Copyright Ian Broadfoot
SCOTTISH CUP TRIUMPH 2014-15
A fairytale ending to a fairytale season. A Scottish Cup win, third place in the Premiership and Europa League qualification – it does not get much better than that. When the unified Club entered the Scottish League 21 years ago the optimists looked forward to the day when it would rise to the Premier League. Many laughed at that idea but in the event it happened after ten years. The heights reached in 2014-15 were well beyond anyone’s predictions from the early years. In 2013-14 European qualification was agonisingly close but events on the last day of the season conspired to hand the final place to St Johnstone. The first major cup final was reached in 2013-14 but the League Cup went to Aberdeen on the lottery of penalties. In both cases it was so near so far. These disappointments were more than put right in 2014-15. John Hughes and his men gained high praise up and down the country – and especially in Inverness – for their massive achievements.
In the league relegation was never an issue, a top six spot was on the cards all season and third was held for almost all of 2015 despite a lean spell from late February to early May. On 9 May third place, and therefore Europa League qualification, was confirmed with a 1-0 win over Dundee. In the League Cup there was an early exit to Rangers in September. The Scottish Cup was another matter entirely. St Mirren were disposed of in round four after a replay, Partick Thistle in round five, Raith Rovers in the quarter final then Celtic in the semi-final in dramatic circumstances. It was back to Hampden for the final on 30 May and the glorious day that saw the cup head for Inverness. It was a great day for players, officials, fans and many neutrals who enjoyed seeing the 130th Scottish Cup final end with a win for a provincial team. Twelve months previously another provincial side St Johnstone won the 129th final and the Perth side was a major beneficiary of Caley Thistle’s triumph – after finishing fourth in the league ICT’s cup win gave them the final Europa League slot. Saints would go in at the first qualifying round and ICT at the second.
It was a very quiet summer on the transfer front with few departures and arrivals. The transfer window opened at the end of 2013/14 and closed on 31 August with little business concluded in Scotland and even less in Inverness. Retaining most of last season’s successful squad ensured stability and no need to search around the country for new recruits. There were some departures – Ben Greenhalgh was released in June and joined Maidstone United. Conor Pepper also left and moved to Greenock Morton. Matthew Cooper went to Barry Wilson’s Elgin City and youngsters Adam Evans and Joe Gorman were released. There were only two arrivals – young defender Ryan Baptie, a surprise casualty of the upheaval at Hibs, and midfielder Lewis Horner, an ex-Hibee who was recently with Blyth Spartans.
There were eight away pre-season matches in July with successes against Clachnacuddin, Fort William, Forres Mechanics, Elgin City, Brora Rangers, Raith Rovers, Rothes and Deveronvale. In July 2010 ICT played an away friendly against Fleetwood Town and now it was the English side’s turn to travel – they came to Inverness on 27 July and ICT won 2-1. On 30 July it was back to Grant Street Park and a 2-1 defeat to Clach in the AJG Parcels North Cup. On 2 August it was down to play a friendly against Birmingham City – a reunion for the Shinnie brothers and a 3-1 win for Birmingham.
ICT’s first league match was away to Hamilton on 9 August. Hamilton had gained promotion at the expense of Hibs after the sides met in the first SPFL Premiership play-off at the tail end of 2013-14. It looked all over for Hamilton when they lost 2-0 at home but they recovered in the second leg, won 2-0 and took promotion on penalties. ICT headed for Hamilton with a settled squad and just one newcomer – Lewis Horner took a bench spot after his clearance came through on the morning of the match. It was an ideal start for the Inverness side as they comfortably won 2-0 on Hamilton’s artificial pitch. Billy McKay scored the first in ten minutes after he latched onto a failed back pass from Michael Devlin then in 25 minutes Ryan Christie showed excellent pace and determination to reach and net a ball that was heading for touch after a Michael McGovern save. ICT sat proudly on top of the Premiership but that only lasted 24 hours as Dundee United scored three against Aberdeen in a Sunday match and took top spot on goal difference. There was a midweek goal-less draw at home to Dundee then the following Saturday it was back up to the top courtesy of a 2-0 away win at Motherwell. Two more wins in successive Saturdays retained the number one position through to the end of August – the first was an excellent 1-0 home victory against Celtic and then a 2-0 home win against Kilmarnock. Thus through August ICT scored seven goals and conceded none – an excellent start to the season.
