthy 3-0 winners and the second yellow card for Gary Warren in 61 minutes at 1-0 did not help. Saints took their chances well and ICT created very little. The punishment was a drop to the foot of the table on goal difference. A week later a point at home to Hamilton ensured a lift off the bottom but only by one place and one point. Caley Thistle had a goalkeeping crisis in advance of the match with Owain Fon Williams, Ryan Esson and Daniel Hoban injured. Cammy Mackay was out on loan so there was the real possibility of blooding youngsters or an outfield player going into goal. In the event Fon Williams played but he was clearly not 100% fit. Esson was on the bench but his involvement would have been only in a dire emergency. A defensive reorganisation was also required with Gary Warren suspended – Lewis Horner played at right back and Brad McKay joined Josh Meekings in central defence. Hamilton took an early lead but Larnell Cole earned the draw with a 51st minute equaliser.
It was now down to Kilmarnock and their artificial pitch on the 17th. Gary Warren’s 84th minute headed goal was enough to snatch a point at Kilmarnock after Coulibaly had given the home side the lead 11 minutes earlier. For many Caley Thistle fans the highlight of the match was Josh Meekings amazing clearance off the goal line in the first half – Nathan Tyson had lobbed Owain Fon Williams but Meekings raced back to make an overhead kick as a goal looked a certainty. It was another day when injuries dominated with Brad McKay, Lewis Horner and Lonsana Doumbouya all leaving the action prematurely.
The Christmas Eve visit to Ibrox ended with a 1-0 defeat thanks to a fluke goal – a Waghorn shot that deflected off Brad McKay and gave Owain Fon Williams no chance. Once more it was a good ICT performance that earned nothing. The first post Christmas match was at home to Motherwell on the 28th and it was another disappointment. The visitors won 2-1 with Greg Tansey’s late scrambled goal the only home strike. It was now the 15 mile trip to Dingwall on New Year’s Eve – the last match before the reinstated winter break and the last chance to move off 12th spot before 2017. Sadly it was not to be. A narrow 3-2 defeat ensured a year-end twelfth place in the league.
Competitive matches resumed on 21 January with a Scottish Cup fourth round tie away to Elgin City. This was only the second time that the sides had met competitively and it was a potential banana-skin. New signings Henri Anier and Dean Ebbe were in the ICT squad with Anier coming off the bench to make his club debut. Elgin took the lead in 25 minutes but Larnell Cole equalised seven minutes later. Despite ICT pressure it stood that way until the 66th minute when Lonsana Doumbouya struck to make it 2-1. There was no way back for Elgin and ICT took the tie, albeit by a narrow margin.
The January transfer window resulted in four players in and two out. As recorded above Henri Anier and Dean Ebbe signed before the Elgin cup tie and, at the eleventh hour, on 31 January, Billy Mckay returned on loan from Wigan and defender Jamie McCart came on loan from Celtic. Going out the revolving door were Lonsana Doumbouya and Ali Sutherland – both released by mutual consent.
Saturday 28 January marked a return to the league and the no small challenge of climbing off the foot of the table. Prior to the home match against Partick a sickness bug hit the squad and important players had still not returned from injury. Thus the team that took the field included players less than 100% fit but they still managed a 0-0 draw. Not a game to write home about but a valuable point.
ICT travelled to Hamilton on 31 January with Billy Mckay starting and Jamie McCart on the bench – despite the optimism of the new arrivals Hamilton convincingly won 3-0. At 1-0 the usually reliable Greg Tansey had a penalty saved. The Hamilton result was a watershed for ICT. For many weeks the bottom half of the Premiership was very tight - prior to 1 February ICT and Hamilton were locked on 17 points but the home side’s victory put them on 20 points to ICT’s 17. The difference between twelfth and sixth had widened to seven points – not an insurmountable gap but most certainly a move in the wrong direction for Caley Thistle. A good league run was required and preferably very soon.
The 4 February home match against Dundee was a ‘Legends Hospitality’ day with appearances by Barry Wilson, Mike Teasdale and Mike Noble. The ‘Legends’ saw their old team come back from 2-0 down to gain a valuable draw. In midweek Richie Foran expressed his displeasure at the attitude of some players but he could have had few complaints this time. Despite losing two goals late in the first half they fought back in the second. Billy Mckay netted a penalty in the 53rd minute, saw a second penalty saved in the 73rd minute then six minutes later Greg Tansey pounced to score after Scott Bain had saved from Mckay. This made no difference to the league position or to the points gap but it was a positive performance.
On 11 February the Scottish Cup fifth round took ICT to Celtic Park – a few days past the 17th anniversary of a similar trip that ended in success, international publicity and a reputation for giant killing. This time was rather different. A rampant Celtic won 6-0 with £40m striker Moussa Dembele netting a hat-trick. As the old saying goes Caley Thistle could now concentrate on the league.
