Caley Thistle defender Kevin McNaughton knows the morale-sapping effect a poor campaign can have on a dressing-room but he believes Inverness remain determined to meet the challenge of securing Premiership survival.
McNaughton suffered relegation from the English Premier League with Cardiff City in 2014, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer unable to save the Bluebirds from the drop after replacing Malky Mackay midway through the campaign.
The former Aberdeen player is facing the prospect of another relegation this season, with Caley Jags four points adrift at the foot of the table going into today’s trip to Kilmarnock, which is the first of three matches left to avoid automatic demotion.
McNaughton does not sense the same turbulence as he experienced three years ago, however, and he feels last weekend’s crucial 2-1 victory against Hamilton Accies has given Richie Foran’s men added impetus to beat the drop.
McNaughton said: “At Cardiff, the low mood was far more apparent. There was a new manager who came in and brought in quite a lot of new players. It just didn’t settle.
“I was on loan at Bolton and came back for the last four or five months of the season. I even noticed it when I came back. The atmosphere in the changing room was pretty toxic.
“In the end, it probably showed on the park because we ended up being relegated.
“It’s weird, though – I don’t get that feeling here. We’re bottom of the table but there is still good belief we can get out of it.
“There is a decent togetherness. We were low after the Ross County match but victories help lift the place. The victory at the weekend helped massively coming off two bad results and pretty terrible performances.
“The atmosphere in the camp does dip a bit and the only way you can sort it is by winning.
“What we did at the weekend has freshened up the place quite a bit.”
Dundee-born McNaughton, who has four Scotland caps, feels he and the other experienced players in the Highlanders’ dressing-room have a responsibility to be a calming influence on the younger members of the squad and he added: “It’s that stage of the season where boys can lose a bit of form and confidence can be an issue – certainly for younger lads.
“I went through spells, especially when I was younger, where I went through a dip in form and it took a while to get out of it.
“We have to keep on at the boys and try to raise their spirits. It’s a tough situation but we have to be relaxed as well. Sometimes it can be so tense, trying to play football is difficult – ask anyone.
“We try and strike a balance and keep it upbeat.
“I got the captaincy at Cardiff a few times, during the play-offs, and that’s when I began to assume that responsibility. That was a good experience and I learned a lot from it.
“I have to try and set an example on and off the park. There are young players here and if I can do anything to help them, I will.”