August’s efforts led to three national awards. John Hughes was named Premiership Manager of the Month, Ross Draper SPFL Player of the Month and Ryan Christie SPFL Young Player of the Year.
The unbeaten league run came to an end on 13 September with a 3-1 away to Partick Thistle. This resulted in a drop to second on goal difference from Hamilton with Dundee United third, also on goal difference. Three days later a single goal away to Rangers was enough to end League Cup involvement at the first hurdle. There were two further league matches in September – 2-1 at home to St Johnstone and a 3-2 defeat at Aberdeen. The month finished in third spot on 16 points, three behind leaders Dundee United.
The first Highland derby took place in Inverness on 5 October and it ended 1-1. Former ICT ‘keeper Mark Brown kept Ross County in the game with some excellent saves. A narrow 1-0 win away to St Mirren on 18 October was achieved thanks to a Greg Tansey penalty goal and despite losing Ryan Christie to a second yellow card early in the second half. The final match in October was a 1-0 win at home to Dundee United and it lifted ICT to joint top of the Premiership with Hamilton but second on goal difference. Early in October former Crystal Palace striker Ibra Sekajja signed on a short term contract. In the event he made little impact and left in January for Livingston.
Disappointment at Celtic Park
A trip to Celtic Park on 1 November ended with a 1-0 defeat and a slip to fourth. On 8 November a 4-2 win against Hamilton took ICT back to the top but with Saturday and Sunday matches this could change rapidly. So it proved as 24 hours later Celtic beat Aberdeen to go top on goal difference. This position remained after a 3-1 home win to Motherwell, the final league game of November. Celtic by now had played one match less than their league rivals as they continued in the Europa League having dropped out of the Champions League. They were knocked out of the Europa League on 27 November so could concentrate on domestic matters.
The Scottish Cup started in the fourth round on 29 November away to St Mirren. Marc McAusland gave Saints a 1-0 lead in 17 minutes but Josh Meekings hit an equaliser in 63 minutes after firing through a ruck of players – amidst what the late Arthur Montford would have called a stramash! The replay in Inverness took place on 2 December and this time ICT made no mistake with an emphatic 4-0 win.
December’s league campaign was very disappointing but it did start with a 2-1 win away to Dundee on the 6th. This win pushed ICT back up to second place but it did not last. A week later the unbeaten home record was shattered when Partick Thistle hit four for no reply. Second place was temporarily retained but the visit to Perth on the 20th ended with a 1-0 defeat and a slip to fourth in controversial circumstances. The game was won when Saints’ striker Brian Graham went down in the box and he converted the penalty. TV pictures later confirmed that the ‘culprit’ Dean Brill had made no contact with Graham. The SFA took action and banned the striker for diving but this did not help ICT. It all got worse when Ross Draper saw red for a foul on Simon Lappin. The final match of 2014 was at home to Aberdeen on the 28th. The Dons were having an excellent season and it was no real surprise when they won 1-0. The calendar year ended in a disappointing fifth spot.
Derby day victory
On New Year’s Day the second Highland Derby was held in Dingwall with ICT winning 3-1. It was the start of an excellent run in January. On the 4th St Mirren were beaten 1-0 in Inverness and on the 10th it was 2-1 at Kilmarnock a David Raven red card just after half time. This pushed ICT up to third. A frozen pitch led to postponement of the away match against Dundee United on 17 January then on the 20th the club tried a ‘Pay what you can’ experiment for the home match against St Johnstone in an attempt to increase the crowd. The attendance was just over 3000, not a great result but the experiment did generate good publicity and the match was won 2-0. The away 2-0 victory at Hamilton four days later proved to be Billy Mckay’s last appearance. January was completed on the 31st with a 1-1 home draw against Ross County – a disappointing result as three points would have earned a move up to second.
