Cooney and Black

Caley Thistle must enjoy the moment of this cup final. But don’t dare turn on John Hughes and those players who remain next season if they are incapable of replicating their success.

Inverness cele


AS a token Invernesian residing in the Highland capital, I have this simple message for Caley Thistle fans: Enjoy the moment.

The slogan “It’s Our Time!” – adorning lamp posts, shop frontages, pubs, clubs, buses, taxis and the pages of the local newspapers – was never truer as ICT stand on the cusp of Scottish Cup final glory.

But, while the dream of national silverware may be about to be fulfilled against Falkirk, do not dare to assume that ICT’s current status will go unchallenged for long.

I made that mistake back in 1962 when my team, Dundee, were crowned Scottish League Champions.

The following season, they also reached the last four of the European Cup in a truly golden age for the Dens Park club.

Since then, more than half a century later, the trophy count is one League Cup final victory and a whole lot of heartache.

The fact is provincial clubs – and let there be no mistake, with the exception of Aberdeen, clubs outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh are exactly that – are not entitled to expect to be winning leagues and cups on a regular basis.

A much smaller fan base equals lack of financial clout to compete on a level playing field with the Old Firm. Yes, Rangers remain a potential powerhouse in spite of what some would try to have you believe to the contrary.

It has taken ICT 21 years to reach their first Scottish Cup final and it may be another 21 before they do so again.

But nothing should be allowed to detract from their very fine accomplishment in a season of remarkable over-achievement, also culminating in third place in the SPFL and with it a passport into the Europa League qualifiers for the first time.

The club’s chairman, Kenny Cameron, informed me recently that I was being “disrespectful to our players” by describing ICT’s feats as over-achievement. It must be hoped that he did so tongue-in-cheek, otherwise he risks being struck down by illusions of grandeur!

John Hughes, a very worthy recipient of both the Scottish Football Writers’ and the PFA Manager of the Year awards, and his players have excelled, just as they did 15 months ago in reaching the League Cup final.

But can we really expect more of the same next season? I very much doubt it , although I will be happy if I am proved wrong in that assertion.

Hughes’ stock has risen considerably, while his players are in the shop window for all to see.

With the captain, Graeme Shinnie, already Pittodrie-bound immediately following the cup final, do not be at all surprised if others such as Ryan Christie, David Raven, Josh Meekings, Marley Watkins, Aaron Doran and Edward Ofere follow in the full-back’s wake.

That’s a plain fact of life for clubs in the sticks that suddenly get themselves noticed.

But don’t dare turn on Hughes and those players who remain next season if they are incapable of replicating their success, for they have already delivered very much more than is reasonable to expect.

Are you also listening, Mr Chairman?


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