Jordan MacDonald will relish his Clach team being the first opponents of Caley Thistle under new head coach Billy Dodds.
The Championship side kick off their preparations tomorrow evening (Wednesday, 7.30pm) at Grant Street Park against their city neighbours from the Highland League.
The Merkinchers began their matches on Monday with a winning run-out against Forres Thistle, but the standard rises several levels when Dodds’ Caley Jags come calling.
MacDonald wants his players to get the benefits of taking on a team from the second tier of Scottish football.
He said: “This will be a great test for our players. We know we are in for a hard night’s work. That’s what it’s all about.
“We’re delighted to be hosting Caley Thistle. Pre-season or not, the players will still look forward to it and enjoy it. Their fitness levels are looking good.
“It will be good to have some fans back into the game too. I think we only had one game in front of them last season. That was a Scottish Cup game (a 2-1 defeat against Caledonian Braves in December).
“It will be a bit strange, but good nonetheless. Everyone just wants out to see live football.”
We still have some tickets remaining for tomorrow evenings match against @ICTFC at Grant Street Park. In person from Dalneigh Stores, ICT Social Club, Smithton Hotel, Innes Bar and Rodgers on Grant Street. Digital tickets from @Fanbase_clubshttps://t.co/oQu2S6QVoj
See you there. pic.twitter.com/uJphOOP7Yi
— Inverness Clachnacuddin FC (@clachfc) June 22, 2021
This will be the second match in three days for Clach and MacDonald was thrilled to have handed two debuts to teenage defenders in a winning bounce game at Forres Thistle.
He added: “We were in Forres on Monday and that was really good. It got minutes in the players’ legs, which is what we’re looking for.
“We’ve been back just over two weeks. Every single one of the players have worked so hard. We’re quite happy with how we’re looking at the moment, but they will look even better in a couple of weeks.
“We gave 16-year-old Finlay Mackenzie and Jamie Calder, who is 17, their debuts on Monday. They are both centre-halves and they did very well in their first matches for the club.”
Coaching know-how can help Lilies kick on
It’s been a summer of comings and goings at Clach with a range of new contracts handed out to a mixture of young and experienced players.
With coach Gary Farquhar moving on, MacDonald’s coaching set-up has a new look ahead of the new campaign.
Tommy Wilson, the recent former Strathspey Thistle assistant manager, joins Clach number two Michael Mackenzie, while midfielder Martin Callum will combine playing with coaching.
The Lilies boss is satisfied to have such a varied group of coaches by his side.
He explained: “Michael and I have worked together before and he is brilliant at what he does. I trust him 100%.
“When Gary left, we were looking for someone. We were ideally looking for someone in-house and when we spoke to Martin about his new deal (as a player) he said he’d like to get into coaching as well. He has been around the club for a long time, so we’re delighted.
“Tommy has come in from Strathspey. He has that Highland League experience and has great ideas.
“He’s enthusiastic with bundles of energy and he is a genuinely good coach, which will really help us.
“The good thing is we all want to play the same way. We bounce ideas off one another.”
Experience added to the mix at Grant Street
Clach have been adding to their squad over the past couple of months.
The latest pieces of the jigsaw were defender Michael McRobert signing from North Caledonian League side Loch Ness and striker Alan Kerr signed a one-year extension last week.
🔙🔜 We begin our pre-season preparations this Wednesday as we travel to Grant Street to face @clachfc
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) June 21, 2021
The manager said: “It’s no secret we have a young squad. We just need to add a wee bit of experience.
“We do have good experience within the club, but we can’t ask the same ones to continually help the young boys.”
Huntly are their first home opponents on July 31 before they take on Wick Academy away on August 7 and Strathspey Thistle at home seven days later.