Caley Thistle goalkeeper Mark Ridgers believes Inverness’ young players will give manager John Robertson a selection headache when his senior players return.
Ridgers, at 30, was the oldest player in a young Caley Jags side which had three teenagers in the starting line-up for Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with Ayr United.
The Highlanders were missing no fewer than eight injured senior players to leave Robertson with a heavily depleted squad, with a further four teenagers making up his outfield substitutes.
Ridgers believes the likes of Roddy MacGregor, Cameron Harper and Daniel MacKay, along with debutant defender Ryan Fyffe who came off the bench to set up Nikolay Todorov’s late equaliser, have grasped their opportunity.
That gives Ridgers encouragement about his side’s prospects once they welcome back some of their more experienced campaigners.
He said: “I don’t think I have ever experienced it – the manager said it as well.
“We have got pretty much a full starting team injured. The experience we are missing just now is vital, but hopefully in the weeks coming we can get three or four of them back to give us the bodies.
“If you look at the bench, and even the boys that started, it’s a really young team.
“The energy was there, and they have done themselves no harm.
“Going forward, once we get everyone back, the manager is going to have a massive headache.
“The boys that have come in have settled, and shown they are more than capable of stepping up.”
Ridgers accepts it will take time for young players to adjust to senior football, but he is confident they will grow into the demands of the Championship in the weeks ahead.
He added: “When you look around our squad, a lot of people were saying we replaced what we lost.
“But we had the young boys from last year who were getting experience. Daniel MacKay and Cameron Harper were out on loan, and Roddy MacGregor played a lot more. Ryan Fyffe came on and set up the goal.
“Even in training they have stepped up brilliantly, and shown they are more than capable of playing.
“I miss the fans being here, I have said before it’s really strange and it would be brilliant if we could get them back.
“Maybe to begin with for them, it might help them a little bit.
“Ryan Fyffe came on and had a couple of stray passes, and if the fans had been in they might have got a bit edgy.
“A lot of them have handled themselves brilliantly in the games we have played. The most important thing is the experience they are getting just playing at this level.
“In the years I have been here we have been quite slow starters. This year more than any year, that can’t happen.
“It’s a point on the board and we have to look forward to next week and hopefully make it three.”
The absence of skipper Sean Welsh and vice-captain Aaron Doran saw Ridgers handed the armband for only the second time.
Although Ridgers insists Robertson was reluctant in handing the captaincy to a goalkeeper, he feels the role of guiding his younger team-mates comes naturally to him.
The former Hearts and St Mirren goalkeeper added: “It’s the second time I have had the armband. It’s always an absolute privilege.
“I am unbeaten so far – one win and one draw – so if Sean comes back I’ll retire the armband and give it back to him.
“The manager has said I’m one of the experienced boys in the dressing room now.
“I’m quite mouthy on the pitch as it is. I know the manager grudges doing it, he hates the goalkeeper being captain, but he considers me a leader in the dressing room and I consider myself one of the experienced guys.
“I think a lot of boys respect me. A win would have been brilliant but we will take a draw at the end of the day.”