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Cup exit won’t hamper Caley Thistle’s league aims, says Stuart Golabek

Inverness kick off their seventh successive Championship season at home to Queen's Park this weekend.

Former Inverness captain Stuart Golabek. Image: SNS
Former Inverness captain Stuart Golabek. Image: SNS

Stuart Golabek insists Caley Thistle’s exit from the Viaplay Cup won’t impact their target of getting their Championship season off to a winning start.

The former ICT captain, who led the Highlanders into the top-flight in 2004 and 2010, isn’t reading too much into their slow start to the new season, which led to cup losses against Dumbarton, Airdrieonians and Dundee, following their win against Bonnyrigg Rose.

ICT begin their Championship campaign this weekend with Queen’s Park their opening league opponents at the Caledonian Stadium.

Inverness, hampered by injuries last term, missed out on a top-four finish in May when they slipped to a final-night 2-1 home defeat by Ayr United, who claimed the runners-up spot as a result.

Right-back Jake Davidson, snapped up from Queen’s Park, was the first summer capture for Billy Dodds’ Scottish Cup runners-up.

He’s been followed by midfielder Charlie Gilmour, strikers Adam Brooks and Harry Lodovica, and winger Luis Longstaff.

League matters more than the cup

Golabek explained the League Cup games were more about the recruits finding their feet than getting through.

He said: “At this time of year, at all clubs, you have boys settling in and there is always a bedding-in period.

“With the Viaplay Cup, you’re effectively still in pre-season when it starts in mid-July. It’s difficult to gauge where you are as players are still improving their fitness levels.

“While it would have been great to progress in the cup, I wouldn’t be too concerned about their results in their mini-league.

“I’d be more focused on the Championship and how the start on Saturday. Billy Dodds will want the players to settle in quickly.”

Jake Davidson, left, will face his old side Queen’s Park for ICT this weekend. Image: SNS Group

Spiders’ style can work for Inverness

Queen’s Park were praised for their performances under Owen Coyle last season as they took their title fight with champions Dundee to the wire.

Former Anderlecht assistant manager Robin Veldman is now the head coach and Golabek reckons there’s a chance ICT can cash in on their opponents’ open style.

He said: “You want to get off to a winning start, especially being at home.

“Queen’s Park really impressed me last season with the way they played, albeit the way they play also gives you chances. If Caley Thistle can keep it tight at the back, they have a fantastic opportunity to win on Saturday.

“It will be interesting to Robin Veldman’s Queen’s Park plays. The Dutch coaches want to play total football, but they were very good anyway (under Owen Coyle).

“Jake Davidson, coming to Inverness from Queen’s Park, will also be looking to impress. Three points on Saturday would be ideal ahead of away games at Ayr and Airdrie this month.

“You don’t want to lose your first game then you are chasing points from the start.

“It will be a tight league again. The Championship is always competitive. Most clubs will believe they can at least get a play-off place by the end of the season.

“First and foremost, you want to secure a play-off position. Hopefully, Caley Thistle will have better fortune on the injury front.

“Last season, it was only their last-day defeat to Ayr which cost them a play-off place.”

Queen’s Park head coach Robin Veldman. Image: SNS Group

Devine can play a key guiding role

Dodds has been concerned by the nature of the seven goals ICT leaked in the Viaplay Cup.

With centre-half Robbie Deas leaving for Kilmarnock this summer, Golabek reckons now is the time for Wallace Duffy to shift from full-back duties and partner Danny Devine.

He added: “With Robbie Deas moving to Kilmarnock, it gives the likes of Wallace Duffy an opportunity to cement a place at centre-half.

“Maybe they could have done with a wee bit more experience, just to guide the younger boys.

“Seeing the youngsters coming through is really good for the future of Caley Thistle. There has always been a good mix of youth and experience and Billy might look to add one or two more, but there’s a good balance there.

“You need players such as Danny Devine and Aaron Doran, who have been there for a long time, to help the young players in any way they can.

“Young players will do well in certain games then they will, at times, find it more difficult, so having some guidance from the more experienced players will be important.

“For Danny, he will hope to stay clear of injury and get a good run of games. That will be beneficial for him to have a really good season.”

Jim Goodwin’s Dundee United kick off their Championship season at Arbroath on Friday.  Image: SNS Group

Four or five teams will fancy chances

Golabek, who played four of his 10 Inverness seasons in the top-flight until 2010, knows Jim Goodwin’s relegated Premiership side Dundee United are the favourites to go straight back up.

However, he believes whoever takes the title will have fierce competition in their way.

He said: “It’s very difficult to pick a favourite. It’s easy to pick Dundee United because they have just come down from the Premiership.

“Jim Goodwin has made some decent signings and they will aim to bed in quickly in such a competitive league.

“Dundee United have one of the best squads, if not the best squad, in the Championship. But it’s a difficult league to get out of.

“There are four or five teams who will fancy themselves to win it. It’s such a long season and injuries and suspensions will play their part, especially in the second half of the season when everyone is fighting for points.

“It’s the most competitive league in Scotland and last season showed that when so many places and even the title was decided on the final night.

Dundee’s 5-3 win over Queen’s Park to decide the title was a really good spectacle for fans – that’s what people want to see.

“Hopefully it will be another season like that, where one team doesn’t run away with it. I think it will be tough for anyone to win it – and Jim Goodwin will know that.”