Ex-Caley Thistle keeper Michael Fraser reckons current number one Mark Ridgers is a vital player as the team target promotion back to the Premiership.
The 38-year-old former shot-stopper spent seven years with ICT from 2002 and also played for Motherwell, Maltese side Birkirkara, Ross County and Elgin City.
He’s watching on with interest as Inverness go into Saturday’s home clash with Hamilton one point ahead of Raith Rovers at the top of the Championship.
Ridgers stands just four clean sheets away from breaking Mark Brown’s club record shut-out tally of 67. The recent 1-0 win over Kilmarnock took Ridgers on to 64 blanks.
Top keeper sparked Rangers’ success
The experienced 31-year-old ex-Hearts, Orlando City and Partick Thistle ace has helped ICT hold the second-best goals against amount of 12 goals, just one above Killie.
Fraser used the example of Allan McGregor at Scottish champions Rangers to show how important a goalkeeper can be when going for glory.
He said: “You can’t win a league without a top keeper, who continues to play consistently well. Strong centre halves, goalkeepers and clean sheets win you leagues.
“That applies in the Scottish Championship, the English Premier League, La Liga or Serie A, it doesn’t matter.
“Rangers have built their recent success on having a strong goalkeeper. Yes, they have got good attackers, but they have the best keeper.
“They won a lot of games 1-0 last season and that’s not a fluke. You build upon a good base. You need that stability for the rest of the players to attack or create.
“You can win cups by winning a few games, but you need a strong back line to win a league. The main part of that is your keeper.
“It’s about consistency too. Celtic last season used three keepers. You won’t win anything by using three keepers in a season. One mistake then you’re out, then the next guys comes in knowing it’s one mistake and you’re out.
🔜 We're in home action on Saturday as we face Hamilton Accies at the Caledonian Stadium
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) December 14, 2021
“Having Mark in the goal all the time, builds up confidence and momentum. It’s not a position you can rotate, apart from maybe the odd cup game.
“You can win a league without scoring too many goals, but they must have a solid keeper and back line.”
Professional pride in clean sheets
Despite a stunning 6-1 rout of Morton last weekend, which kept ICT top of the pile, Ridgers would have been frustrated his clean sheet was ruined by a penalty conceded before the break, which was slotted away by Gozie Ugwu before three second half goals swept the hosts away.
Fraser knows that moment which offered Ton only a brief glimmer of hope will have irked Ridgers.
He said: “It’s really annoying when you concede any goal, even in a big victory. You might think boys have switched off and it’s gone in.
“Everyone knows goalies are a bit weird and we almost operate as a team within a team. I have seen goalkeepers go nuts even by losing a late consolation goal. They can get the ball afterwards and volley it over the stand through frustration.
“It’s just about taking professional pride in your work. For a keeper, 6-0 is far better than 6-1, although overall it doesn’t really matter.
“Some managers would like to win 4-3, but we want to win 1-0. You never want to allow anyone to score past you, even in training.”
Ridgers last week progressed with another goal in his career when he earned his Scottish FA 1.3 goalkeeping award.
— Mark Ridgers (@MarkRidgers) December 13, 2021
Christmas number one is ICT goal
Inverness know victory at home to Hamilton on Saturday ensures they reach Christmas as the midway front-runners thanks to four successive league victories.
Although only six points separate ICT and fifth-placed Partick Thistle, Fraser feels having pole position would be a significant achievement.
He added: “Getting to Christmas in this position is a big achievement. A lot of managers look to where they are at the turn of the year or over the Christmas period.
“I obviously have a lot of respect for Robbo (former boss John Robertson), but Billy Dodds, having assisted (interim manager) Neil McCann last season, has taken it on really well.
“Every season, Caley Thistle always find players to do a job and it’s the same this year. Any of the sides in that top five will believe it’s still there for them, but Caley Thistle will want to go on and win it.
“You really want to be on the beach while other clubs are in the promotion play-offs. They have a really good chance for them if they can reach Christmas in top spot.
“There will be twists and turns to come, teams will drop points, but it’s great to see them doing well and hopefully go up.”