Caley Thistle’s players can use the latter stages of the IRN-BRU Cup to show manager John Robertson they have what it takes for a promotion push, according to former Inverness midfielder Barry Wilson.
Inverness are in semi-final action on Sunday when they take on Northern Irish outfit Crusaders at Caledonian Stadium, aiming to set up a final against The New Saints or Dumbarton next month.
Wilson was part of a team that won the competition in October 2003 thanks to a 2-0 victory over Airdrie at McDiarmid Park in Robertson’s first spell with the club, with the former Livingston winger helping them on their way with a double in the last-four victory over Raith Rovers.
The Highlanders went on to gain promotion to the top-flight later that season and Robertson is aiming to repeat the double feat this term having rejoined Caley Jags last summer, with Inverness four points adrift of the promotion play-off places.
Wilson, who is 46 today, believes Robertson will get an indication of whether his squad can deal with the pressure, and he said: “It’s one of those competitions, that, although it’s not first on the list of priorities, as soon as you start getting to the quarter-finals and semi-finals stage things change.
“When we won it back in 2003, I had just signed for the club from Livingston about two weeks before the semi-final.
“I told John to play the boys that had played in the competition but he said no – even though promotion was the main aim that year, he was wanting to play his best team.
“Everyone does that come the semi-finals stage, the competition takes on a new importance. We were away to Raith Rovers and we won 4-0, I scored twice and Paul Ritchie got a couple as well.
“It’s a big occasion, and you get to see what your players are made of. You always find the better players seem to rise to the occasion in finals.
“It will give John an idea of what his players’ mentalities are and if they can handle a big occasion.
“If they can get into the play-offs they will have two, four, or maybe even six finals to play.
“If you know which ones can handle it, that’s a benefit to the manager.”
Following relegation from the Premiership last season, Wilson believes a cup final would provide a welcome lift for the Caley Jags supporters, adding: “It’s great for fans to get to a final no matter which it is. They have not had much to sing about in the last couple of years, so it would be great if they could progress and get a wee day out for the final.
“Pretty much all of last season was negative stuff and this season started much on the same foot but it has picked up. It would continue the progression John and the players are making. Having watched most of the home games this season I have definitely seen marked progress.”