Former Caley Thistle forward Graham Bayne feels manager John Robertson deserves praise for sustaining a Championship promotion charge for a second successive season.
Inverness are fourth in the table, six points behind third-placed Dundee United, ahead of Saturday’s Highland derby away to Ross County.
Although Caley Jags are 11 points adrift of league leaders Ayr United, the Highlanders are firmly in the mix for a promotion play-off place.
Following a rocky start to life in the second tier after their relegation from the Premiership in 2017, a late rally saw Robertson’s men finish just two points adrift of fourth place last season.
Bayne, who played under Robertson during the Hearts legend’s first spell as Caley Jags boss, between 2002 and 2004, feels his former manager has done well to keep Inverness competing at the top end of a competitive league.
Bayne said: “A bit of consolidation was exactly what they were needing.
“To be where they are, from the money they had and where they looked like they were going, is fantastic.
“It’s great they are being spoken about in those terms, rather than teams like Livingston who tumbled back down the leagues for a long time, even though they have come all the way back up again and are going great guns in the top-flight.
“You look at Partick Thistle, who held their own in the Premiership for a long time, and now they are tumbling down.
“I was just hoping that would not be the case for Inverness, having been quite a young club that came through the leagues incredibly quickly to get to the Premiership and win the Scottish Cup.
“It was an unbelievable story and I just hoped it wouldn’t be a decline back into the middle of the Championship or even League 1.
“They have hardly been beaten this season. If they could just turn a couple of extra draws into wins, they are not far off it at all.”
Bayne, who joined Caley Jags from Highland rivals Ross County ahead of their debut top-flight campaign 14 years ago, says a strong team spirit has always been at the heart of Caley Jags’ success.
The 39-year-old added: “The secret of Inverness doing so well was the togetherness of it. We knew we were not the best players in the country.
“We ended up finishing eighth in the league.
“With the squad being so tight, it can work as long as you’ve got the right players with the right attitude.”
Robertson is targeting reinforcements in next month’s transfer window, having operated with a depleted squad in recent weeks, but Bayne is hopeful some of the club’s young players can stake a claim in the coming weeks.
He added: “I’m really close with Barry Wilson. I speak to him most weeks and went up in the summer to take in a bit of training.
“It was really early on but he told me about what a really healthy crop of under-18s he had.
“It’s brilliant to have a group of local boys like that coming through. Even though his squad is thin he will know, if these boys are capable and good enough, he will give them a chance.”