The opening of the January transfer window brought its usual measure of uncertainty. The transfer window always spawns rumours and this year was no exception – but it was not until the 25 January when rumours surrounding Graeme Shinnie became fact. There had been interest from English Championship sides but Shinnie, out of contract in the summer, decided to sign a pre-contract agreement with his home-town club Aberdeen. A few days later news came through that Wigan Athletic had asked the club for permission to speak to striker Billy MckKay. With Mckay’s contract ending in the summer the club gave permission and he flew south for talks. In the end a substantial sum was paid to ICT and the player left with everyone’s good wishes. It was always known that Mckay was keen to try his luck again in the south and the move was no surprise.
On 7 February the road to Hampden in the William Hill Scottish Cup continued with an away fifth round tie against Partick Thistle. There was some trepidation as Partick had beaten Caley Thistle twice in the league this season but in a closely fought match ICT ran out 2-1 winners. It was back to the league and further success on 14 February with a 2-1 win away to St Mirren. This gave ICT the same points total as second place Aberdeen but they remained third on goal difference.
On 21 February the fans were treated to a goal fest in Inverness with a 3-3 draw against Kilmarnock. Caley Thistle went ahead three times and three times Killie equalized. Three days later there was an incident packed 1-1 draw away to Dundee United. In the ninth minute Marley Watkins was brought down in the box by United ‘keeper Michal Szormnik. A penalty was awarded, Szormnik saw red and Greg Tansey scored from the spot past substitute Radoslaw Cierzniak. A bad tempered match ensued with several players lucky to escape cards. Ryan McGowan equalized in 74 minutes and ICT finished the match with ten men after Gary Warren’s late dismissal following a tussle with Nadir Ciftci. ICT signed Nigerian forward Edward Ofere and he made his debut and scored in a 2-1 defeat at Motherwell on the last day of February. ICT maintained third spot at the end of the month and Ryan Christie was named SPFL Young Player of the Month for the second time this season..
Scottish Cup Quarter Final
In early March Estonian forward Tarmo Kink signed until the end of the season but he was to remain a bit-part player. Heavy rain forced the postponement of the Scottish Cup Quarter Final match in Inverness against Raith Rovers. It was due to be played on 7 March but went ahead on the tenth. The Championship side gave a good account of themselves but Caley Thistle dominated play and won narrowly 1-0 through Danny Devine. This earned a semi final tie at Hampden against Celtic. There was only one league match in March – on the 21st away to relegation threatened Partick Thistle. The Maryhill Magyars eased this danger with a 1-0 victory. The winning goal from Steven Lawless gave the Maryhill side their third league victory over ICT this season.
The first match in April was on the 4th at home to Dundee. The visitors took the lead but ICT came back to make it 1-1. Four days later it was off down the familiar A96 to Aberdeen and a narrow 1-0 defeat. Third place was retained but this defeat meant that Aberdeen were 11 points ahead in second and Dundee United were eight points behind in fourth but with a game in hand. It was now time for a double header against Celtic – a league match in Inverness on 11 April and the eagerly awaited Scottish Cup semi final at Hampden on the 19th. The league match ended 1-1 with both goals being scored in the first four minutes. Celtic took the lead through Leigh Griffiths in the third minute then a minute later Edward Ofere equalised. Apart from the score the match was dominated by a bad injury to Inverness ‘keeper Dean Brill. He was just coming back from a long spell out injured but he only lasted 20 minutes. An accidental clash with Gary Mackay-Steven left Brill in agony with what turned out to be a dislocated knee. It was to keep him out for the rest of the season. Ryan Esson took his place and his fine display helped ICT to take a point. This was, of course, merely a dress rehearsal for the cup match.
