Defender Max Ram arrives at Caley Thistle with a ringing endorsement from his previous club Wycombe Wanderers.
Although released from the English League 1 side, coaches feel he has plenty of qualities to offer as he makes the step into the Scottish Championship.
The 22-year-old centre half recently signed a two-year deal with Inverness and spoke this week about his determination to help Billy Dodds’ men win promotion after going so close in May.
Ram made just three first-team appearances for Wycombe, all in cup competitions last year, and was loaned out to Hungerford Town.
Reports from the National League South club were glowing, but the sheer number of players in front of Ram at Wycombe was always going to make it tough for a breakthrough next term.
Wycombe, whose nickname is the Chairboys, from where Aberdeen’s Anthony Stewart has just signed from, missed out on promotion back to the Championship in May.
After finishing sixth in League 1, former Ross County ace Ross Stewart helped Sunderland defeat Wycombe 2-0 in the promotion play-off final, so they go again under long-serving manager Gareth Ainsworth, who has just signed a new one-year deal.
Experienced side set at Wycombe
Although released, Matt Cecil, head of media at Wycombe Wanderers, said Ram arrived last summer as a development squad player, therefore being sent on loan was the usual course to gather experience.
He explained a settled side competing for promotion was always going to make it hard for younger lads to force a way into the reckoning.
He said: “The season before last, we were a club struggling in the Championship, while last season in League 1 we were at the top end and the team was pretty much set. It was unlikely that any of the young lads were going to get a chance to break through.
“It was not a reflection of their ability, just that we were set with an experienced defensive set-up in Max’s case and he was not going to get much of a look-in.
“The staff were really impressed with Max’s character and work ethic. He came in on trial last summer, having been known to our development coaches and/or scouts.
“They really liked the look of him, just being a no-nonsense defender. He is the sort who will go in to win every header and throw himself into tackles and he was quite composed on the ball.
“That’s what they saw from him last pre-season and that earned him a development squad deal.”
Interception led to Man City cup-tie
Cecil recalls a telling moment in a League Cup encounter which helped the club land a tie away to Manchester City, which they lost 6-1 last September.
He said: “Max’s first game for us was at Stevenage in the League Cup and he held his own against a League 2 attack. Towards the end, because we had injuries, Max was thrown up front.
“We were 2-1 down at this stage and he had a big involvement as we scored a last-minute equaliser. He threw himself at the ball in the middle of the box to block a clearance and we went up the other end to score the equaliser.
“That led to us winning on penalties and playing at Man City in the third round.
“That game at Stevenage was, I think, his first 90 minutes in senior football, but it showed his determination to throw himself at the ball in the last minute for a clearance and, from that, we went on to equalise and secure a tie at Man City.”
Ram will be ‘big threat in both boxes’
Cecil also explained feedback from Hungerford was positive as the player was making a positive impact.
He added: “Max did really well on loan at Hungerford. We got rave reports about him. Our coaching staff kept a close eye on him.
“They seemed to like him as a big threat in both boxes. He could defend his own box, but he was also someone they could throw forward to score goals from set-pieces.
✍️ Inverness Caledonian Thistle are delighted to announce the pre-contract signing of promising defender Max Ram on an 2 year deal from Wycombe Wanderers
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) June 28, 2022
“Hungerford were really pleased with him and I would imagine they would have been interested in keeping him on.
“Had circumstances been different and we maybe had a few injuries in our first-team, he might have got a chance. If you’re in the team, it’s your shirt to keep.
“He was well-thought of at Wycombe, a nice humble lad, who was here to work hard and got on with everyone.”