With the IRN-BRU Scottish Challenge Cup Final against Dumbarton fast approaching, our goal is to make this a memorable and winning occasion. The team has done tremendously well to reach the final stage of a national competition that began last summer with 48 teams vying for the trophy, including teams from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

We wish Manager John Robertson and the players the very best of luck in bringing the cup home to Inverness. I’m sure our loyal supporters will get behind the team and spur our boys to victory.

Let’s hope McDiarmid Park, Perth, once again proves a happy hunting ground as our previous success in lifting the Challenge Cup was at Perth – in October 2003 when we beat Airdrie United 2-0.

We were pleased to agree with the SPFL and the Cup sponsors, IRN-BRU, that children under 12 get free admission if accompanied by an adult. We are grateful to Hilton Primary School for hosting the promotion and if the enthusiasm shown by the Hilton pupils is anything to go by we are going to have a great support in Perth.

I have been asked to stress that while under 12s go free, adults will need to acquire a ticket for the youngsters. They will not be available at the turnstiles at Perth.

We have also taken the Challenge Cup around a number of schools in the city to generate interest in the cup final.

Milestones and Memories

A guest of the club at Saturday’s cup final will be Ian Broadfoot, our club historian, who now lives in Perth. Ian has kindly offered to write a book entitled “Milestones and Memories”, charting the history of the club over its first 25 years.

The book is just one project planned for our silver jubilee. We would love to hear your ideas for marking this significant landmark.

Our role in the community is so important and I was delighted to see the players help promote the Anthony Nolan Foundation’s drive to boost their Stem Cell Register. Anyone aged between 16 – 30 and in good health, can sign up.

Whenever a patient with blood cancer or a blood disorder needs a lifesaving stem cell transplant, the Foundation search the register, looking for someone who’s a genetic match for that patient. Well done lads for raising awareness of this worthy cause.

Craig Masterton, Head of Community Development, and his team are great ambassadors for the club, working in a number of schools and communities. The team are currently working with local school children from Cauldeen Primary School through a new 12-week community project we are delivering in partnership with The Scottish Football Partnership Trust, whose Chief Operating Officer is former ICT favourite, Stuart McCaffrey.

The “GoFitba – Get Fit, Get Healthy, Have Fun” Project is co-funded by The SFP Trust, The UEFA Foundation for Children and The Kilpatrick Fraser Charitable Trust. Pupils from Dalneigh Primary School will take part in the project in the early summer.

On the youth front, it was very encouraging to see our Under 17s striker Daniel Mackay, Millburn Academy, play recently for Scotland Under 18 Schoolboys in the 0-0 draw against Northern Ireland.

Under 20s player, Kieran Chalmers, Dingwall Academy, is another key member of this Scotland squad. Both are due to be involved in Friday’s international against England, being played at York.

Partners’ Continued Support

While the arrangements for the final are the focus of much attention, there are other exciting things happening at the club.

We are delighted to have secured continued sponsorship from McEwan Fraser Legal for the front of our new home and away kits due to arrive in May as well as Subway and Korrie Plumbing for sponsoring the back of the strips.

This will be a third year we have worked with these partner companies. We are most grateful to them for their continued support.

Another boost is attracting funding from The Highland Council’s “Paths for All Project”, which is geared to helping fans stay fit and healthy by making it easier for them to make their way from the city centre to the stadium by bike or by foot. We hope to launch this initiative very soon.

On the business front, we are working very hard to review the way we run our operations to meet the challenges of playing outwith the Premier League. We are working closely with Highlands and Islands Enterprise to become a more community focused club, to improve our marketing /social media platforms and to identify more income-generating schemes.

Our pitch has taken a pounding over the worst winter for a number of years. We are acutely aware of the need for significant improvements. Ground specialists have provided options for upgrading our playing surface and we are currently looking at two separate proposals.

Our groundsman, Dale Stephen, also welcomed the head grounds men of Rangers and Motherwell to the stadium recently to run the rule over the pitch. They gave Dale the benefit of their long experience free of any charge. Their support and advice is much appreciated. Removal of our underground heating system is recommended in both submissions to allow the required drainage.

We have been assured that undersoil heating is no longer a requirement of SPFL membership so is not a determining factor in our decision-making.

Thanks again for all your continued support. We have a really demanding programme of games over the coming weeks. Let’s all get behind the team.

See you at the Cup Final!

Graham Rae