Ross County midfielder Ross Draper believes the return of the Highland derby against Caley Thistle is a timely tonic for the area following the relegation of both clubs from the top-flight.
After spending last season in separate divisions, the two clubs will meet again for the first time in nearly 17 months when County host Inverness at Victoria Park.
After finishing bottom of the Premiership last season, County’s relegation to the second-tier saw them follow in the footsteps of Caley Jags who were demoted 12 months previously.
Englishman Draper was part of both relegations, having crossed the Kessock Bridge to join County in a £100,000 deal last summer.
The 29-year-old feels today’s encounter, which is expected to attract a crowd of more than 5,000, will come as a boost following a difficult period for both clubs.
Draper said: “The one good thing to possibly come from relegation is the Highland derby.
“It gets fans back together and stadiums full, and bragging rights for fans. It’s good for the area.
“If both clubs are in the Championship, as we have found ourselves, it’s better that we are up there fighting to get back into the Premiership.
“Hopefully in two or three years time – or even this time next year – we can have both teams up there.
“It’s a tough ask for both teams to get up this season, but that’s our aim and I’m sure it’s their aim as well.”
Draper will line up against Caley Thistle for the first time since his departure if selected, while team-mates Billy Mckay, Iain Vigurs and Don Cowie could also face their former club.
Draper lined up in Inverness colours when the two sides last met in a 4-0 victory for the Staggies in April 2017, and he hopes to bury memories of the chastening experience which was a severe blow to Caley Jags’ survival hopes.
He added: “In the last one, with Inverness, we had a chance to claw teams back in.
“To get beaten 4-0 – and convincingly as well – was tough to take. That went a long way to relegating the club, to be honest.
“We picked up a bit after that, we won three of the last four, so a result here may have changed things.
“It was just the performance which made it a bad feeling. The relegation was not nice, the same with what happened here the following season.
“Hopefully a good result on Saturday can replace that and we can get going again.”