A classic Scottish Cup semi-final
Many dates are etched into the Club’s history and 19 April 2015 is now right up there with the best of them. On that day ICT played Celtic in the semi-final of the William Hill Scottish Cup in front of a 28643 crowd dominated, not surprisingly, by fans of the Glasgow side. Last season the latter stages of the cup decamped to Celtic Park because of the Commonwealth Games but now it was back to normality and Hampden. In a strange turn of events one semi-final was between Championship sides Hibernian and Falkirk and the other between first and third in the Premier League. The Hibs/Falkirk match was played on Saturday 18 April with Falkirk narrowly taking the tie 1-0 on a day of bright sunshine. In the past playing big matches on successive days has caused major pitch problems caused by rain but this time the weather gods were kind and both semi-finals took place in excellent conditions. On the appointed day a fleet of buses left Inverness in the early hours aiming for a 1215 kick off – a time dictated by TV coverage. By now ICT fans were resigned to such lack of concern for the distance south from Inverness and they accepted the journey stoically. Celtic were the bookies’ favourites to win the match and to complete a domestic treble. John Hughes and his men were to prove them all wrong.
The side that faced Celtic was along familiar lines but with Ryan Esson stepping in for the unlucky Dean Brill. Celtic pressed hard from kick off and it was no real surprise when Virgil Van Dijk netted a 20 yard free kick in 18 minutes. Just before half time an incident potentially changed the course of the match and led to national controversy. A header from Leigh Griffiths seemed net bound but it struck the arm of Josh Meekings on the line. With a total of six officials on duty it was clear that three of them had seen the incident but decided a penalty was not justified. A 2-0 deficit at that stage could easily have proved decisive.
13 minutes into the second half Celtic ‘keeper Craig Gordon upended Marley Watkins in the box and he saw red. There was no doubt about the sending off and the resultant penalty. There was a long delay while Celtic regrouped with Lukasz Zaluska in goal and it was to Greg Tansey’s great credit that he held his nerve and scored to make it 1-1. The Inverness side grew in stature after that and the match went to extra time. Six minutes into extra time Edward Ofere gave ICT a 2-1 lead but Celtic equalised seven minutes later through John Guidetti. The match looked like going to a dreaded penalty shoot-out but three minutes from time David Raven was the unlikely hero when Graeme Shinnie hit the ball across goal and Raven netted from a difficult angle. The whistle went and Caley Thistle had reached the Scottish Cup final for the first time.
The Meekings incident caused great controversy and almost overshadowed ICT’s great achievement. Celtic were up in arms that Meekings had not been sent off and the SFA Compliance Officer Tony McGlennan took up the case. He offered Meekings a one match ban which would, of course, have meant that he missed the final. Gary Warren had already been ruled out of the final after two yellow cards and losing Meekings would have been a further major blow to the side and devastating for the player. The ban was challenged by the Club and it seemed that everybody in and around the Scottish game (and beyond) had an opinion on the matter. The majority view was that the ban was ridiculous and would have set an unacceptable precedent. At the appeals hearing the Club’s legal team argued that the panel was not entitled to enforce the ban as the officials had seen the incident (as opposed to the offence) and thus no complaint should have been lodged. The panel agreed and justice was clearly served. From the day of the match to the panel’s decision was only four days but it was an intense period that brought the whole compliance procedure into question. For Caley Thistle preparations for the final could start but first there was no small matter of the final league matches of the season and the drive for a Europa League spot. Despite the excellent cup run Caley Thistle were finding it hard to hold their place in the league. With no league victory since 14 February Dundee United and St Johnstone were creeping up behind them. The 2-1 league defeat at home to Aberdeen on 25 April made the situation worse but it did allow Aberdeen to clinch second spot.
On 2 May it was down to Perth and a good chance to open up a significant lead over league rivals St Johnstone. It ended 1-1 so no change there – and Dundee United’s unexpected 1-0 win over Aberdeen did not help matters. Three days later Dundee United came to Inverness for a catch-up match postponed prior to the split. ICT led United and St Johnstone by four points ahead of this encounter and the result was therefore crucial to the Europa league aspirations of all three clubs. Dreadful weather resulted in a very heavy pitch and Caley Thistle lost a bizarre goal in just two minutes. A back pass stuck in the wet ground and Ryan Esson’s attempted clearance allowed Robbie Muirhead to lob into the empty net from distance. Late in the first half goals from Edward Ofere and Danny Williams changed things and ICT ran out 2-1 winners. This result opened up a seven point gap over Europa League rivals with three games left.
