Barry Wilson feels Caley Thistle’s famous victory over Celtic 20 years ago today stamped the club’s mark on Scottish football.
Inverness defeated the Hoops 3-1 in their Scottish Cup tie at Parkhead under Steve Paterson in 2000, only six years into the club’s existence.
Midfielder Wilson, who joined from Raith Rovers in 1996, felt the result against Celtic was the catalyst for Inverness to push for top-flight promotion, which they achieved under John Robertson in 2004.
Wilson said: “I remember when I signed, the chairman Dougie McGilvray said he wanted to get into the Premier League. Everyone kind of thought he should calm down, but he knew what the potential was there. And backed it.
“It took 10 years but he was right. Caley and Thistle were built on these cup shocks, then the club came together and went up through the third, second and first divisions.
“I think the cup maybe just gave the club a little bit more stature. Since then it’s been pretty good.
“It kind of put the club on the map – that this is not just a team of yokels from the Highlands. We consolidated that season and then John Robertson took over, I came back from Livingston, a couple others came in and all of a sudden we had a really good squad again.”
The trip to Parkhead was rescheduled for a Tuesday night after the initial game was called off due to loose guttering on the stadium’s east stand.
Wilson says the Highlanders travelled with belief after John Barnes’ side had relinquished a winning position to lose to Hearts just days before the game was played.
Wilson added: “When the initial game got postponed, the following Saturday they lost to Hearts 3-2, after being 2-0 up at half-time. We saw frailty there. When Tuesday night came, we knew they weren’t invincible and things weren’t quite right behind the scenes. We felt maybe we could get at their defence.
“We were buzzing. Most of the players had played through the levels, some hadn’t played at Parkhead before. I’d been at Raith Rovers so I had played at Parkhead, Ibrox, it was nice to get back to that kind of level.
“Before the game Steve Paterson would try to keep you relaxed, he would drop a few funnies in. He knew we could play, he believed in us and got that belief into us.”
Wilson netted the opening goal before winning the penalty which Paul Sheerin netted to put Caley Jags 3-1 up after 57 minutes, but insists the wait for the full-time whistle was an arduous one.
He added: “There was still a long way to go after the third goal. When it went to 90, I thought we had them now. But Celtic at Celtic Park, you never know. They still had chances, we still needed Jim Calder to be in tremendous form, and still needed the back four to be solid. There was still plenty of work to go even then.”