John Robertson is warning Championship rivals that Caley Thistle’s squad is stronger than last season in every department.
The former Hearts hero endured play-off heartache against Dundee United last season after Inverness finished third in the second tier.
The loss of creative talents like Liam Polworth to Motherwell and Joe Chalmers to Ross County were a concern to supporters heading into the close season. But on a limited budget, manager Robertson again appears to have recruited shrewdly with three attacking and two midfield additions.
The club’s Scottish Cup final goal hero James Vincent is back from Dundee, while Geordie David Carson – a former Blackburn Rovers youth – was prolific from midfield for non-league Morpeth Town last season.
Ex-Hamilton striker James Keatings, ex-Hearts target man Nikolay Todorov and young, pacey Middlesbrough loanee Mitchell Curry bolster an attack that struggled for goals at crucial moments last season.
Robertson, who still wants to strengthen further, is clearly happy with his recruitment drive and is looking for every player to stake a claim in today’s twin friendlies away to Clach and Strathspey Thistle.
Robertson, who yesterday secured teenagers Cameron Harper and Roddy MacGregor on new contracts until 2022, said: “We have the likes of Jordan White and Todorov who will compete for the target man aspect.
“But what we now have is James Keatings and Mitch Curry challenging the likes of Tom Walsh, Aaron Doran and Daniel Mackay for places in our three-pronged attack.
“We ask our wide players in the 4-2-3-1 to come inside and play in pockets as strikers and it’s the same when we play our 5-2-3.
“The biggest headache I want this year is who is not starting. Last year, picking our starting 11 was pretty straightforward.
“We didn’t have enough depth and quality to change it that much. I think we do have that this year.
“We have three quality goalkeepers who can all start. We’ve got six defenders of which, usually, four will start and four central midfielders for two spots.
“And we feel now we’ve got six quality forwards for three or four positions. We’ve also got quality young players ready to step up and push for places.
“It is down to them. The challenge is laid out for all of the players when we start on Saturday and Tuesday with double-dunt games.
“Then we’ll really start to hone in on the Aberdeen, Hearts and St Johnstone friendlies to get ourselves ready.
“The biggest headache a manager can have is when he is sitting with 18 players, fully fit, all doing really well in pre-season, thinking ‘who am I leaving out?’
“If everybody hits the ground running and does what they’re capable of, that’s going to be the tough bit for myself, Scott Kellacher and Barry Wilson.
“We’ll have a massive problem – and it’s a massive problem we want.”