James Keatings may not have realised it at the time, but the Caley Thistle forward ranks his spell with tonight’s opponents Hibernian among the best of his career.
Keatings spent two years at Easter Road after joining from Edinburgh rivals Hearts in 2015, during which he helped Hibs win the Scottish Cup and Championship title.
Although it was a successful and productive spell in which Keatings netted 20 goals in 71 appearances, the 28-year-old subsequently opened up on his battle with depression which prompted him to move to Dundee United in 2017.
Keatings will return to Easter Road for Inverness’ Scottish Cup quarter-final tie against Jack Ross’ men tonight, with the former Celtic youth player insisting his move to the Highlands has helped him rediscover his hunger for the game.
Keatings said: “At the time I did leave Hibs, I wasn’t in a good mental state. I was obviously suffering and didn’t realise what I was going through at that time in my life.
“It was the early stages of what I went through but it obviously took a toll on the decisions I was making.
“I had the chance to sign a new two-year deal there, which was at a stage in my life where I had no buzz about football.
“I thought to myself ‘move on, get a fresh start’ to give myself a buzz.
“Whereas, I look back now and that’s probably the happiest two years and most successful years I spent at such a great club, with great people around about me.
“But that’s the past. These things happen in football. You make decisions and I’m here now – and absolutely loving it.
“What I aim to do is just keep enjoying my football and enjoying my life.
“Football is obviously the biggest part of my life and I’m really enjoying it here, so I hope that continues.”
Tonight’s match will be Caley Jags’ 12th Scottish Cup quarter final tie in 26 years since the club’s formation, with the Highlanders having reached the semi-finals on four occasions.
Robertson – who has overseen three of those semi-finals – insists John Hughes’ cup winning side of 2015 has set the benchmark.
Robertson added: “It means everything to the club, but semi finals aren’t good enough. We’ve been to a final and won it in our recent history, and we want to get to a final again.
“John Hughes has set the standard, which all our Scottish Cup runs are judged by now. Steve Paterson started it all off with the famous result against Celtic, and John Hughes took it all the way.
“We’ve got a great cup tradition, and we’ve got to take that confidence to Easter Road.”
Inverness reached the last eight with an impressive 1-0 triumph at home to Livingston earlier this month, which followed a 3-2 triumph over Alloa Athletic in the previous round.
Robertson, who is without the cup-tied Lewis Toshney and injured Sean Welsh, insists his side will have to step up another level when they visit a Hibs side sitting sixth in the Premiership.
Robertson added: “We have got through the rounds with tough opposition put in front of us, and we’ve got an even tougher game now at Easter Road.
“Hibs are a good side who play good football. They have got a threat, but we feel we’ve got a threat as well.
“We want to go down to Easter Road and give ourselves the best opportunity of going through.
“We’ve got to play with no fear, and play to our strengths.
“We are a good football team, we get the ball down and try to get at teams. We are going to have to attack very well, but we are also going to have to defend very well – as Hibs are a huge threat going forward.”