After the SPL honeymoon of 2004-05 this season was expected to be all about survival. It started that way but great performances and results led to a push for a top six finish and Europe via the Intertoto Cup. In the event seventh place was achieved, one better than 2004/05, the points total was considerably higher at 58 but Hibs took the one allocated Intertoto Cup spot. This was not quite the end of the Intertoto saga. UEFA announced that Scotland (therefore ICT) were first reserve in case any club pulled out. The bad news was that this would not be known until 5 June, 16 days before pre season training started. The league cause was helped by the decline in fortunes of Livingston, Dunfermline and Dundee United and also Falkirk's difficulties in adapting to the top flight.
On the managerial front there was disappointment when Craig Brewster was lured to Dundee United mid-season. John Docherty and Charlie Christie took temporary charge and, after three wins in a row, Christie was appointed to the top job (with the title of Head Coach) on a permanent basis with effect from 27 January. It was a popular choice made even better when he brought back Donald Park as his assistant.
Pre season training started on 29 June with two new faces - striker Craig Dargo and defender Tom Parratt. In a break from tradition Craig Brewster took his side to Denmark on 5 July for three pre season matches. They were based at the ground of premier league side FC Nordsjaelland at Farum, half an hour north of Copenhagen, with superb training facilities on hand. They played first division side Nykobing F Alliancen 24 hours after arrival in Denmark and lost 2-1. On 9 July the top match of the mini tour took place against FC Nordsjaelland at Farum. Caley Thistle bounced back from their earlier defeat to win 1-0 thanks to a David Proctor headed goal. Two days later the final match was against the amateurs of Hornbaek and the result was a confidence-inspiring 6-0 win. The following Saturday Colin Hendry's Blackpool came to Inverness and Richie Hart gave Caley Thistle a 1-0 win. On Tuesday 19 July it was off to Peterhead and the Buchan Cup. It ended 0-0 but Peterhead won the cup 7-6 on penalties. A week later the top team played its last pre-season match at Dingwall and lost 2-1 to Ross County.
The SPL campaign started at Falkirk on 30 July as the Bairns made their bow in the SPL and the First Division flag was ceremoniously hoisted at the magnificent Falkirk Stadium. Craig Brewster scored both goals in ICT's 2-0 win. A week later Rangers made their first competitive visit to Inverness in front of a record 7512 crowd and Barry Ferguson earned them a 1-0 win in what was a very close match. A 1-0 win against Dunfermline and draws with Kilmarnock and Dundee United earned sixth spot by the end of August. There was also a resounding 6-1 home win against Alloa in the CIS Cup. In the last two weeks of the summer transfer window Bryan Prunty moving to Airdrie United and Steve Hislop signing for Gillingham. To the delight of all at the club Dennis Wyness arrived on a season's loan from Hearts.
September was less successful with league defeats (all very close) to Motherwell, Hearts and Celtic and just one win - 2-0 against Dundee United at home in the CIS Cup. By the end of the month there was a slip to eighth. Three of the five October matches were draws (Aberdeen, Livingston and Rangers) and one was an excellent 2-1 away win against Hibs. The one defeat of the month was a bad one. The evening of 26 October was one to forget as Falkirk deservedly won 3-0. Eighth place was retained at the end of October and there was no change in November despite being undefeated in the league - a win against Dunfermline and draws with Kilmarnock and Dundee United. There was disappointment on Tuesday 8 November with defeat at the hands of arch rivals Livingston in the quarter final of the CIS Cup. It started well with a Craig Dargo goal in 54 seconds but this was cancelled out by a Livingston goal just before the interval. A Paul Dalglish goal three minutes from the end of extra time was enough to see Livi through to the semi-final. Mark Brown made his 150th appearance in this match and it was 150 in a row. December was much better - two 2-0 wins (against Motherwell and Hibs) and draws with Hearts, Celtic and Aberdeen earned a climb to seventh spot with Craig Brewster being named Bank of Scotland Premierleague Manager of the Month. The Motherwell victory was rather against the run of play but the victory against Hibs on 26 December (the club's 500th competitive game) was well deserved. In between a 0-0 draw away to Hearts ended the high-flying side's 100% record and a 1-1 home draw with Celtic could have gone either way. Craig Dargo scored in a record 31 seconds but John Hartson equalised in 21 minutes then Dargo saw his penalty on the half-hour mark saved by Artur Boruc. On Hogmanay a visit to Aberdeen ended 0-0 but it was an exciting encounter despite the lack of goals.
