Paul Cherry starred with John Robertson as a kid as Edinburgh became the primary school Scottish Cup winners.
Several decades on from beating rivals Glasgow together, the former Caley Thistle midfielder hopes the manager who replaces Robbo will spark a bid for the Championship title in 2021-22.
Robertson, who had been on compassionate leave since February, was confirmed on Thursday as ICT’s sporting director, which is a new role at the club.
The ex-ICT midfielder, who won the old Third Division title in the Highland capital in 1997, has kept in touch with Robertson over the years.
Robbo, a Hearts legend and 16-times capped Scotland striker, was expected to return ahead of pre-season as the club aims to win promotion to the top-flight for the first time since relegation in 2017. However, last week’s news means the Highlanders are on the hunt for his successor.
Interim manager Neil McCann, assisted by Billy Dodds, helped push the team up the table and they only missed out on the promotion play-offs by three points. McCann, however, won’t be taking the head coach role.
Future stars shone as 11-year-olds for Edinburgh primary select
Cherry, who now heads estate agency Chersun in Murcia, Spain, speaks fondly of Robertson, who even in his youth showed classy touches and finishes. And they had a special group of future stars.
He explained: “I played in the same Edinburgh Primary School select team as wee Robbo.
“We were 11 years old and we played in that Scottish Cup final against Glasgow. Our manager told us, in reality, we’d be lucky if one of us became professional players.
“In that team we had John Robertson, (ex-Falkirk, Kilmarnock and Celtic) goalkeeper Gordon Marshall, Gary Mackay, of Hearts, David Bowman, of Hearts and Dundee United, and Billy Blackie, who played for St Johnstone and Alloa, and myself. We done alright.
“Robbo was quality, even at that age. He was a natural goalscorer and we go back a long way.
“The guy I used to hate playing against as a kid was big John “Yogi” Hughes, now at Ross County.
“It’s really good to see guys I was brought up with doing well and working away and having decent careers in the Highlands.”
Level playing field in next season’s Championship
Big-hitters Hearts have moved up from the second tier as champions, with Partick Thistle so far the only newcomer confirmed. Kilmarnock or Dundee will be in the Championship if they lose their play-off final by next Monday night.
Cherry sees no reason why Robbo’s replacement cannot get his group into a title-winning position, but the work this summer will lay the foundation for any success.
He said: “The Championship should be more of a level playing field next season. Hopefully the new manager will come in and get a good pre-season.
“That really breeds confidence, even if you are playing Highland League opposition and winning by a good few goals. That’s important.
“Last season was disruptive – very hot and cold. You need to find consistency. I always look out for Inverness as I had a great time.”
Keeping faith in managers
Since its formation in 1994, only eight managers have been in charge of Caley Jags, albeit Robertson and Craig Brewster have been the boss twice.
Cherry praised the successive chairman and directors for, like another of his old clubs St Johnstone, not being trigger-happy when the going gets tough.
He stressed: “For only eight men to have had the job is incredible and that’s largely down to the way the club has been run throughout the years.
“They give people more time to change things around when results are not going well.
“Some club owners will fire them after a few defeats, so it’s all credit to the people in charge of Inverness for being like that. People are a bit more laid back than in the central belt.
“While they take it seriously still, they are perhaps a wee bit more forgiving, which is great if you are a manager. You are going to get a wee bit more time.
“The success of any football team starts at the very top and I mean the owners. I compare St Johnstone to Inverness in that regard.
“St Johnstone had Geoff Brown as chairman and he was similar to (Caley Thistle chairman) Dougie McGilvray, as they built up their businesses to be successful. They would take no nonsense, but they would look after people.
“Problems within clubs start with poor management at boardroom level. Clubs trying to spend money that they don’t have.
“Dougie targeted the club to reach the Premiership and he can be very proud that the club went on to achieve that.”
- Paul Cherry talks about joining ICT under Steve Paterson.