Barry Wilson is calling on Caley Thistle’s players to turn the pain of losing the Premiership play-off as the driving force for a title charge in next season’s Championship.
The first-team coach and former player says the Highlanders have regrouped and will shape up this summer to go again in Scotland’s second-tier.
After seeing off Partick Thistle and Arbroath, Billy Dodds’ third-placed finishers were level at 2-2 on aggregate against St Johnstone at half-time of the play-off final.
The under-fire Saints stepped up the gears at McDiarmid Park and rattled in four second half goals to deny Inverness the chance of returning to the Premiership for the first time since 2017.
ICT aiming for automatic promotion
Wilson explained how the club are determined to use that fire in their bellies from losing in such a way to push them towards automatic promotion, by winning the title and avoiding the play-off route of up to six ties.
He said: “It was a massive disappointment to lose it in the last 45 minutes after the boys put so much into the season. It was tough to take.
“It was hard going into game six of the play-offs, which was league game 24 overall. Maybe it was just a step too much for us.
“We could not have asked any more from the boys and it’s important we now try to use that as an inspiration. We don’t want to find ourselves in that situation again to try and gain promotion.”
The players returned to training on Monday, less than a month after that defeat at St Johnstone.
Wilson explained the group are in great shape and with no new injuries to report.
He said: “It has been a really good week and the boys have come back pretty fit, having only had four weeks off.
“Apart from the two long-term injuries (Tom Walsh and Shane Sutherland), we’ve got no fresh injuries. You normally do have a couple in the first week of pre-season, but that’s been a positive and we’ve been lucky, touch wood.”
Arrivals offer width to Caley Thistle
And Wilson was delighted for the club to land former Peterhead and Alloa Athletic forward Steven Boyd, 25, and 21-year-old winger Nathan Shaw, from AFC Fylde in National League North.
He said: “We lost loan players, Reece McAlear and Logan Chalmers, so we’ve bolstered the squad with Nathan and Steven.
“They are both wide players and, with Walshy being out and Logan returning to Dundee United, these boys will offer a bit of extra width in the team, which is what we’re needing.”
Boyd’s career kicked off in the Celtic academy before going on to play for Hamilton, Albion Rovers, Livingston, East Fife and Peterhead before most recently being at Alloa in League 1.
He pointed to the success of current ICT striker Shane Sutherland, who stepped back into full-time football after playing down the divisions, including at League 2 Elgin City.
Wilson sees no reason why the scorer of eight Alloa goals last season cannot grasp this fresh opportunity.
He added: “You give players chances and it is up to them to take it. Steven has looked really sharp in training and I’m looking forward to seeing him out on the pitch.”
Further signings on the way to ICT
And the former winger reckons fans will see another three new arrivals at the Caledonian Stadium over the summer to strengthen the squad.
He added: “I’d say we have two or three players still to come in. Our squad is okay, but we do need to add to it.
“There are three or four of the 18-year-old lads, who are not quite ready.”