Daniel MacKay wants to help lead hometown club Caley Thistle back to the Premiership.
The Caley Jags are preparing for a fourth season in the second tier and MacKay, who has graduated from the club’s youth academy, believes the pieces are in place for promotion challenge.
Hearts are widely expected to lead the way in the Championship this season, due to their budget in comparison to the rest of the league. They have also re-appointed Robbie Neilson as manager, who took them up in 2015 and led Dundee United to the title earlier this year.
However, Inverness have someone in John Robertson who has significant experience at this level, having won the old First Division in 2004 and guiding them to play-off finishes in the last two seasons.
MacKay said: “Everyone’s saying Hearts are going to run away with i,t but we’ve been here the last few years and know what it takes to get to those play-off spots.
“We’ve got plenty of experienced boys that have been in the Championship and know what it’s about.
“It would be huge for myself, huge for the club and for Cammy (Harper), Lewis Hyde, Roddy (MacGregor), all local boys. We were just about to come through as they got relegated, so it would be huge achievement for me to see the club back where it was.
“We’re looking to get that promotion and show teams Inverness are ready to be a force in the Premiership over the next few years.
“I’ve just got to do what I did last year; play the way I can and hopefully score a few more goals, get some more assists and hopefully catch the eye. If the manager starts me, don’t let him down. If I’m playing well then he can’t take me out of the team.”
MacKay is back in the first-team fold with Caley Thistle after a loan at League Two side Elgin City last season.
He scored in the 7-3 win over his old club last weekend and started again in the midweek 7-0 rout of Nairn County.
Injury problems have hampered MacKay since he burst on to the scene in the 2017-18 season, where he became the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer and set up the winner in the IRN-BRU Cup final.
But along with fellow youngsters Cameron Harper and Roddy MacGregor – team-mates from the youth setup – he appears set for a more prominent role this season.
MacKay added: “Training and playing with Roddy, he knows what I like and I know what he likes. He likes the ball into feet, I like the ball in behind. There’s a good variation between the two of us.
“Cammy’s been champing at the bit over the last year or so. He’s good on the ball and has done really well over the last two games.
“It’s good to be back playing for my club. I’ve missed it. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it at Elgin and it’s a great club. But hopefully this season I can kick on and show the fans and manager what I’m capable of.”