One week later it was down to Edinburgh and a match against Hearts – the Club’s 999th senior match. With injuries still keeping out defenders Josh Meekings, Kevin McNaughton and Larnell Cole – and Gary Warren and Brad McKay out suspended – Richie Foran brought in free agent Louis Laing. The former Motherwell defender had recently been on loan at Notts County and signed until the end of the season. Laing made his debut at Tynecastle in central defence partnering Jamie McCart – the match ended 1-1 on a dreadful pitch and it could easily have been three points had a Ross Draper header not come off the post. On the other hand a poor penalty at the other end was saved by Owain Fon Williams so overall a point was perhaps fair.
On Friday 24 February the Club celebrated its 1000th national competitive match with a home 2-1 victory over Rangers. It should be noted that some commentators doubted whether 1000 was correct. The debate hinged around the Irn-Bru match in August when an under 20 side played Arbroath. Caley Thistle scribes were quite convinced that 1000 was correct – it may have been an under 20 side but they were representing ICT in a national competition.
The Glasgow side came to Inverness under a management cloud with Mark Warburton leaving two weeks earlier in strange circumstances and with under 20 coach Graeme Murty now in temporary charge. Richie Foran had a selection headache with Gary Warren, Billy King, Iain Vigurs and Brad McKay again available but he decided to stick with the side that had performed well at Tynecastle. It started badly with Rangers pressing hard and Carl Tremarco leaving the field injured after 15 minutes. Brad McKay proved a very able substitute and gradually the tide turned. After an excellent spell Caley Thistle took the lead just before half time when Greg Tansey netted an unstoppable 25 yard drive. The second half started as the first with Rangers pressing and they equalised from a Martyn Waghorn penalty in 67 minutes. With four minutes left Caley Thistle were awarded a penalty but Iain Vigurs made it too easy for Wes Foderingham. The despair turned to joy when with a minute to go of the regulation ninety, a brilliant overhead kick from Billy Mckay found the net and the first win since October was on the cards. A tense three added minutes eventually passed without incident and Caley Thistle were able to take the points and make a jump above Hamilton into eleventh spot.
On 1 March it was Celtic at home with 54 points and 11 league places separating the sides. Hamilton had unexpectedly beaten Aberdeen so ICT had moved back to twelfth place. With memories of the 6-0 cup defeat still fresh in the minds taking a point or three was a tall order. So it proved as Celtic ran out easy 4-0 winners. It was 0-0 until the 43rd minute and it looked as if it would be that way at half time. The loss of goals just before and after the interval changed that and effectively ended the contest. The Scottish Cup quarter finals took centre stage the following weekend then on 11 March it was down to Firhill for a potentially difficult match against on-form Partick Thistle. Kris Doolan’s tenth goal for Partick gave his side the lead in the 56th minute but two minutes into added time Gary Warren popped up to head home Billy King’s cross and take a precious point for Caley Thistle. A week later another important point was earned against local rivals Ross County. The home match was not a classic but Greg Tansey’s 48th minute goal looked like earning Caley Thistle three points. The woodwork prevented the lead being extended and Alex Schalk’s late equaliser reduced the gain to one point. It meant a rise from 12th to 11th on goal difference with Hamilton now propping up the table. This was the state of play at the end of March thanks to yet another international break.
The league programme restarted on 1 April with four matches to play before the split. A 1-1 draw at home to Kilmarnock was not enough to retain 11th spot as Hamilton beat St Johnstone 1-0 in a match marred by real hostilities – two Saints players fought with each other at half time to earn red cards. The nine men lost to a late Hamilton goal. Three days later a visit to Aberdeen resulted in a narrow 1-0 defeat. It was a good performance against a form side but ultimately it ended in disappointment.
On 8 April St Johnstone side came to Inverness and won 3-0. Caley Thistle were still labouring under the burden of injuries but managed to hold Saints to 1-0 until Larnell Cole received two yellow cards in succession for dissent in 82 minutes. It was game up after that and Saints added two more late goals including a penalty. The disappointment was aggravated after the final whistle when Gary Warren saw red in the tunnel.
The final pre split match was away to Motherwell on 15 April with Larnell Cole and Gary Warren suspended plus the usual crop of injuries. The home side went 2-0 up in just nine minutes but two Alex Fisher goals brought it back to 2-2. Motherwell scored a controversial third goal in 65 minutes – Scott McDonald’s header was saved on the line by Owen Fon Williams but somehow referee Willie Collum signalled a goal. TV pictures showed that the ball was nowhere near crossing the line. This proved to be the tipping point of the match as Motherwell scored a fourth goal against the disheartened visitors. Caley Thistle thus went into the split propping up the table and five points adrift of eleventh placed Dundee. The task has been made more difficult with Carl Tremarco ruled out for the rest of the season with cruciate ligament damage.
