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John Robertson backs Daniel MacKay to grasp Caley Thistle chance following Kai Kennedy departure

Daniel MacKay.
Daniel MacKay.

Caley Thistle manager John Robertson hopes attacker Daniel MacKay can step up to the challenge of reclaiming his place in the side.

MacKay made a promising start to the campaign, providing a goal and an assist in the opening three league matches.

Daniel MacKay v Arbroath

⚽ A first goal of the season for Daniel MacKay on Saturday!

Posted by Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC on Wednesday, 4 November 2020

The 19-year-old has not featured in regularly in recent weeks however, with his last start coming in a 2-1 loss to Hearts on November 7.

MacKay’s withdrawal from the side was partly down to the impressive performances of loan signing Kai Kennedy, who made 10 appearances and netted once during his stint from Rangers.

Kennedy has since returned to Ibrox however, and has now gone on loan to fellow Championship side Raith Rovers.

Robertson feels that should give MacKay all the motivation he needs to fill the void left by Kennedy’s departure.

Robertson said: “We felt Kai would push people on, and Aaron Doran and Shane Sutherland were injured at the time.

“Whilst Kai has gone, this opens up the door for Daniel MacKay again.

“Daniel had a good start to the season then tailed off a little bit, but he is buzzing in training.

“He will see this as a real opportunity for him, and that’s what we want.

“In an ideal scenario I want him to go out and show us he is the man.

“I’m not asking him to play like Kai, who is very much a one-off in the way he plays the game.

Kai Kennedy in action for Inverness.

“But I want Daniel to say ‘I can be every bit as effective, if not more.’ He can be more direct, quicker, he can score goals and set them up.”

Robertson said earlier this month he was keen to add to his squad during the January transfer window, having made enquiries over the availability of players.

The Caley Jags boss is nevertheless keen to strike a careful balance, insisting he wants to keep the door open for youngsters to progress into his first team.

Robertson added: “We have got to be careful that players we bring in are of a certain standard, otherwise we would be blocking a pathway for one of our own youngsters.

“One of the real bright spots for us over the last few years is the amount of young players that have come into the team and played.

“There have been Cameron Harper, Roddy MacGregor and Daniel MacKay initially, but we have had the likes of Lewis Hyde, Harry Nicolson and Ryan Fyffe come in and play certain games.

Harry Nicolson (right) started against East Fife in the Betfred Cup earlier this season.

“We’ve got to watch we leave it open to them. The big picture is we give an opportunity to youngsters if they deserve it, but they have to earn their way into the team.”

Youth has been a feature of Inverness’ side this season, with a number of teenagers having been handed their chance following a spate of injuries at the start of the season.

Robertson hopes the impressive displays of Caley Thistle’s youngsters can offer encouragement to some of the club’s prospects further down the academy.

He added: “We are proud of the academy and we work hard at it.

“Right now if you are a young Inverness player in that system, you will think this club gives youngsters an opportunity, and they get a chance here.

“That’s important because if they see that, they will continue to work hard in the academy.

“They are local lads and we want them to be proud of the badge.

“If they see the success of the likes of Daniel MacKay, Roddy MacGregor and Cameron Harper, they will know in two or three years’ time that could be them.”

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