Neil McCann has come back in from management wilderness to help out Caley Thistle in their time of need.
His appointment this week, with Inverness manager John Robertson on compassionate leave, is to help ease the burden on coaches Barry Wilson and Ryan Esson during a busy period for the club.
The Caley Jags still have aspirations of getting into the play-offs this season and have games in hand to catch up on. They have seven games to play before the end of March and sit in sixth, behind fourth-placed Queen of the South by three points with three games in hand.
Their next two games are against two of McCann’s old clubs, starting with Hearts tomorrow night then Dundee at Dens Park on Tuesday night. Home games against Morton, Raith and Arbroath also come next month.
Caley Thistle’s biggest issue this season has been fairly simple to spot: winning games. They have only won four of their 14 games, with six draws in there too. Getting a run of fixtures has been difficult but McCann’s task will be to get the points tally ticking over at an increased rate.
McCann was in charge for 65 games at Dundee, winning 22 of them which equates to a win-percentage of just under 34 per cent. He took them to ninth in the 2017/18 season after a period in interim charge, where he kept them in the top-flight.
He was responsible for bringing ex-Caley Jag Josh Meekings to the club and naming him club captain, as well as bringing in Glen Kamara from Arsenal. He let go three former Inverness players in James Vincent – now back at Caley Thistle – Nick Ross and Danny Williams.
George Cran, Dundee FC writer at the Evening Telegraph and Courier, covered the Dark Blues during McCann’s tenure.
“Neil McCann arrived at Dundee in April 2017 with the Dark Blues in very real danger of relegation from the Premiership,” he said.
“It was a surprise appointment by John Nelms after Paul Hartley was sacked following a run of seven defeats on the bounce. Confidence was at rock bottom but Neil’s arrival seemed to energise the squad with his positivity and enthusiasm.
“That brought results with big wins at Motherwell and Kilmarnock before safety was secured with two games to spare by drawing with Ross County.
“As an interim boss Neil was probably perfect for Dundee at that time – a struggling squad was suddenly lifted and results came.
🗣️ ICTFC Interim Manager Neil McCann spoke to the official club website this afternoon
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) February 24, 2021
“After taking on the permanent job, things were good in the first season. He picked up a couple of gems in Glen Kamara and Jack Hendry and had his team playing attractive football.
“They were playing out from the back before it was fashionable – everyone seems to be doing it now.
“His main struggle as Dundee boss was finding the finishing touch to the attractive football.
“Then they sold Hendry for a big fee to Celtic and they didn’t really have a replacement who could play out from the back so well.
“I think in his second summer he then signed too many players who didn’t know Scottish football and they struggled. They’ve pretty much all since left not just the club but the country since.”
Following McCann’s dismissal in October 2018, former Ross County boss Jim McIntyre was appointed and the club were relegated from the Premiership at the end of the season.
“It was rarely an uneventful time at Dens Park, I’d say there was a mixture of reactions from players to Neil as manager,” Cran added. “Plenty took to him but others didn’t.
“When there was a falling out it was a big one – Scott Bain and Tommy Wright come to mind.
“From a local media point of view, Neil wasn’t the easiest to deal with, though I felt I got on well personally with him. Aside from the mandatory pre-match press conference, normally held on a Friday afternoon, there wasn’t much else forthcoming. To be fair, when we did get him he was good value but it was a tough gig at that time, ensuring the pages were filled every day.
“I have to say, though, I’m really interested to see how it works out for Neil at Inverness and I’m sure his arrival in the away dugout at Dens Park on Tuesday will be a lively one.”