Billy Dodds insists there’s no reason to bolster his Caley Thistle squad in the January transfer window – because they’re firmly in the Championship title mix.
Inverness are the new bookies’ favourites after Kilmarnock failed to beat Morton in midweek and they will go level with leaders Arbroath if they win at Gayfield on Sunday.
Supporters always like to see who’s coming and going at their club, but head coach Dodds isn’t plotting wholesale changes given how well his team have played all season.
He said: “Not too much will change from our point of view. When we’re all fit and we steer clear of Covid, we’re as good as anybody.
“I would like to add one or maybe two players, but we’ll see what happens. The January window is a strange one. You have to get the right type in, but we’ll be looking to do a bit of business if we can.
“But things are tight and when I have my full squad, as we saw at the start of the season, we are doing a lot right. We also showed them recently with three wins in a row before we lost to Hamilton and were unlucky to do so.
“It’s a bit like Dick Campbell at Arbroath, why would I want to make wholesale changes?”
Dick Campbell’s high-fliers, who won 3-0 at Dunfermline on Boxing Day, are on an 11-gane unbeaten run, which includes a 1-0 victory at Inverness on October 26.
A Shane Sutherland goal on the first day of the season earned the Highlanders a 1-0 win at Gayfield, which remains their only home reversal.
Red Lichties are real deal – Dodds
Dodds is relishing the chance to try and do the double at a venue no other league side has won at this term.
He said: “Arbroath have only been beaten twice all season. People have been wondering when they’ll slip up, but I’ve been saying all along ‘when will that be?’ because their results show they mean business.
“They are a right good side in terms of their quality and work-rate. You can see they are giving their manager everything. They are good boys who want to do well and that’s why they’re getting success.
“It will be tough. They have only lost once since our win there on the first day of the season. We’re capable, but so are they, so it is set up nicely.
“I was glad we played them at the start of the season on a nice summer’s day (on July 31). Their pitch is fine, but the wind can whip up from the sea. If it’s a good day in terms of the weather you say ‘oh yes’, but if it’s not a good day, you have to handle the conditions as well.
“It might take a bit of luck or quality to win it. You have to be at it going there because they are at it, week in, week out.”
Part-time status protects opponents
Dodds reckons Arbroath being part-time might in fact offer them extra protection from the dangers of Covid on a weekly basis.
He added: “I don’t know if this is a factor or not, but Arbroath don’t lose many players. I know Nicky Low has just returned from injury, but I wonder if they, as a part-time team, the Covid times circuit-breaks them during the week.
“Dick might well tell me he’s been missing a few players, but they always seem to have their full quota fit and available.
“They are part-time, but they train twice a week then have their game at the weekend. We train five days a week, so they’re not far behind – but I wonder if those two or three sessions becomes important when it comes to Covid because the players are not together quite as much. Dick could tell me that’s not the case, but that’s how it seems to me.
“They have a strong squad, with the likes of Nicky Low coming back and Bobby Linn on the bench last week. I see the way they are playing.
“I watched their game closely against Dunfermline last week and, while I didn’t think there were three goals in it, they were ruthless. When they got their chances, they buried them.”
Arbroath loan stars face decisions
With 33 goals, Arbroath are the top scorers in the division and striker Michael McKenna’s 12 goals make him the leading Championship marksman.
The Red Lichties will be hoping they can hang on to two key players, who have each bagged five goals so far, but are on loan.
Striker Joel Nouble is due to return to Livingston, while fellow forward Anton Dowds has already spoken to his parent club Falkirk with a view to extending his loan spell in Angus.
McKenna was one of seven players to pen a contract extension, which was announced on Christmas Eve, laying stable foundations for the club over the next few years.
Dodds isn’t surprised so many of their men pledged their futures to the Angus side.
He said: “If I was a part-time player and my club was top of the league, I’d do the same.
“There is something right happening there and it’s all positive for Arbroath. They will fancy themselves, but we’re a good team too.
“I think Nouble and Dowds will play against us. I don’t know about longer term, but they are both doing really well at Championship level.
“Dick’s not daft and, if they go – and they’re a big part of their team – he’ll have contingency plans.”
Arrows ace added to Arbroath buzz
The coastal town of Arbroath is buzzing right now, and not only with their football side riding high at the top of the table.
Fireman, and massive Arbroath fan, Alan Soutar has been lighting up the Ally Pally by storming into the last 16 of the PDC World Darts Championships.
— Ewan Smith (@ewansmithpr) December 30, 2021
Not only has the club’s manager Dick Campbell wished him well, saying he’d have him in his team, but Scotland star Andy Robertson is one of many top names to urge him on.
His adventure came to an end when he lost 4-1 to Callan Rydz on Thursday, but he’s made a lot of their locals proud on his debut.
Missed opportunity for Kilmarnock
With Arbroath, Raith Rovers, Inverness and Partick Thistle having their midweek matches postponed due to combinations of Covid, injuries and waterlogged pitches, Kilmarnock had the chance to surge into second spot.
However, up against Dougie Imrie’s Morton in his dug-out debut, the managerless Rugby Park side had to settle for a 1-1 draw, which keep them one point behind ICT.
That result swiftly prompted bookies to install Caley Thistle as the title favourites going into Sunday’s Gayfield showdown, which is followed six days later with a home clash with Raith Rovers.
The Inverness club have confirmed it will allow the permitted current maximum of 500 fans into the stadium for the Rovers match. This will be for season ticket holders only, on a first come, first served basis. See ictfc.com for more details.
The club can now confirm the arrangements for our match against Raith Rovers on Saturday 8th January at the Caledonian Stadium. This game will take place under a restricted capacity of 500.
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) December 30, 2021