Charlie Christie has taken in Caley Thistle’s journey from numerous different vantage points. Underneath it all lies a sense of pride at what has been achieved in 25 years of his hometown club.
Midfielder Christie was with Caledonian when they controversially merged with rivals Thistle in 1994 to create Caley Jags, with his decade-long service to the club as a player starting in the Third Division and culminating with their promotion to the top-flight under John Robertson.
After coming through such a fractious amalgamation, Christie says club’s early success quickly vindicated the decision to unleash a joint Inverness force on the Scottish leagues.
Christie said: “Nobody can question it been the right thing for north football. It gives me immense pride to play a part in it.
“I remember Doug McGillivray saying we would be in the Premier League within 10 years. We all thought he had too many Whyte and Mackays, but he was proved right as exactly 10 years later we gained promotion to the Premier League.
“Under Steve Paterson we played some really terrific football – it was a really good time to be a Caley Thistle fan.
“We were on the up, with healthy crowds against lower league teams, and I think by then the animosity had died down.
“There were still some people, but we are not talking about hundreds of folk, just dozens.
“When we got promotion from the Second Division to the First Division, by that time we were a full-time club.
“I think everyone then really saw the potential of the club.
“We maybe sometimes underestimate what we have managed to achieve in Inverness.
“I often say, go and speak to the likes of Brechin or Montrose who have been in the Scottish leagues for over a century and not sniffed at what we’ve done.”
Although he had retired by the time Inverness assumed their place in the Scottish Premier League, Christie made a telling contribution to the club’s initial five-year top-flight stint by overseeing successive seventh and eighth placed finishes in an 18-month spell as manager.
Christie’s path with Caley Jags came full circle in 2015, when he was at Hampden Park to watch his son Ryan play his part in helping the club win the Scottish Cup with a 2-1 victory over Falkirk to claim its first major silverware.
With the 24-year-old now at Celtic and a full Scotland international, Christie feels he is an inspiration to local youngsters, adding: “My father and brother both played, so football has been a big part of our lives since before the 1950s.
“Ryan is just the pinnacle. He came through the system and joined the club at eight and a half years old – and just over 10 years later he became a Scottish Cup winner, having played at every age level.
“It has been a big part of his life. He talks really fondly of the seven years he had in the youth setup at Caley Thistle.
“Now here he is sitting with the full squad with the League Cup, Scottish Cup and a league winners’ medal.
“I’m very proud of him. I don’t tend to go over the top, but he puts a lot into his game. It’s great to see a local lad who has come through our system – we have had a few. It’s great to get these homegrown guys through.”
Christie, who was 27 when Caley Jags were formed, has one solitary regret from his time with the club, and he added: “The only thing I wish is that I was younger when we first came into the league. I would have been fairly confident I would have progressed right through the leagues and ended up playing in the Premier League with my hometown club.”