Caley Thistle have asked club captain Gary Warren to leave the club as they look to slash their wage bill for a second season in the Championship.
Manager John Robertson said the decision had been taken reluctantly but his “Premiership wage” had forced the club’s hand.
Should Warren be unable to find a new club then he will remain with the Caley Jags, as his contract does not expire until the end of next season. It mirrors the situation David Raven and Owain Fon Williams found themselves in last season, with Raven leaving in January for Wrexham and Fon Williams loaned out to USL side Indy Eleven.
Warren took over the captain’s armband after Richie Foran’s retirement in 2016 and after missing two cup finals through suspension, finally got his winner’s medal in Caley Thistle’s 1-0 IRN-BRU Cup final victory over Dumbarton.
The financial situation, with a reduction in parachute payments from £300,000 to £150,000, and the absence of the UEFA solidarity payment from Celtic’s Champions League performances, means Robertson has less money to play with. Long-serving defender Warren appears to be the first casualty.
Robertson said: “I spoke to Gary a few weeks back and discussed the club’s budget situation. With the cuts we are facing again, I explained the best solution for the club would be to move Gary on as he is on a Premiership wage and appearance fee.
“But I also made it clear I recognised he was under no obligation to go anywhere unless the move benefitted him and his family. I’ve said, if he stays, the club would have to honour his deal.
“This has nothing to do with Gary’s ability, commitment or leadership as all are excellent. He will remain captain as long as he is here. It is simply down to finances and dealing with players on a Premiership wage while we are in the Championship and don’t have the same income from generated from prize money and gate receipts.”
The 33-year-old was a Terry Butcher signing, joining from Newport County in 2012 and forming a strong partnership at the back with Josh Meekings.
Suspension saw him miss the 2014 League Cup final against Aberdeen and the Scottish Cup triumph against Falkirk a year later.
He came back from a broken leg in the 2015-16 season and was part of the side that dropped into the Championship last year.
Robertson added: “We have circulated Gary’s availability but stress that it has to be right for Gary as he has a year left. My job on behalf of the board is to get the wage bill down to a sustainable and affordable level for the club going forward.
“Gary’s agent has been made aware of the situation and everyone is working towards finding the best solution possible.”