Billy Dodds is urging his promotion-chasing Caley Thistle stars to go and make history by sinking St Johnstone.
No club has ever finished third in the Championship and made it all the way to the top-flight via the play-offs.
The Premiership’s 11th-placed side, St Johnstone, visit Inverness on Friday evening before becoming the hosts for Monday’s conclusion.
Squad rested and ready for Saints tie
Dodds feels his squad, which will be minus the injured Shane Sutherland, Tom Walsh and Roddy MacGregor and the suspended Danny Devine and Wallace Duffy, are as prepared as they can be.
He said: “It’s a hard route via the play-offs. No side has done it from third place and I would love us to be the first to do it.
“My boys are more than capable and they are in a good place.
“The good thing is we have had a week’s rest from Friday to Friday. I have taken the players off their feet and they have had a few days off.
“We are ready for the match. We know it’s a hard route and a long route but my message is ‘bring it on’.”
ICT have ‘real opportunity’ in final
Inverness have won eight of their last 12 games, losing only once, while St Johnstone, after six changes, slumped to a 4-0 weekend loss at Hibs.
Dodds is confident but wary of facing last season’s double cup winners.
He said: “I want the boys to make history. We would be the first team to do it after six play-off games.
“To get back to the Premiership would be fantastic for the club. We want to be there and we have given ourselves a great opportunity to do it.
“We have momentum and confidence. We are up against a formidable opposition who won the cup double last season and, although they’ve not had a good season, they still have good players, so we will have to be at our best.
“I am still positive going into these games because of where we’ve been and what we’ve come through.”
Players deserve all the praise – Dodds
For ex-Scotland striker Dodds, in his first solo management role, taking ICT back to the top table for the first time since 2017 would be high on his CV. However, he wants any glory to be lapped up by his players, rather than him.
He said: “It would be one of my biggest achievements in football and I have had a few.
“I don’t want it to be about me and I have told the boys that. They laughed at me when I said it but it’s true.
“It’s about them. I would love them to create history and get us back to the Premiership.
“It’s nice for me if I take them there, but I want them to have that feeling.”
Crowd set for crunch first home leg
A bulky crowd, backed by the vocal and ever-growing Section 94, is expected to back Dodds’ men and the boss cannot wait.
He added: “A large crowd fits the occasion. That’s what comes with the territory when you reach finals.
📣 | ONE MORE STEP.
We are calling on the City of Inverness to get behind your team.
— Section 94 (@ict_section94) May 18, 2022
“I’m looking forward to it, as I always do. My players are ready. It’s going to be a tough battle and we can’t wait.
“We have earned our right to be here and we will give it our best shot.”
Taking lead to Perth might be crucial
Last Tuesday, Caley Thistle had to settle for a 0-0 draw to take into their second leg at Arbroath three nights later.
Taking the lead to Perth on Monday would be ideal and that’s what the Highlanders will be aiming for on Friday.
Dodds said: “I would love an advantage, I was disappointed against Arbroath where we couldn’t get an advantage, I would love one to take to McDiarmid Park and put them under pressure.
🗣 A message from former Caley Thistle Captain Graeme Shinnie ahead of tomorrow’s Premiership Play-Off Final 1st Leg v St Johnstone
🎟 Tickets available for tomorrow’s match now from https://t.co/6z5nBM5y24
GET BEHIND THE TEAM TOMORROW 🔴🔵 pic.twitter.com/Pqns08OUqr
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) May 19, 2022
“St Johnstone have more pressure. We want to get them to a place in the tie where they have to think about it.
“They are the Premiership team, but when we play we are a right good team. We played well in patches in the first game against Partick, not so well in the second game.
“We were not playing at our best, but showing guts and determination, I want us to play as well.”
Former ICT star Graeme Shinnie, meanwhile, has posted a ‘good luck’ video to the team, urging them to “go out and smash it” against the Saints.