Keeping leading scorer Miles Storey at Inverness until the summer was John Hughes’ priority this month, so Caley Thistle supporters will be delighted he has managed to do that just six days into the transfer window.
The on-loan Swindon Town attacker has proven a valuable asset to Caley Jags since arriving on transfer deadline day in September, netting eight goals in only 16 appearances.
His arrival came at a time when the club needed him most, with summer addition Dani Lopez doing little to convince Hughes he was the man to fill the void left by Billy Mckay and Edward Ofere before him.
With Spanish attacker Lopez finding the net just once in the opening eight games of the season, a reliable attacking option was needed, and Caley Jags managed to unearth one in the nick of time.
The fact Lopez has made only two substitute appearances since Storey’s arrival speaks volumes about how rapidly the Englishman has hit the ground running. After he netted four goals in his opening five games, Caley Thistle supporters knew they had a talent on their hands.
It was a question of for how much longer, though, after he showed that streak was no flash in the pan by maintaining his consistent penalty box record right up to Saturday’s victory over rivals Ross County.
While the player made it clear he wanted to remain at Caledonian Stadium – and prolong what he has described as the best stint of his career – Hughes indicated talks with Swindon were proving tricky.
The attacker’s form north of the border – and his value to Caley Jags – naturally increased the English League 1 outfit’s bargaining power in commanding a greater share of his wages. Hughes also spoke of the difficulty he had in raising the issue with Swindon chairman Lee Power – a former team-mate of his at Hibernian – due to the Robins’ more pressing need to appoint a new manager following the resignation of Martin Ling due to health reasons.
The desired outcome has been reached however, and Storey will aim to pick up from where he left off when Inverness begin their defence of the Scottish Cup in Saturday’s fourth round tie against Stirling Albion.
The 22-year-old’s extension comes as a further boost to Caley Jags, who have discovered real cause for optimism in recent weeks.
Having ended 2015 with an unbeaten December, Inverness began the new year with aplomb, cruising to a 2-0 victory in the Highland derby, which stretches their run to five games without defeat.
There was a stage earlier in the season when Caley Jags’ results seemed to be dependent, one way or the other, on whether Storey found the target. While his four games without a goal hardly got alarm bells ringing, a greatly encouraging aspect of December’s run was the emergence of midfield players capable of helping Storey carry the scoring burden, with Liam Polworth, Greg Tansey and Iain Vigurs all firmly amongst the goals.
As long as they keep that up, the blow of losing Ryan Christie to Celtic will certainly seem softer than had been anticipated.
All transfer activity was on hold until Storey’s future was resolved, and while there is much to be upbeat about within the current squad, there is still a long way to go in the transfer window should Hughes look to bolster his options.