Caley Thistle defender Cameron Harper insists St Johnstone are the team with pressure on their shoulders ahead of Friday’s Premiership play-off final opener.
With Danny Devine suspended after a failed appeal, Harper is expected to slot into the back line, most likely at left-back with Robbie Deas taking a centre-half berth beside Kirk Broadfoot.
1️⃣ day to go until our massive Premiership Play-Off Final 1st Leg
Get behind the Caley Jags as we push for a return to the Premiership🔴🔵
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) May 19, 2022
Harper, 20, is relaxed yet confident about the Highlanders’ chances of seeing off the top table’s 11th-placed side over two legs, with the deciding tie on Monday in Perth.
He said: “I would say the pressure is on St Johnstone.
“Obviously they’re in the Premiership, they’re meant to be up there compared to us down here.
“They won the two cups last year, and they are the Premiership team.
“I would say it’s 100 per cent on them. Everyone expects the Premiership team to beat the Championship team, but who knows? We’ll wait and see.
“We’re confident in our own ability, and we know what we have to do on Friday and Monday.
“We’re focusing on ourselves, and we know we can get the job done.”
St Johnstone will still be dangerous
Despite their lowly league position, Harper isn’t reading too much into the Saints’ results because he rates them as dangerous opponents.
He said: “I know results haven’t been going too well for them, and I know quite a few of the boys.
“Jamie McCart and Shaun Rooney were here, so I played with them, and I played with Glenn (Middleton) with the Scotland Under-21s.
“I know about a few of them, so I would expect a tough game.
“There are huge stakes, so it is always going to be a tough game. We won’t get anything given to us easily, we know that.”
Return to top table is Harper’s goal
As a teenager, Harper watched from the stands as ICT tackled the country’s best teams.
They have been looking from the outside in for five years and the Inverness-born player spelled out what a step up would mean.
He said: “Promotion would be huge for all of us – the fans, the club, everyone around the city.
The moment we booked our place in the Premiership Play-Off Final 😍🔵🔴
🎟 Tickets for Friday’s 1st Leg are available now from https://t.co/6z5nBMn9qE
Let’s get behind the team as we push for a return to the Premiership 👊
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) May 17, 2022
“For the younger players as well, me, Roddy (MacGregor) and Dan (MacKay) who has moved on, we used to watch games after our youth games when Caley were in the Premiership.
“It was all we had known, and then when we got into the team we were in the Championship.
“Myself, all the younger boys and all the older ones all want to get us back in the Premiership.
“There is a bit of pride that this is our team, and we’ve got the chance to take the team back to where it belongs.
“When I was younger, I watched the team in the Premiership and winning the Scottish Cup.”
Chance for ICT to make history
No side has ever come from the play-off quarter-finals all the way into the Premiership.
Having the chance to be the trail-blazers excites Harper.
He said: “It would be huge if we could become history makers.
“We could be the first team to do it, and for me personally having watched Caley in the Premiership as a young boy, and having friends who are Inverness fans as well, it would mean a lot.
“I’m sure if you ask any of the boys, the staff or anyone around the club, they would say the exact same thing.”
Why can’t we make it all the way?
Caley Thistle got past Arbroath on penalties in the semis last week, despite red cards for Devine and Wallace Duffy and having Shane Sutherland stretchered off with a knee injury.
Winning against the odds is a good side going into this massive double-header, according to Harper.
He added: “St Johnstone have maybe not had the best of runs leading up to this game, whereas we had the madness of the Arbroath game.
“We were on a very good run leading up to that as well which gives us confidence, so we’re ready for it.
“No-one’s ever done it from third position, but in my head with everything going against us in the Arbroath game, it’s almost a siege mentality.
“Someone’s got to do it at some point, so why can’t it be us.”