Neil McCann might not be at Caley Thistle for a long time – but he wants it to be a good one.
The unusual nature of the circumstances in which he has found himself back in management after more than two years away is not lost on McCann.
Having left Dundee in October 2018, McCann has since been occupying himself as a pundit, prior to Caley Thistle coming calling early this week.
Inverness needed someone to step into the breach after manager John Robertson took compassionate leave, following a family bereavement, and a long-term illness to assistant manager Scott Kellacher.
The strength of that friendship was exemplified by Robertson giving his blessing for McCann to step into the role, for however long he is needed.
“It was huge. It was one of the stipulations of considering the job,” said McCann. “I spoke to Robbo and he was brilliant. It was important he knew – I suppose some people may have wanted to take this job for an audition to show how good they are.
“It was important that he knew I was coming in here to help him until he was ready to come back. I spoke to him for a couple of minutes then he went off on a tangent and told me everything I needed to know about the squad. That’s the passion and enthusiasm he has for the team. He just wanted me to do well and encouraged me to be me.”
🗣️ ICTFC Interim Manager Neil McCann spoke to the official club website this afternoon
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) February 24, 2021
Robertson has been granted leave for an indeterminate period of time and – rightly – the club have indicated to him he can take as much time as he needs before he feels ready to return.
“I’m hoping John is going to recover quickly, but we can’t put any pressure on him,” added McCann. “He has to feel right.
“Until he’s right, I’ll remain here. If that means through to the end of the season, then that’s what it is. I’m ready for that.
“If it’s shorter, brilliant – I’ll be delighted to see the wee man back.”
There is a sense of irony for McCann that his first two games in charge of the club will come against two of his former sides.
He was a Scottish Cup winner with tonight’s opponents Hearts, alongside Robertson, and had his only managerial spell at Dundee, whom the Caley Jags visit on Tuesday.
“It will be a big game for me, but to be honest it could have been against anyone and it would have been the same,” said McCann. “I have a lot of love for Hearts, but anyone who knows me knows that all I want to do is win games for Inverness.
“I have a job to do here and I will be as professional as I can. It is a tough game. Hearts are favourites for the title and rightly so. They have good coaches and a great squad with an incredible fanbase as we have seen with ticket sales.
“I think we have a good group of players here who are focused and we go into the game with one objective and that’s to try and win the game.”
McCann lost his job at Dundee after sitting bottom of the Premiership table in the early stages of the 2018-19 season. He came in initially on an interim basis in April 2017 and kept the club in the top flight, before steering them to a ninth-placed finish in his only full season in charge.
“Once I am in it, I am all in,” he added. “I am really looking forward to seeing how the team perform against a great side, but I think the most important thing for me is that the team have a tactical plan that will allow them to win the game and be strong and competitive. That is what I am looking forward to most.
“The best thing is when the whistle blows. That’s when you can see the game, see how it develops and see how the game is moving and hopefully that’s when you can affect it.”