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Andy Skinner: Michael Gardyne will feel he has unfinished business after making switch over Kessock Bridge to Caley Thistle

Michael Gardyne scores for Ross County against Inverness.
Michael Gardyne scores for Ross County against Inverness.

Michael Gardyne’s move across the Kessock Bridge will be a sore one for Ross County fans to swallow, but Caley Thistle can be sure the experienced winger will not lack motivation at his new club.

Staggies stalwart Gardyne has completed a shock move to their Highland rivals, reuniting with Inverness head coach Billy Dodds who was previously assistant manager at Victoria Park.

He is far from the first player to cross the divide in either direction, with numerous examples before him experiencing various degrees of success in doing so.

Given Gardyne’s long association with County, which amounts to nearly 12 years over three spells, this move feels that little bit different from the rest though.

Gardyne is County’s record appearance holder and goalscorer and is likely to remain so for a considerable time, having netted 73 goals in 444 outings.

His crowd-pleasing style and game-changing impacts have been consistent in his direct attacking play ever since he initially made the loan switch to the Staggies from Celtic in 2006.

Michael Gardyne.

After making the move permanent two years later he became a prominent part of the side which reached the Scottish Cup final in 2010, only to lose to his hometown club Dundee United, who he would join in 2012.

After successfully returning on loan two years later, there was never much doubt he would make the move permanent under Jim McIntyre and Dodds. It proved to be the most fruitful period of his career as he became a League Cup winner, and went on to win a second Championship title in 2019.

Michael Gardyne helped Ross County win the League Cup in 2016.

He proved himself once again capable in the top-flight and, despite turning 35 earlier this year, he clearly felt he had unfinished business, after netting the winner in the survival-clinching win over Motherwell on the last day of the season.

The manner of his departure, which he was informed of via Zoom, saw him leave the Staggies on something of a sour note. A number of other players who were released, including skipper Iain Vigurs, felt the club’s most decorated player deserved a better send off.

Michael Gardyne celebrates his final goal for Ross County against Motherwell.

That will only have fuelled Gardyne’s hunger and in the latter stages of what is a short footballing career, the challenge of helping Caley Jags earn promotion back to the Premiership clearly excites him.

Having joined Billy Mckay in making the move to Caledonian Stadium, the pair will know what it takes to succeed in that aim given their part in County’s success two years ago.

Gardyne has spoken previously about how the Highlands has provided the best setting for him to enjoy his football.

Although it may take time for Inverness’ fans to get used to seeing him wearing their colours, rather than being a thorn in their side, he will arrive intent on playing a major role in delivering the success everyone at the club craves.

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