Ryan’s memories of the club’s greatest achievement
30 May marked the fourth anniversary of the most famous day in the 25 year history of our club –the day we won the William Hill Scottish Cup at Hampden, beating Falkirk 2-1.
It was the pinnacle of the outstanding career of ICT goalkeeping legend Ryan Esson, who is being rewarded by supporters for his 11 years service with a testimonial.
A highly successful dinner was held recently at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness, and further events are planned by the testimonial organising committee. From Aberdeen, Ryan played 100 times for the Dons and won 7 Under 21 Scotland caps after making his debut in 2000.
He had spells with Rotherham United and Shrewsbury Town before ICT Manager Craig Brewster signed him from Hereford United in August 2008. Including friendlies, Ryan made 228 starts in goal for the club, with 64 shut outs. He won 2 Player of the Year awards. He is now our goalkeeping coach and also assists with the management of the highly promising and league winning Under 18 squad with Barry Wilson.
Here Ryan tells of his highlights at the club.
It is difficult not to begin my story without focusing on that unforgettable day – Saturday 30 May 2015. We were favourites to win the Scottish Cup and that brings its own pressures. We had beaten the cup favourites Celtic in the Semi-Final after a truly magnificent 3-2 victory after extra time and our opponents, Falkirk, played in a lower league, the Championship. We knew we were in for a tough game and prepared thoroughly.
We had a fantastic support in a crowd of 37,149 and we had the upper hand in a first half. Marley Watkins gave us a deserved 1-0 interval lead. Unfortunately things changed in the second half and we came under pressure when we went down to 10 men and they equalised through Peter Grant with 10 minutes remaining.
But then our Manger John Hughes made an inspired substitution, bringing on midfielder James Vincent at right back. With only 4 minutes remaining, James popped up at the other end of the pitch to follow up a Marley shot which the Falkirk keeper Jamie MacDonald parried into his path to slide home the winning goal.
What a fantastic feeling to win the Scottish Cup. The celebrations that followed were a blur but I do recall parading the cup in Auchterarder’s High Street on the way home and the open-decked bus ride through the streets of Inverness to the Northern Meeting Park on the Sunday. You just can’t beat that winning feeling.
We had that winning feeling in season 2009/10 under the guidance of Terry Butcher with another memorable success in gaining promotion to the Premier League by winning the Scottish Football League Division 1. At one point in the season, we trailed Dundee (who had beaten us in that season’s Scottish Challenge Cup Final 3-2) by 15 points but we bounced back in unbelievable style. We strung together an unbeaten run of 22 games, including 14 clean sheets, to win the league title with two games to spare. Our momentum blew Dundee away.
There have been so many other highlights during my time with the club. I have learned a lot from the managers I have played under and am putting this to good use as I adapt to the dual role of goalkeeper coach and Under 18 manager alongside Barry Wilson. It is a job I am really enjoying.
This season has been a really good one – reaching the Scottish Cup Semi Final and making the Semi-Final of the SPFL Premiership Play Offs. I’m sure Robbo will assemble a strong first team squad for next season, capable of improving on our third place this year and take us to the Premiership, where we want and need to be.
It has been a pleasure to work with our title winning Under 18 squad, who have now won back-to-back national titles. We have some outstanding young players, who have entertained those who come down to watch them play with an exciting brand of attacking football. Many have the ability to join the first team squad, make a first team place their own and go places in the game.
I keep emphasising that the hard work is done on the training ground . The players will continue to develop as they adapt to life as a full-time footballer and meet the mental and physical challenges of this career.
11 years on, I am delighted and humbled to be benefiting from a testimonial year and I am indebted to the organising committee for all their efforts on my behalf. The testimonial dinner was a great night for me, my wife, parents and family, who thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. I was delighted that the committee chose John Hartson as the guest speaker. He has had such a great career with Luton, Arsenal, West Ham United, Wimbledon, Celtic and Coventry, being involved in transfers totalling £35 million. He has also survived life-threatening cancer and his story of recovery is an inspiration to all of us.
I am very grateful to our loyal fans and my sponsors over the years for their support and friendship during my time here.
The club has come a long way in 25 years and the future is bright if we promote our own young talent and let them flourish.