Caley Thistle’s dream start to the season continued yesterday as they secured another three points to maintain their place alongside Celtic at the top of the SPFL Scottish Premiership.
This season marks Inverness’ 10th campaign in the top flight of Scottish football and it looks like they could celebrate that milestone with their most successful campaign to date – could they even keep up with Celtic and challenge for the title?
Yesterday’s 3-1 success over Motherwell was Caley Thistle’s ninth league win of the season from their opening 14 games which have seen just three defeats – narrow 1-0 and 2-1 losses against Celtic and Aberdeen respectively and an off day in September when John Hughes’ men fell to a 3-1 defeat against Partick Thistle.
Terry Butcher was rightly praised for the work he did during his time in charge at the Caledonian Stadium, however, John Hughes has continued that good work and has even managed to further improve the fortunes of the club.
The spirit in the Caley Thistle dressing room is second to none in the league, the style of play is pleasing on the eye and the results have certainly followed.
But why are Caley Thistle enjoying such a successful? John Hughes and his men were conspicuous by their absence from the summer transfer market but then again that is exactly what Hughes promised – he wanted to stay loyal to his players and that decision has certainly been rewarded this season.
Rather than splashing cash that Caley Thistle could not afford to spend, John Hughes only signed youngsters Lewis Horner and Ryan Baptie during the summer, before adding Ibra Sekajja in October.
The new trio have yet to muster 90 minutes between the three of them – Sekajja has appeared from the bench twice while Horner came on for the final eight minutes against Dundee and Baptie has not yet featured for the first team.
Rather than relying on new signings, Caley Thistle’s success has been built on a strong team spirit, an attractive style of play and a good understanding across the players and management staff.
With the lack of new signings, Caley Thistle players knew they were going to need to step up this season if they wanted to improve, or even just match, last season’s fifth place finish, and step up they certainly have.
The Caley Thistle defence has been outstanding this season, boasting the second best defensive record in the league.
In the absence of captain Richie Foran, left back Graeme Shinnie has stepped up to the role of captain impeccably – reliable defensively and dangerous going forward, Shinnie has now proven himself as an effective leader of men.
Last season Josh Meekings proved he was a more than capable defender but at the other end of the pitch he failed to find the net – this season he has stepped up, already scoring two goals this campaign.
But the biggest improvement in the squad arguably comes further up the pitch from a young Welshman.
Marley Watkins scored just once in 33 appearances last season, this season he has been in scintillating form, already scoring five and proving himself to be equally effective through the middle as well as out wide.
Caley Thistle have certainly improved and pose a threat to all teams in the Premiership, but what is most worrying for fans of the other 11 Premiership team?
Goal machine Billy McKay has only just rediscovered his goal-scoring boots – now that he is scoring goals again there is no doubting Caley Thistle could well go on to enjoy their most successful ever season.
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