Although European qualification was looking likely it still had to be finally earned. This happened on 9 May when third place, and Europa League qualification, was secured by a 1-0 victory away to Dundee with Edward Ofere scoring the crucial goal. Nearest rivals Dundee United and St Johnstone drew 1-1 but it made no difference as three points were more than enough. John Hughes hailed it a ‘fantastic achievement for everyone concerned at the club’. With two league games to go Hughes pointed out that they still owed it to other clubs to keep battling away and cup final places were ‘up for grabs’.
The focus in the Premiership was now fourth spot. Celtic were clear champions, Aberdeen second, ICT third and Dundee United and St Johnstone were both in contention for fourth. If Caley Thistle could win the Scottish Cup then the fourth placed team would take the final Europa League place. St Johnstone’s final two matches were at home to Celtic and away to Aberdeen whereas United had to visit Inverness then play local rivals Dundee. The odds were slightly in favour of United but they were to be disappointed. Saints played Celtic on the evening of Friday 15 May and held the champions to a goal-less draw. The next day ICT dealt Dundee United’s hopes a major blow when they beat them 3-0. The final league match for ICT was at Celtic Park on 24 May. With little to play for John Hughes opted to rotate his squad and rest some players – the weakened side lost 5-0 but it was academic. St Johnstone held a one point advantage going into the final day but United were well ahead of Dundee throughout their match. A late Chris Kane goal at Aberdeen gave Saints an unexpected victory to clinch fourth place.
Scottish Cup triumph
With the league campaign successfully concluded it was time to prepare for the Cup Final at Hampden on 30 May. 12 months ago St Johnstone won the Cup at Celtic Park while the National Stadium was in use for the Commonwealth Games but now it was restored to football mode and the match could take place in the traditional venue. There was great excitement in Inverness with scarves adorning local landmarks, shop displays of support and a general atmosphere of anticipation. The team escaped the build up by decanting to Edinburgh and training in Livingston. On the big day upwards of 14000 fans headed down the A9 in cars, buses, vans and trains. 1000 travellers in 20 buses were hosted en route by St Johnstone in Perth and after suitable refreshments they continued on their way. Any final without an Old Firm presence is dubbed a ‘Family Final’ and this was no exception. Falkirk and Inverness fans mingled in harmony around the stadium and enjoyed the pre-match entertainment on the pitch of Lesser Hampden. By kick-off there were 36000 seated – an excellent crowd for two provincial clubs.
The injury to Dean Brill and suspension of Gary Warren were bitter blows to the players and disruptive to what had been a very settled and successful back five. Ryan Esson replacing Brill was a straight swap but the further withdrawals were more of an issue. A calf injury to David Raven was kept under wraps until the team was announced and his led to a further change in defence. Graeme Shinnie moved to right back, Carl Tremarco came in to left back and Danny Devine played in central defence to partner Josh Meekings. In midfield Aaron Doran came into the starting eleven alongside regular starters Ross Draper, Greg Tansey and Ryan Christie. Edward Ofere played in the striker’s role with Marley Watkins in support.
Falkirk’s preparations were hampered by the lack of a competitive match for four weeks. The Championship season continued with play-off matches but the Bairns were out of the running so had to make do with bounce games in Burnley and Swansea. Their biggest doubt was prolific goalscorer Dundee-bound Rory Loy. He was just coming back from injury and Peter Houston had to decide whether to play him from the start or keep him in reserve. In the event he played the full 90 minutes and was only replaced during added time.
