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Caley Thistle chief calls for united efforts to win Championship title

CEO Scot Gardiner spells out how fans can help the Inverness club return to the top-flight on the back of their Scottish Cup final efforts.

Scot Gardiner, chief executive of Caley Thistle. Image: DC Thomson.
Scot Gardiner, chief executive of Caley Thistle. Image: DC Thomson.

Caley Thistle chief Scot Gardiner insists the Championship club will “redouble” its efforts to make as push for the title and a return to top-flight football next year.

With season-tickets going on sale at 10am on Wednesday, the Inverness club are calling on loyal fans to roar on Billy Dodds’ side, who were the Scottish Cup runners-up to Celtic this month.

Dodds was handed a new two-year deal after a deep injury crisis hampered their progress last season and they finished in sixth position on the final day of the season, despite a superb late-term run of form.

Danny Devine, Aaron Doran, Wallace Duffy, Lewis Hyden have signed new deals, with contract offers being considered by Billy Mckay, Scott Allardice, Austin Samuels, Ethan Cairns, Robbie Thompson and Harry Hennem.

Danny Devine. Image: SNS

Defender Robbie Deas has joined Premiership Kilmarnock, while Steven Boyd and Ben Woods have moved on.

More deals being considered by stars

Gardiner, as part of ICT’s end-of-season statement, stressed the work continues to secure those current players on new deals and, if not, their replacements will be sought.

He said: “We hope that new deals will be accepted in the coming days and weeks by the others who have been offered new and improved terms.

“Some will not but that is ok too, it is football, and we will continue to find the good players we need to progress.”

The display by ICT in the 3-1 defeat by treble-winners Celtic was widely praised and Gardiner said that performance from the Highland team was a reminder of what the head coach can do.

He said: “If anyone had any doubts about Billy then the coaching masterclass against the champions of Scotland was especially impressive because of the circumstances we entered into the game, as well as the array of talent we faced.”

ICT ‘should not’ finish sixth in league

And Gardiner acknowledges the depth and scale of last term’s injuries were always going to play a part in where the team finished.

He said: “We lost Mr Reliable, Robbie Deas, to a broken leg and for the second season running we lost the influential Scott Allardice to a lengthy injury.

Celtic’s Matt O’Riley (left) and Inverness midfielder Scott Allardice in the Scottish Cup final. Image: SNS

“A brilliant late run of wins was not enough to turn the league season around though and we finished a very disappointing sixth place.

“That was absolutely not where we wanted to finish, nor is it where we should be finishing. The Championship is not where we want to be.

“Every single person at the club, no matter their position feels the same way and we will all be redoubling our efforts to do much better in the coming season.”

Club have to make ‘small’ price rises

Season tickets will see a “small increase” when announced, but Gardiner said the “brutal financial facts of the Championship” make life tough for all sides and stressed the need to secure more off-the-field income.

He added: “One of our main commercial projects is currently in the last throes of a planning application with Highland Council and we dearly hope that approval is given as this will help cement our future.

Inverness manager Billy Dodds during the Scottish Cup final. Image: SNS

“It will allow us to have a greater positive impact on our city and the wider community and to deliver a football team the fans deserve.”

On the price increases, he said: “There has not been a rise in the price of our season tickets for more than six years and there is a small increase for season 2023/24, but with the financial challenges the club faces in the Championship in particular and for example the rising costs of our utilities which increased six-fold, we hope that fans will be able to continue their much-needed support.

“(Supporters’ group) Section 94 continues to add new life to the West Stand and the atmosphere in the stadium and to our away matches and we hope to work with all of our fans’ groups to continue to enhance the atmosphere home and away.”

Inverness fans at this month’s Scottish Cup final against Celtic. Image: SNS

Key areas of the club in the spotlight

Gardiner also highlighted the importance of the boardroom being bolstered by former player and vice-chairman Graeme Bennett, and world-renowned retired surgeon Panos Thomas, a long-standing fan of 20 years.

More new directors are also being sought as the club looks to maximise from being within a new green freeport.

There will also be new kit details emerging soon as well as information about the Caledonian Stadium and its surrounding area.

The ICT chief also praised the efforts of the ICT Community Development Trust, the Caley Thistle Women’s side and the excitement surrounding the community hub, which will be created in the city, following the efforts of ICT Development Trust general manager Craig Masterton and the club’s sporting director John Robertson.

With the season finishing with five academy players competing in the Scottish Cup final, the Inverness CEO praised Ryan Esson’s under-18s for finishing as runners-up in their national performance league and the club’s under-16s for being in title contention in their division right now.