Former Caley Jags goalkeeper Michael Fraser is thrilled to see local starlets earn their places in Billy Dodds’ Championship-leading team.
Roddy MacGregor is the star turn, with the midfielder getting better each week as he looks years older than his 19 years with mature, fearless performances.
Cameron Harper, also 19, has proved his worth at left-back last and this season, while a trio of youngsters are gaining loan experience in the Highland League with a view to returning and pushing for the first-team next year.
Defender Ryan Fyffe, 20, is on loan at Nairn County, midfielder Lewis Hyde, 19, is at Rothes, and Strathspey Thistle have 17-year-old forward Ethan Cairns on loan.
Youngsters earning right to play
Fraser applauds the number of players making a real impact, especially MacGregor and Harper at Championship level right now.
He said: “The club have a nice blend of experience and youth. I like the way they are giving the young boys their chance.
“The local lads are now big players in the team. Roddy MacGregor is settling in really well and looking the part, along with Cameron Harper.
“There have not been many local players coming through. There was a time when it was mainly just myself and Grant Munro who made it to the first-team.
“But you have to earn it. You can’t just put young lads in because they’re local. It’s nice to see them play and that’s testament to the youth set-up right now. They are being coached well.
“A few have been on loan, which is great. Playing against men in the Highland League or for Elgin City is a great learning curve.
“Attitude-wise, they can go and get their heads down and try to get your place in the first-team.”
Quarter measures sensible approach
Pace-setters Caley Thistle head to second-placed Raith Rovers on Saturday with a five-point cushion over the Fifers and Kilmarnock after the first set of games.
It has been a terrific start to the season as ICT target a return to the Premiership for the first time since 2017.
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— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) October 18, 2021
Fraser, who won the 2012 Championship with Ross County, insists going with a fresh target from this weekend will serve the Inverness side well.
He added: “The Championship has always been a really competitive league. This time you don’t have a really big club in it, but Caley Thistle are flying.
“They are consistent and to have 22 points if terrific so far. Splitting the season into quarters is important, whether you’re trying to win the Championship or stay in the Premiership.
“You have a target set and break the season down. You can’t think too far ahead. That’s easier said than done because right now if they lose two games then they’re down to second place.
“Getting to Christmas or January and seeing where you are is a good way to do it. Hopefully you’re in a position to then go for promotion.
“You want to win this league, rather than going into the play-offs.
“When I was at County, we got on top of the league in the opening weeks of the season. That was good for momentum. You become the team to beat and you’re always looking over your shoulder.”
Mckay and Gardyne signings are key
Former Ross County stars Billy Mckay and Michael Gardyne are the team’s top scorers this season with six and four goals respectively and were the scorers in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Morton.
Fraser believes snapping up two players he knows really well has been a masterstroke by Dodds.
He said: “Billy Mckay will always score goals in that league. He could still score Premiership goals right now, to be honest. He’s a great striker and he scored enough past me over the years.
“Signing Billy and Michael Gardyne were no-brainers and fantastic for Caley Thistle. They still have excellent fitness and are so sharp.
“Michael has got plenty to offer and is getting goals as well. He has won the Championship twice with County and played in the Premiership for most of his career.”