Celtic B coach Darren O’Dea is top of Caley Thistle’s managerial wish list – but a range of rivals aim to pip him to the post.
The Championship’s basement club, who sacked Billy Dodds and assistant Barry Wilson on Sunday, are looking to appoint a new boss next week – after the Dundee United game on Saturday and before their trip to Arbroath on September 30.
Former Republic of Ireland international defender O’Dea, 36, is the Scottish champions’ B team manager in the Lowland League and is highly-rated as a coach with plenty of promise.
It’s understood he is the man the Inverness board want and moves will step up over the next few days to secure him. Inverness could face a fight to get him as Celtic are determined to keep hold of the Irishman.
Board prepare for key appointment
Chairman Ross Morrison, chief executive Scott Gardiner and former chief executive and ex-director of football and current director Graeme Bennett will speak to the leading contenders.
Dubliner O’Dea, who previously coached Motherwell’s under-18s, has seen his odds at with bookmaker McBookie shorten to 6/5, pushing Morton manager Dougie Imrie into second spot.
In his first year in charge of Celtic B, in 2021/22, they finished third in the Lowland League, level on points with Rangers B as Bonnyrigg Rose won the title and promotion to League Two.
Last year, it was another third-place finish for the young Hoops, but they were only three points away from champions Spartans and one point behind Rangers.
This term, they are in 12th position, but with games in hand, they are expected to make the climb sooner rather than later.
Should O’Dea land the job, he will be reunited with striker Adam Brooks, who moved to Inverness in July.
Callum Davidson, who won the League and Scottish Cup double with St Johnstone two years ago, is also linked to the vacancy, with a range of others such as former Hearts and Dundee United manager Liam Fox, who played for ICT from 2004-2006.
Robbie Neilson, who guided Dundee United and Hearts to Championship titles in 2020 and 2021, is another possible candidate.
Fans’ favourite Esson joins the list
One possible contender for the job is already within the Caledonian Stadium and seen as a dark horse and favourite with the Inverness supporters.
First-team and goalkeeping coach Ryan Esson has helped bring a host of under-18s through to senior level in recent years and led the young Highlanders to the Scottish Youth Cup semi-final in 2022.
Top-flight head coaches such as Barry Robson at Aberdeen and Hearts Steven Naismith coached at 18s level alongside former Dons keeper Esson, who won the Scottish Cup with ICT in 2015.
Former Caley Jags managers John Robertson and Charlie Christie are in interim charge of the side for the home Dundee United match this weekend.