Mark Ridgers reckons Caley Thistle have to treat Rangers’ under 21s with the same respect they would Championship leaders Dundee United.
The Inverness goalkeeper has no quibble with carrying the favourites tag for today’s Challenge Cup semi-final at the Caledonian Stadium.
But he warned that John Robertson’s side could not – and would not – under-estimate youthful talents from one of the biggest clubs in the country.
The Glasgow giants can choose from several tiers of development and youth squads, while adding a couple of over-age players as they see fit. And as the first colts’ team to reach the last four, the former Hearts and St Mirren goalkeeper expects no easy task in navigating his team’s passage to its fourth Challenge Cup final.
Ridgers stressed: “It is one of those games where we’re favourites and rightly so.
“But we’re playing Rangers, and them and Celtic will be up there with the best youth set-ups in the country.
“These players, if they don’t make it at Rangers, will probably surface elsewhere around Scotland at a very good level.
“We know they will be dangerous and we know we will have to be switched on, really focussed and up for the game.
“We need to approach it as we would a Dundee United or anyone else in our league. Everyone realises that – and there’s no bigger a motivation than reaching a final.
“It is an opportunity that some players might not get again, albeit it is not one of the big two cups.
“Realistically it is the trophy we can win.”
Caley Thistle lifted the Challenge Cup for the first time in 2003-04 against Airdrie, losing to Dundee in the 2009-10 final and then lifting the silverware again in 2017-18 under John Robertson.
Ridgers credits that 2018 success as playing a big part in replenishing morale among staff and supporters after the previous season’s relegation plummet from the top-flight.
The 29-year-old keeper said: “For the club it was big, particularly coming on the back of relegation the previous season.
“There was huge disappointment from that, but we went on to win a trophy and put smiles back on faces again.
“On a personal note, it was also the first cup final I’d played in. I’d been involved in a Scottish Cup final and a League Cup final with Hearts, but remained on the bench.
“So to play in it – and win it – was special.
“For me, it is one I hold quite highly, still – and, fingers crossed, there is another one to come.
“We’re going to try to do it again. We’ve looking on Sunday to get ourselves to another final.”
The Highlanders are again fighting on three fronts, despite being extensively pilfered for players.
The latest to leave were Coll Donaldson to Ross County and Jamie McCart to St Johnstone, with Ridgers adding: “I think that’s credit to the squad and manager. Players came and went during summer and players left in January as well, but we’ve still got a good enough squad to compete on all those fronts.
“The Scottish Cup win against Livingston, a top six side in the Premiership, shows we’re capable of filling the gaps they’ve left.
“Sunday offers another opportunity to get to another final, which for a lot of clubs and players doesn’t come along too often.”