Caley Thistle chief executive Scot Gardiner insists Duncan Ferguson’s failure to keep Forest Green Rovers in English League One “didn’t faze” the board as they made him their new boss.
The 51-year-old former Scotland, Rangers and Everton striker is a big-name capture for the club currently bottom of the Scottish Championship.
After going into Forest Green in January, he battled to keep the team in the third-tier, but just one win from his 18 in charge meant the side dropped down a division after finishing 24th.
Reports of the sporting structure not being as Ferguson would want it, and a differing opinion over the longer-term direction of the “vegan” club came ahead of him opting to leave in July.
Out of the blue, the call came from Inverness, and he was thrilled to listen to their plans and take up the offer of a three-year contract to become Billy Dodds’ successor.
Duncan Ferguson not at fault at Forest Green
Gardiner and his board sounded out people in the know, who insisted the Forest Green experience should not count against the man who has been caretaker Everton manager in the Premier League more than once.
He said: “We had done our homework on everyone, and everyone was doing their homework on us.
“We knew about the Forest Green situation, and that didn’t faze us in the slightest. I called people I know down south – ex-players and coaches that are friends – and one guy said to me that Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho couldn’t have done any more than Duncan did, and that backed up our thought process.
“We’ve had two good seasons, considering the challenges that were thrown up during both of those seasons.
“We still ended up in the Premiership play-off final (losing to St Johnstone in May 2022), which I would take from anyone’s first season, so Billy did brilliantly, and obviously to be in the Scottish Cup final (losing to Celtic in June) is a fantastic achievement.
“Looking at where we are at now, the characteristics, we were looking for was someone to light a fire.
“We have lost five games by one goal. I would say that we should have won three of those games, or at least they should have been a draw, so it’s fine margins.
“You are looking for someone who can light a fire and be a leader.
“We have a very young squad. Depending on how you count it with injuries, our average age is just under 24, so we were looking for someone to come in and pick them up and get them scoring goals.
“Duncan knows a bit about scoring goals, so we hope our forwards will really enjoy working with them.”
Ferguson has ‘spark’ board wanted
Ferguson’s appointment at the Caledonian Stadium comes just nine days after Dodds and assistant Barry Wilson were sacked for a winless start to the season and exits from League Cup and the SPFL Trust Trophy.
Gardiner, who described the former international forward as a “serious appointment”, explained why Ferguson stood out.
He said: “In the short-term, we found him inspirational. Other coaches were great, and they all had different pros and cons that we were going through – there wasn’t a single coach we wouldn’t have been comfortable appointing – but we found Duncan to have a spark that was inspiration.
“That was probably the main thing.”
‘Culture shock’ for Inverness players
Ferguson shares the vision of taking Inverness back to the Premiership and Gardiner is sure the under-fire squad will have their eyes opened ahead of Saturday’s Championship match at in-form Arbroath.
He said: “I think it will be a big culture shock (for the players), because he is bringing an English Premier league culture to the Caledonian Stadium.
“It’s all relative – when I went to Spurs, I took ideas I learned at Rangers, and then on to Dundee and Hearts. You take everything you’ve learned, but the ball is round and it’s 11 against 11 on a Saturday.
“Some people might say it’s a bit romantic to have Duncan and Dick Campbell at Gayfield with Storm Agnes or whatever it’s called, but we need to get back on track.”