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 with Inverness four points adrift of the play-off places.
Wilson believes Robertson will get an indication of whether his squad can deal with the pressure and said: “It’s one of those competitions that, although it’s not first on the list, at 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 wantied to play his best team.
“Everyone does that come the semi-finals, the competition takes on a new importance.
“It’s a big occasion, and you get to see what your players are made of. You find the better players rise to the occasion in finals.
“It will give John an idea of what his players’ mentalities are like 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 who 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. 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.”