Caley Thistle manager John Robertson says the Highland League’s rejection of their colts team proposal prompted the club to send nine of its youngsters on loan to Fort William.
Goalkeeper Martin MacKinnon, defenders Donald Morrison, Gabriel Hastings, Ryan Fyffe and Harry Nicolson, midfielders Jack Brown and Kieran Chalmers, and attackers Ross Gunn and Roddy Kennedy have completed deals to spend the new campaign at Claggan Park.
Inverness have high hopes for the batch of youngsters, who helped the club’s under-18s team win the performance tier league title last season.
With the bulk of that squad now too old to play in Barry Wilson and Ryan Esson’s team, and the club having opted to scrap their Development League team two years ago, Inverness have been forced to explore new ways of gaining senior experience.
Caley Jags earlier this summer attempted to enter a colts team into the Highland League, however the member clubs instead voted to proceed with a 17-team league following Cove Rangers’ promotion to League 2.
Robertson is pleased to find a solution following the failure of their initial plan, and he said: “It has been a slow burner. Our plan A was simple – we wanted a team in the Highland League.
“To this day we are still hugely disappointed it didn’t go ahead. We gave all the guarantees the Highland League required, and it would be reviewed at the end of every season.
“There was no reason for the league not to vote us in, we still haven’t been told why other than they were scared of Cove Rangers coming back down – but I think there’s more chance of them winning the league than getting relegated.
“We’ve not had any clear indications as to why they didn’t want us in.
“It was the Highland League’s gift to give, they didn’t give us it and we don’t bear any grudges. We had to look at a plan B.”
Robertson confirmed Fort are under no obligation to field the loanees, and he hopes the Lochaber outfit can benefit from the deal after finishing rock bottom of the table on -7 points without winning a solitary game last season.
He added: “We checked the league rules, and there was nothing in terms of the amount of players you could loan.
“We put it out to a few clubs discreetly and Fort William were very keen.
“They have a squad of about 14, so it gives them a very healthy squad. It’s not a takeover or a feeder club – Fort William have not won a game for two and a half years.
“It made sense that if we could help them win a few games, it would help us. We don’t expect all nine to play every week, and we are not influencing the team manager’s selection.”