Caley Thistle goalkeeper Mark Ridgers has credited understudy Cammy Mackay and coach Ryan Esson with sustaining his high level of performance.
Ridgers is in his fifth successive season as Caley Jags’ first choice, and recently signed a new two-year deal to keep him at Caledonian Stadium until 2024.
The consistency of Ridgers, who has opened the Championship campaign with four consecutives clean sheets, has limited the opportunities for 24-year-old Mackay to play in recent seasons.
Ridgers says the improvement of Mackay, along with the coaching from former Aberdeen goalkeeper Esson, has helped to keep him firmly on his toes.
Ridgers said: “I don’t want to blow my own trumpet and credit myself, but I’ve continued to play at a really consistent level and I know the standard I have set, but that comes from training.
“It’s unseen, but over the last three years Cammy Mackay has been getting better and better, he pushes me on.
“In training with Ryan Esson, his standards are really high and he demands that.
“These are two guys that probably won’t get a lot of credit for it because people don’t see it, but they are brilliant with me on the field and off the field. They are the first to congratulate me if it’s a clean sheet and a win.
“They are also the first to let me know if I’m doing anything wrong, picking up on stuff others might not see.
“That’s part of the joy of being in a good goalkeeping group, which has helped massively.”
Inverness-born Mackay has made only 18 first team appearances for Caley Jags, but has provided able deputy whenever Ridgers has been unavailable.
Ridgers insists he can afford no slip up in his own form as he believes Mackay is ready to dislodge him, adding: “I have been in that situation Cammy is in when I was at Hearts. It’s really difficult because you train hard, you work hard, but you feel like you’re not going to get much game time because of the person in front of you.
“As I keep telling him on the side, the way he is training and pushing himself, I can see it from the determination and improvement in him and that helps me.
“If he’s doing something good in training, I see that as my time to go and shine. I love that pressure of trying to get better, because everyone keeps telling me I’m in my prime years as a goalkeeper.
“If my form was to drop, I would have absolutely no issue with Cammy coming in to play, because I really do think he’s a credit to himself, but he’s also helped massively in how I’ve developed as a goalkeeper over the course of the last three or four years.”
Mackay was handed a starting opportunity in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Buckie Thistle, having been among 10 changes made for the SPFL Trust Trophy tie.
Caley Jags coach Barry Wilson reserved praise for Mackay’s display, adding: “We kept another clean sheet on Saturday, which is a great habit to get into.
“I thought Cammy was excellent and he made one really good save and another good save from a tight angle in the second half.
“His distribution was also really good and he was comfortable on the ball. You feel comfortable throwing boys like that into action.”