With the sun shining the two teams, six officials and mascots emerged from the tunnel, lined up in the traditional formation, shook hands and posed for photographs. In a neat touch the Caley Thistle team was led out by John Hughes closely followed by club captain Richie Foran whose season was ravaged by injury. As the clock ticked just past 3 pm, the talking stopped and the football finally started. In truth it was not a classic match – clearly nerves played a part – but there was a great deal of endeavour, excitement and talking points.
After a settling in period it was Falkirk who created the first real chances. Two efforts came from Will Vaulks – the first in 19 minutes was an angled 25 yard shot from the left which Ryan Esson held easily and the second eight minutes later was similar from the right but this time it whistled past Esson’s left post. The Falkirk fans furthest from that end were convinced it was in. A minute later Watkins made a good run into the Falkirk box and was only thwarted by a brave sliding tackle from Peter Grant. A further minute later an Ofere header set up Doran on the left of the box but he mishit and Jamie McDonald collected easily. Caley Thistle were now pressurising the Falkirk goal and in 38 minutes it paid off. An excellent move involving seven ICT players ended with a neat Doran pass to Watkins who rounded the diving McDonald and slipped the ball into the empty net for 1-0. As the first half petered out Doran raced in on the Falkirk goal and only another excellent Grant tackle prevented Doran from a one-on-one moment with Jamie McDonald. Scoring the first goal late in the first half gave the Caley Thistle camp some confidence that a cup win was in sight but there was still the certainty that Falkirk would come out fighting in the second half..
Will Vaulks sent in another 25 yard shot in 51 minutes and this time it just flew wide. In 64 minutes a Tansey free kick into the box led to a spot of head tennis before it was cleared. A minute later fine play by Falkirk substitute Botti Biabi led to a low dangerous ball across goal – it was cleared by Meekings for a corner. A second corner ensued and it fell to Vaulks who chipped over the bar. Biabi again headed for goal in 71 minutes and this time he shot just past the post. Caley Thistle replaced Ryan Christie with James Vincent in 72 minutes – this was to prove an inspired change. The main talking point of the match came in 74 minutes when ICT defender Tremarco lost control of the ball in his own half. As Blair Alston raced onto the loose ball Tremarco brought him down. A red card was inevitable and Tremarco left the field visibly upset with club captain Richie Foran attempting to console him. This changed the complexion of the game and spurred Falkirk on to greater things. The Falkirk camp shouted in vain for a penalty in 76 minutes when the ball bounced off Draper’s arm but referee Willie Collum shouted to Falkirk manager Peter Houston that it had been accidental. Two minutes later Danny Williams replaced Doran.
With 11 minutes left Falkirk’s extra man paid off when an Alston free kick was headed home by Grant to make it 1-1. The advantage was now all with Falkirk and the script seemed to be written for the Championship side to snatch a winner. In the event the Caley Thistle defence held out under pressure then, just when extra time seemed on the cards, the tide turned yet again. Man of the Match Watkins won the ball in his own half and raced upfield with three opposition players in pursuit. He sent in angled shot (or was it a cross?) which McDonald failed to hold. He could only parry it and substitute Vincent netted the loose ball – reminiscent of David Raven’s semi final winner. The ICT supporters were jubilant but there was still tension to come. A Falkirk free kick 19 yards out on 89 minutes put pressure on the ICT defence but Alston’s kick came off the wall and Leahy’s follow up went harmlessly over the bar. Nerves jangled when the board went up showing five added minutes. For this final period John Hughes sent on the lively Nick Ross to replace the limping Watkins. Despite ICT fears little of note happened in added time before the whistle went and the cup was on its way to Inverness.
The Inverness crowd went wild, the pitch was flooded with the ICT squad players, management team, players’ families and club officials. It was a magic sight and one that will remain long in the memory. Eventually the officials went up to receive their medals closely followed by the disappointed Falkirk players. Quite rightly they received a standing ovation for their heroic efforts. Finally it was time for Graeme Shinnie to go up to collect the cup and all to be presented with winners’ medals. Then there was a lap of honour, photos and blasts of blue and red ticker-tape which found its way all over the stadium.
