James Keatings is aiming to help Caley Thistle’s young players to grasp their first team opportunity.
Inverness manager John Robertson is light on numbers, and could be without up to seven first team players for today’s Championship home match against Ayr United due to injury.
That has presented starting opportunities for teenagers Roddy MacGregor, Daniel MacKay and Cameron Harper in recent weeks.
Although just 28 himself, Keatings is among the senior campaigners at Caledonian Stadium and the former Hibernian, Hearts and Hamilton Accies attacker hopes to be a guiding influence for the youngsters making the step up.
Keatings said: “I was their age once, and I know how difficult it is taking the step from youth football into first team football. It’s a different tempo and you’re playing against a lot more physical players that know the level.
“It’s about helping them through it, and giving them the encouragement. These young boys have got talent, so it’s just about giving them that wee bit of confidence and letting them flourish in the games.
“For any young boy, you are dreaming of being given that chance to get into the first team. It’s disappointing we’ve got so many out injured, but for them it’s their opportunity to go in and grab that shirt the best they can with no fear.
“Most importantly if they enjoy it they will play well. They have all got ability, they just need to believe in themselves. The older ones just need to give them that encouragement to go and flourish in the games.
“With the ability I see in training day-in, day-out from most of the young boys, they will put in good performances and get better with more games they play.”
Inverness face a striker shortage for today’s game, with Miles Storey and Shane Sutherland both carrying hamstring injuries.
Although Nikolay Todorov has returned to light training following a bruised rib, while on-loan Rangers attacker Kai Kennedy is available, Keatings says he is prepared to contribute to the forward line in any way possible.
He added: “I’m always playing an attacking position but I’m not the tallest. When Nikolay went off, Daniel MacKay went up and he’s obviously a winger.
“It was difficult to try and adjust to the long balls, I wasn’t going to win many but I was trying to put myself in areas.
“Going forward if players get injured it’s about the team adjusting to knowing the players in the team, and which way we look to play. If the manager asks me to play anywhere I will play anywhere, and any player in the team would do the exact same.”
Keatings has relished the return to playing football following the coronavirus shutdown, despite the limitations placed on players at present.
He added: “It is difficult for everyone. As footballers, we go to training and apart from a gym session, it is straight home after that, staying out of public places.
“You look to protect yourself and it is about protecting the team as well. It is one of those things – we know we have to do it.
“Having the long time out makes you realise what football is, day-to-day for most footballers.
“For myself personally, I was climbing the walls when we were off. We were not able to even get down to a park, or get a kickabout with some of the boys. It made us realise how much football means to us, and what it does for our lives.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be back. I’m looking forward to this season and hopefully trying to hit the targets I’ve set myself, and hopefully helping the team as much as I can.”