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Neil McCann hails growth in Caley Thistle’s young players during hectic end of season run

Daniel MacKay celebrates scoring against Raith Rovers.
Daniel MacKay celebrates scoring against Raith Rovers for ICT.

Caley Thistle interim manager Neil McCann says he has already seen a growth in Inverness’ young players during his short stint at Caledonian Stadium.

McCann took over on a temporary basis in February, after manager John Robertson was granted a period of compassionate leave.

Caley Thistle interim boss Neil McCann.

Despite a strong recent run of form, the campaign will ultimately end in disappointment after last Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Hearts ruled them out of contention for a promotion play-off place.

The Highlanders will play their final game of the season at home to Ayr United on Friday.

Although Inverness have fallen short of their target, McCann spoke of his pride at his players’ efforts during a fine run which saw them lose just once in 10 matches prior to the trip to Tynecastle.

McCann has reserved special praise for his young players, who have made an important contribution to the Caley Jags cause in recent weeks.

Winger Daniel MacKay has been among the stand-out performers, having netted five goals in his last 10 matches, while Robbie Deas, Roddy MacGregor and Cameron Harper have also featured regularly throughout the campaign.

Caley Thistle midfielder Roddy MacGregor (right).

McCann has taken encouragement from the way his batch of youngsters have stepped up to shoulder added responsibility, during a hectic spell of matches in recent weeks.

McCann said: “I look at guys like Roddy MacGregor, Cameron Harper and Daniel MacKay who are coming up.

“There are also other young players like Robbie Deas who weren’t from our academy, but he is still a youngish boy who is just breaking in to become a first team regular.

“In my time here these boys have certainly grown.

“I can see them getting better. As the team grows, individuals grow as well within it.

“They get to understand the game, how I want to play, what we demand of them and what it takes to win a game of football. Sometimes it’s not just all about the level of performance.

“You can be a really good team player, but have an off-day ability wise.

“I think I have seen them all get better and grow, but it’s not finished yet.”

McCann handed starts to defenders Harry Nicolson and Ryan Fyffe in Caley Jags’ recent 3-2 victory over Buckie Thistle in the Scottish Cup, in a match which saw nine of the club’s youth products feature in the matchday squad.

Inverness defender Harry Nicolson in action.

Teenagers Alistair Riddle and Kane Davies were also among the substitutes in the Victoria Park encounter.

McCann hopes the young players will benefit from the experience of being involved in the first team squad, and he added: “We had nine academy graduates stripped against Buckie Thistle, which is an unbelievable accolade for a club like Inverness to have. It’s good for the people of Inverness.

“It is sometimes difficult to get players up, so if people here know if I have a young boy at the club he is going to get a chance – and sometimes it can be in a big game like the Scottish Cup. They can have that early experience of being in the first team at 16 or 17. That’s really good.

“No matter where they are getting games, if it’s cup football or league football, I think there’s a pathway here for young players to come in here, but they have to be ready.

“It’s really important they get a good feeling for games at a young age, because it will help them throughout their careers.”

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