Eventually it was all over and the team bus headed back up the road to Inverness via the traditional chip shop stop in Auchterarder. The village was taken over for a while as the cup was paraded in the main street amidst scenes of celebration and many photos. The fun continued the next day in Inverness as the Scottish Cup and players were paraded in an open top bus from the stadium to the Northern Meeting Park. 5000 turned out to witness the event. The Caley Thistle flag flew from the Town House and street traders did brisk business selling flags to supporters. At 315 pm an open topped bus emerged beside the river to be met with cheers which rapidly subsided when it turned out to be a tourist tour. Minutes later the real thing came along Bank Street, crossed the river and headed past Inverness Cathedral where the bells rang out in celebration. It was then on to the Northern Meeting Park where Scooty and the Skyhooks had been entertaining the crowd. John Hughes introduced the players and staff to the supporters and pronounced the turnout ‘absolutely fantastic’. Provost Alex Graham presented Graeme Shinnie with the City of Inverness medal. There was much dancing, chanting then the obligatory spraying of champagne.
Reflecting on the cup win John Hughes stated that he feared Falkirk’s equaliser would lead to extra time: ‘I thought the game was going from us. Falkirk were the better team in the second half and I just don’t know how James Vincent got himself in that position to score. If it had gone to extra time I honestly don’t know if we’d have had enough in the tank to see it out. The spirit we showed to dig it out was exceptional, thankfully they’ve come up trumps.’
Marley Watkins, who scored the first goal and set up the second, remembered a family friend as he celebrated his strike – he held up a T shirt with the words ‘RIP Roy Lewis’ in memory of the former Swansea rugby player who passed away recently. James Vincent rated his goal ‘the best moment of my life’ and was ‘delighted to have been in the right place at the right time’. His comments may not have gone down well in family circles but he rescued some brownie points by dedicating the celebration to his fiancée Nikki. Goalkeeper Ryan Esson said it was ‘an emotional day with a lot of ups and downs but we got there in the end. The overriding feeling right now is relief due to the expectation which was on us.’ Chairman Kenny Cameron was amazed by the size of the crowd at Sunday’s open-top bus celebrations ‘It’s been absolutely superb. Sunday’s turnout in the city was absolutely fantastic. It was wall-to-wall packed with people and it’s tremendous.’ When asked if he could have envisaged such an afternoon in Inverness, he said ‘never in my wildest dreams.’
In recognition of the season’s successes ICT manager John Hughes won two awards – the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) Scotland Manager of the Year and the SWFA (Scottish Football Writers’ Association) Manager of the Year. Nominees for the PFA Player of the Year included Graeme Shinnie. He did not make the final four but was named in the PFA Scotland Team of the Year. Ryan Christie made the final four for the PFA Young Player of the Year award but missed out on the top prize. He was however named the SWFA Young Player of the Year.
Despite departing for Wigan in January 2015 Billy McKay finished the season as the Club’s top goalscorer with 10 strikes – all in the league. Marley Watkins was one behind on nine, seven in the league and two in the Scottish Cup – including the first goal in the final. Midfielder Greg Tansey was third with eight goals, five in the league and three in the Scottish Cup. The maximum number of possible appearances was 45 but no one managed that. Josh Meekings played in 44 matches – 37 out of 38 league and all seven cup matches. Graeme Shinnie played in 43 – 37 league and six cup matches. Greg Tansey and Ryan Christie were close behind on 42.
The end of season 2014-15 saw the retirement of long serving programme editor Bryan Munro. Bryan’s service stretched back to Caledonian FC days and his knowledge, diligence and skills will be sorely missed.
So as everyone looks forward to European football in Inverness we can indulge in a spot of nostalgia. The successes of 2014-15 have been a tremendous way to celebrate 21 years in the Scottish League and a history of 130 years dating back to the roots of Inverness Thistle and Caledonian. If it was hard for supporters in 1994 to predict what would happen in the ‘big time’ one can only imagine the reaction of the school of 1885!
It was now time to enjoy a short close season, await the Europa League draw and dream of foreign travel.