Caley Thistle legend Ross Tokely insists the 500 crowd limit from Boxing Day is a hammer blow for the Championship club – but he hopes to help fill a void for those missing out.
The record appearance holder pulled on the ICT jersey 589 times, guiding the club to promotions to the top-flight in 2004 and 2010 in a career spanning 16 sparkling years.
He’s now part of the club’s pay-per-view commentary team alongside ex-MFR journalist Iain Auld.
And numbers tuning in should surge with the Scottish Government placing a 500-maximum cap on attendance for three weeks due to the rising Omicron cases.
The restrictions arrive just after ICT opened up the West Stand to more vocal groups, who have backed the team in their last two home matches.
Tokely wonders whether letting any fans in is worth it for ICT, but hopes supporters sign up for ICTV to keep tabs on their team, starting at home to Partick Thistle on Boxing Day.
He said: “Having the new singing section at the stadium has helped get behind the players and they will miss the fans with the limit being 500.
“I know they’ve said 500 fans can get in, but I would have said no fans at all because it’s costly for smaller clubs to employ people at games to let that amount in.
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“The club then have to ballot the 500 season ticket holders, who do you give it to? How will they work that?
“The pay-per-view has been a good facility for fans to tune in on. A lot of work has gone on to improve the quality of the cameras and broadcasting and I hope myself and Iain can give fans our points of views if they can’t get to the games.
“With the game on Boxing Day, Partick Thistle would have taken a good crowd up here and there would have been a really good atmosphere and a crowd of more than 2000.
“Inverness will be disappointed to lose the revenue through the tea bar and the club shop. It’s lost revenue for the club, but hopefully while it’s a step back, hopefully it won’t last too long.”
Beating rivals so vital for title push
ICT will be aiming to bounce back from last weekend’s 2-1 league loss against Hamilton Accies, which came after Cameron Harper gave them a second half lead.
That second loss to Accies this term saw Arbroath move in front of them to the top of table.
A win for Partick on Sunday would see them overtake ICT, with just five points separating top spot and fifth-placed Kilmarnock, who sacked boss Tommy Wright last week.
Tokely insists ICT must maintain the fine form against those rivals directly in contention with them for promotion.
He said: “Inverness have done well against the teams around them and they have got to keep doing that. It’s all about fine lines in this league.
“They will be aiming to go on a bit of a run now because the second quarter was very up and down.
“You saw from Hamilton at the weekend, although their football wasn’t pretty, they knew how to get the win against Inverness – that’s twice they’ve done that now.
“Inverness played really well in the second half against Partick Thistle up here. Partick are a dangerous side, but Inverness have played well against them and could have also beaten them at Firhill.
“When you play teams so often, you get to know their strengths and weaknesses and Inverness have their tails up against Partick and they will be looking for their second win of the season against them on Sunday.
“Three points on Boxing Day is vital ahead of a hard run of games going into the New Year, with Dunfermline and Arbroath away next up.”
Caley Thistle should be out in front
Tokely reckons head coach Billy Dodds will have mixed feelings about being locked with Arbroath at the top after the first half of the league season.
He added: “It’s slightly disappointing they’re not top on their own at Christmas, but it’s not majorly important. I don’t see one outstanding team in the league this season and I don’t mean any disrespect to Inverness.
“For me, with the quality of players Inverness have got, they should already have a lead at the top.
“I’m sure most of these teams will say it, but there have been games where they could have picked up a point or three. If it was a report card, you would say it has been a decent season, yet could be a bit better.
“So, as much as they will be fairly happy with where they are in the league, I’m sure Billy will be a bit disappointed they’ve not got more points on the board. But there are enough points for the team to kick on.”