Caley Thistle’s last meeting with Clyde came 15 years ago, but the game’s significance will never be lost on Steven Hislop.
Inverness went into the penultimate game of the 2003-04 season away to Clyde trailing the Bully Wee by two points at the top of the First Division, with a win for the Cumbernauld outfit securing their promotion to the top flight.
With the game in the balance after Liam Keogh’s opener for Caley Jags had been cancelled out by an Ian Harty penalty, Hislop was the Highlanders’ hero as he headed home a late winner just six minutes after replacing Paul Ritchie, ensuring John Robertson’s men went into the final day with their title fate in their own hands.
Forward Hislop, who also had spells with Ross County, Gillingham and Livingston, ranks the goal high among the highlights of his career.
He said: “We knew what we had to do. It was more or less win or bust. If they won it was league over.
“It was probably our team spirit that got us through that day.
“It was one of the best teams I played with in terms of spirit and togetherness. I think that’s what showed, and it’s why the club have been very successful at times.
“Back then, it was certainly very significant. I can’t believe it’s 15 years ago – but I can still remember the goal clear as day.
“I was more or less just inside the box. I’ve got a great photo of it in my house from behind me as it goes into the top corner.
“Liam Keogh played the ball in from the right, it was inch-perfect and I just had to time it well.
“It couldn’t have nestled into the top corner any better. It didn’t matter who scored but it’s special when you score goals like that, when it means so much to the club.
“It’s probably my best footballing memory – it’s the most important goal I have scored.”
Inverness still had work to do, however their 3-1 final day victory at home to St Johnstone in front of a crowd of more than 6,000 meant Clyde’s 5-2 victory against Brechin City was irrelevant.
Hislop added: “We knew it was in our hands. I remember the St Johnstone game kicked off five minutes late because there was so much of a crowd coming in.
“As we kicked off, Clyde were already winning 2-0. That was a wee bit of extra pressure, but at the end of the day it was no more than we deserved.
“All throughout the season we were the best team in the league. We were not lucky, we were the best team.
“It was nip and tuck all the way, but for me the team spirit got us over the line.”
Caley Jags take on Clyde for the first time since the fateful Broadwood encounter when they host Danny Lennon’s men in the quarter-finals of the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup.
Since winning their first promotion to the Scottish Premier League the Highlanders have spent 12 of the subsequent 15 years in the top flight, although they are currently in the second tier in Robertson’s second stint in charge.
It has been a far less enjoyable period for the Bully Wee, who slipped to the bottom tier where they spent nine years prior to winning promotion to League 1 last season, and Hislop notes the differing fortunes of the two sides.
The 41-year-old added: “Clyde went into freefall. I played there with Livingston and there was a bit in the programme about the fact that since that day, they just went downhill.
“Inverness have been up and down a wee bit, but I’m not so sure they will win the league this year. I just think Dundee United will be a bit too strong in terms of the budget and squad they have got.
“Hopefully they can get up in the play-offs – that would be fantastic if they could join Ross County up there.”