The first post split game was in Dingwall on Friday 28 April in front of the BT cameras – it was a disaster just when points were vital. County won 4-0 with Liam Boyce scoring all four, including two penalties. The misery was compounded by a red card for Liam Polworth on the hour mark as he conceded the second penalty. It was all over before that. ICT did have good spells of possession but the killer touch was lacking. ICT were now seven points adrift with twelve more at stake.
The pessimism was replaced by a small degree of optimism following the home game against Hamilton on 6 May. The 2-1 win earned three valuable points and the performance was excellent. The scoreline did not reflect ICT’s superiority – by half time it could have been 4-0 instead of 2-0 but gilt edged chances were missed. The second half was more even with chances spurned at both ends and a Hamilton penalty shout denied. Hamilton’s consolation goal came with the last kick of the match, four minutes into added time. Three games left, nine points at stake and four points between twelfth and eleventh.
It did not go well a week later at Kilmarnock. It was 2-0 to the home side just before the hour mark but an Alex Fisher strike in 71 minutes sparked some optimism. Despite a strong finish the equaliser did not come and another three points were lost. Next up was Dundee away on Wednesday 17 May but the night before was crucial – relegation would be confirmed if Hamilton had beaten Ross County in Dingwall. In the event County won 3-2 and all eyes now turned to Dundee. The best scenario was leapfrogging Hamilton to reach the play-off spot – that required two wins and Hamilton to lose to Dundee.
An impressive performance and a 2-0 win at Dundee took the matter to the final day. That in itself was an achievement considering the situation a few weeks ago. Billy Mckay scored the fastest goal of the season in two minutes and Alex Fisher added the second in 10 minutes. It was now back to Inverness on Saturday 20 May for round 38 and a visit from Motherwell – with radios and mobiles tracking the score at Hamilton. It all ended in misery as Caley Thistle did beat Motherwell 3-2 but Hamilton’s 4-0 victory over Dundee sealed relegation. Three goals between the 64th and 67th minutes set up the ICT victory but by that time Hamilton were already 3-0 up and everyone in Inverness knew that the game was up.
Relegation was no real surprise given results up to the split but winning three out of the last five matches sparked some hope of at least capturing the play-off spot. It all ended as very very close with just one point separating ICT from eleventh placed Hamilton who were then in a play-off with Dundee United. Over two legs it ended Hamilton 1 Dundee United 0 so the Lanarkshire side retained Premiership status.
Aberdeen-bound Greg Tansey made the most appearances in 2016/17 – 44 out of a possible 45 and he will be sorely missed. Top goal scorer was Alex Fisher with eight in just 25 appearances. Greg Tansey and Carl Tremarco both netted seven times.
Owain Fon Williams was part of the Welsh international squad at Euro 2016 in France and for five World Cup qualifiers in 2016/17. He did not play in any of the matches but he was part of the excitement as Wales reached the semi-final stage of Euro 2016.
Billy King and Jamie McCart represented Scotland and Jake Mulraney represented the Republic of Ireland – all at under 21 level. Henri Anier continued his full international career with Estonia.
In the aftermath of relegation Chairman and Chief Executive Ken Cameron decided to retire after six years in post. His long association with the Club in many roles had seen great success including a Scottish Cup win and a short but memorable European adventure but he now felt that others should take the club forward. The board quickly moved to appoint Willie Finlayson, a director since 2010, as Chairman and it was also announced that two new directors, Graham Rae and Allan Mackenzie, had joined the Board.
On 29 May it was confirmed by chairman Willie Finlayson that manager Richie Foran had left the club. Foran joined in February 2009 and made 209 appearances (and scored 45 goals) before retiring from playing in May 2016. He was club captain from 2010/11 but his fine playing career was cut short latterly by injury. It was a very difficult season for Foran and a stormy managerial baptism. Hopefully his obvious talents will find a place at another club.
In September the Club announced with deep regret the death of director Donald (Donnie) Fraser. Donnie had been a director since July 2015 but had been a major benefactor in many ways prior to that. In April Richard Smith tendered his resignation from the Board. He had joined in January 2012 to represent the Muirfield Mills consortium, a group of expatriate Inverness businessmen who took a £250,000 stakeholding in ICT.
When ICT brought SPL football to Inverness in January 2005 it was only possible because Tulloch Homes paid for and arranged the erection of the north and south stands in record time. Tulloch retained ownership of the stands and the club rented them. All that changed in December 2016 when Tulloch Homes Chief Executive (and former ICT Chairman) George Fraser announced that the stands were to be gifted to the club. This magnificent offer relieved the club of a financial burden and gave full control over the whole stadium. An excellent position for the future.
The priority for the Board is now to appoint a new manager with, as usual, many names being touted in the press. Caley Thistle will enter 2017/18 in the Championship with a new Chairman, new Board members and, most importantly, a new management team. It will be a tough challenge.