The new year started with Craig Brewster's 50th game in charge - and in the event his last. The home Tennent's Scottish Cup tie on 7 January against Ayr United did not go according to plan. Brewster made five changes but the new formation did not really click and it ended 1-1. The real trauma of the season started on 10 January when Gordon Chisholm was sacked as manager of Dundee United. Speculation that chairman Eddie Thompson would move for Craig Brewster started even before Chisholm finally left. When Brewster came north from Dunfermline in November 2004 it was known that his first love was Dundee United and that he would relish the chance to return to Tannadice as manager. All in Inverness just hoped that this would be later rather than sooner. Talks began on 11 January and two days later agreement was reached all round. Brewster left for Dundee United taking with him assistant manager Malcolm Thomson and coaches Steve Campbell and Peter Davidson. For the third time in just over three years Director of Football Graeme Bennett set out to find a new manager. Coaches John Docherty and Charlie Christie took charge in the meantime and their first challenge was to handle two games in three days.
Livingston came to Inverness the day after Brewster left and were soundly beaten 3-0. On the morning of the game the club was represented in depth at the funeral of team coach driver Tony Fraser. Tony lost his long fight for life on 11 January and will be remembered fondly by all. He drove the team up and down the country from day one but he was much more than a driver. He took a great interest in everything about the club and was a friend and confidant to players and officials alike. This interest never waned and even close to the end he would talk football for hours. His son Alan is a worthy successor in the driver's seat. Alan was in post just two days later as the team headed for the cup replay at Ayr with Sky TV broadcasting the match live. Despite a delayed arrival (due to technical problems with the bus) and heavy rain ICT recorded a 2-0 win - thanks to a goals from Craig Dargo (a penalty) and Dennis Wyness.
The interim management team took their side to Falkirk the following Saturday with the odds in their favour. Falkirk had not won a home league game all season but, of course, this had to change sometime. Caley Thistle powered to a 4-1 win to ensure they would not be the ones to end that particular record. The result did however give the interim management team of Christie and Docherty a 100% record and strengthened Christie's credentials for the permanent post. After much heart searching he threw his hat in the ring and after speculation linking many others with the post a press conference was called on 27 January. It was no surprise when the new manager was revealed as Charlie Christie assisted by Donald Park - with the titles of head coach and assistant head coach respectively. The club looked forward with confidence to this blend of a football man wedded to the club and another with a long successful history in management and many contacts throughout the country.
The new management team took charge at a time when SPL survival was virtually if not mathematically assured but it was still going to be hard. Park had seen it all before but for Christie this was his first step on the managerial ladder and to start in the SPL was a major challenge. History was however on his side as Craig Brewster had successfully done exactly that in November 2004. In the January transfer window Juanjo moved to Hamilton on loan and in the event did not return to the club. A bad leg injury had kept him out the game for seven months and he could not break back into a team that had grown in SPL stature without him.
The Christie/Park partnership had a baptism of fire when Rangers came north on Sunday 29 January. The match was live on Sky TV and the 3-2 win for Rangers ended Caley Thistle's 11 game unbeaten run. TV pictures confirmed that the home side had been unlucky - one Rangers goal was illegal (Marvin Andrews ‘scored' with his arm) and a penalty should have been awarded when Ian Murray handled in his own box. At the end of January ICT sat proudly in sixth spot. The following Saturday it was Round 4 of the Tennent's Scottish Cup and Partick Thistle were the visitors. It was a hard match which ended 2-2 with the second Partick goal coming from the penalty spot in the dying seconds. It was a bitter result to take but it set up another lucrative replay on 15 February, with Sky TV once more covering the game. In between there were draws with Dunfermline (2-2) and Kilmarnock (3-3). The Killie game was a classic which could have gone either way and was a fine advert for the SPL. The Partick cup tie turned out to be a major disappointment. It ended 1-1 after extra time but Partick won the penalty shoot-out decisively. There was one more February match and a 4-2 win away to Craig Brewster's Dundee United ensured that sixth place was retained.
Into March and a poor start with a 1-0 home defeat to Motherwell. A stirring performance at home to high-flying Hearts on 11 March ended in a goal-less draw. On Wednesday 22 March there was a traumatic visit to Celtic Park where the home fans gathered in droves to celebrate the life of the late Jimmy Johnstone. The new ICT record crowd of 57451 witnessed a narrow 2-1 win for Celtic. It was more emphatic than the score suggests as Richie Hart's goal was merely a consolation in the final minute. The following Saturday Hibs were beaten 2-0 at Easter Road and March ended in sixth place. It was not to last long. The ‘Top 6' race came to a head on April Fool's Day with the visit of Aberdeen on the second last Saturday before the league split. ICT were in sixth spot but Aberdeen won 1-0 and Caley Thistle slipped to eighth. Now it was all down to an away match at Livingston on 8 April. John Robertson's new side were ten points adrift at the foot of the SPL and looking doomed. They had to win this match to give them any remote chance of survival. Caley Thistle had to win and both Motherwell and Aberdeen had to drop points. Livi won 2-1 but for ICT the result was academic - Aberdeen beat Hibs 1-0 to clinch the top six spot. The aim was now to beat last season's points total and overtake Motherwell for seventh spot. Motherwell's visit to Inverness the next Saturday thus took on some significance. Craig Dargo scored for a 1-0 home win and the first target was reached - the 46 points already on the board was more than last season's tally of 44.
The second target came within sight on 22 April when Craig Brewster's Dundee United were beaten 1-0 in Inverness. This set up an interesting visit to Livingston the following Saturday. Livi needed a miracle and in the event results elsewhere did send them to Division One. Livingston old boy Barry Wilson scored a goal in 56 minutes direct from a free kick to hammer the final nail in Livi's SPL coffin. Motherwell's 3-2 defeat by Dunfermline was one of the results that relegated Livingston but it also assured ICT of seventh place. The following Wednesday Falkirk came north for the last ICT home match of the season. A rather dull match was livened by a superb goal from 30 yards by Russell Duncan and Craig Dargos's 20th goal of the season. The 2-0 win extended the SPL unbeaten run to a record four - and four shut-outs at that. Reserve goalkeeper Mike Fraser was given a first start instead of Mark Brown whose record 176 appearances in a row came to an end.
Just one game to go and it was off to Dunfermline on Saturday 6 May. The first half was flat but the second burst into life when Alan Morgan scored from 25 yards in the 53rd minute. There were no more goals so the team finished with an impressive 58 points and a run of five wins out of five after the split. In a strange quirk of the league split ICT finished with more points than fourth placed Hibs. Craig Dargo ended the season as top goalscorer on 20 - and topped it off by taking the Players' Player and Official Website Player of the Year trophies. Darren Dods also took two awards - Supporters' Player and Matchday Programme Player of the Year. Mark Brown won the Supporters' Club Player of the Year cup. Mark Brown made the most appearances with 44 out of a possible 45 - Darren Dods was one behind on 43. With a job well done the players headed off for a break in Magaluf.
At the AGM on 28 November shareholders voted unanimously in favour of the club reverting to a private company and this allowed a £400,000 cash injection from Tulloch Ltd to be made. The AGM also saw Ken Mackie stand down as chairman after three and a half years and his predecessor David Sutherland resume the role. David Sutherland joined the four-man SPL board in August 2005. In March Nigel Spiller left the Board after five years due to pressure of work following his relocation to the Luton area. On the administrative front there were changes to reflect the increased workload and organisational pressures that come with an established SPL club. The main move was the resurrection of the role of Chief Executive with chartered accountant Mike Smith taking office on 1 June. The first wedding ceremony at the stadium took place on 23 July when staunch supporters Emma Stokes and Kevin Fraser tied the knot on the centre spot. Tulloch Caledonian Stadium was chosen as the venue for a Scotland Futures international against Turkey on 15 March. Mark Brown, Craig Dargo and Ian Black featured for Scotland but they lost narrowly 3-2. There was a large local support (and a fair few vocal Turks) which resulted in a 15 minute kick-off delay. The SFA delegation was impressed by the whole operation and support. Further international matches in Inverness are a distinct possibility. The ICT Supporters Trust was launched on 25 August and its first 8-person board was elected in advance of the inaugural AGM on 17 November. Les Kidger was appointed chairman at the first board meeting on 23 November - interim chairman Allan Sellar then stepped down. A dialogue was established between Club and Trust at Chairman level and this should pay dividends in the years to come.