Former Caley Thistle captain Sean Welsh has explained for the first time why he quit the club and joined Championship rivals Queen’s Park.
After making 143 appearances over six years, the 33-year-old star called time on what he says was a largely enjoyable period in the Highland capital.
A run of three injuries earlier in the season – combined with boss Billy Dodds being sacked after a poor run of form – made it a hugely frustrating first part of the campaign for Welsh.
When he returned to the fold in November under new manager Duncan Ferguson, he didn’t get the sense he was an integral part of his plans.
Added to the mix was a desire from Welsh and his family to return to the Central Belt, and all of those factors meant the ex-Falkirk player decided the time was right to move.
Wanted by new Queen’s Park manager Callum Davidson as his first capture, the transfer fell into place last week.
And Welsh’s debut on Saturday was the stuff of dreams as he scored the decider in a 2-1 win at title-chasing Raith Rovers to also earn a place in the SPFL team of the week.
The result hauled Queen’s to within one point of seventh-placed ICT and they could overtake Caley Jags if they defeat Dunfermline this weekend. The Highlanders are home to Broomhill in round four of the Scottish Cup.
Dodds’ sacking was tough one to take
Welsh told The Press and Journal why he felt he had to walk away from a club he grew so fond of.
He said: “There were a few factors which led to me deciding to leave Inverness.
“First and foremost, it had been a very difficult season for me.
“I never like to see managers lose their job, and when you’re out, you feel helpless – you can’t help the team and the manager lost his job. That was not nice for me to be sitting on the sidelines and being unable to help.
“The new manager came in and it was also frustrating, because he maybe doesn’t know you, or know what you can do.
“You are then playing catch-up, while still trying to build up fitness at the same time. That’s a difficult situation to be in.
Welsh – ‘I had to make a decision’
“It took a bit of time for me to get up to speed and a second injury set-back never helped. I kept battling away, but I wasn’t sure if the manager seen me as part of his plans.
— Queen's Park FC (@queensparkfc) January 16, 2024
“I didn’t want to just sit there and pick up a wage. I felt if I was not going to be a strong part of the manager’s plans, then I had to make a decision.
“My wife was also quite keen to move back home to be closer to her friends and family, so these factors fell into place at the same time, and I thought this was the right time to move on.
“It was never going to be easy leaving the club, considering how good a time I had there, but when you’re not a mainstay in the plans and your family are getting restless, then it is time to move on.”
Mental resilience to beat injuries
Welsh has regularly had to battle back from injury set-backs throughout his time in the game and this term was no exception.
It began with a broken nose in the 2-1 Viaplay Cup group stage defeat at Dumbarton in July.
As he prepared to return in the same competition against Dundee, he suffered a groin injury, then in his comeback match, in the North of Scotland Cup penalty shoot-out defeat at Nairn County, his tailbone took a bad knock.
It meant, he didn’t get back into action again until November 25 and ICT’s 2-0 Scottish Cup victory over Cowdenbeath.
The ex-Partick Thistle star hopes showing, once again, the willingness to return to the pitch will now pay off for him – and the Spiders.
Welsh added: “I have battled against these situations throughout my career unfortunately.
“Some people can be pretty much injury-free, while others are dealt a hard card in terms of injuries.
“You build up a mental resilience – you just keep fighting back.
“This has been a tough season for me. I injured my groin so early in the season and I missed a lot more games than I anticipated, or wanted.
“It was very frustrating, but I dug deep again and I got back to full fitness.
“Hopefully I can kick on now and have a good remainder to the season and prove there is still life in me yet.”
Welsh grateful to Caley Thistle fans
Welsh helped to guide ICT to last year’s Scottish Cup final, scoring goals against top-table opponents Livingston and Kilmarnock on the road to Hampden.
And his departure from the Highlands this month was met by a strong reaction from fans, who couldn’t believe the club allowed their ex-skipper to join a direct rival.
The experienced middle man was taken aback by the goodwill shown towards him by many Caley Jags fans and he’s grateful for the response.
He said: “I am not massive on social media. I don’t really do it – other than having an Instagram account.
“I got some lovely messages from some of the fans and it did really touch me. It was nice to see I left a good impression.
“You want to create good memories for supporters. Successful times is what they’ll remember and it’s what I’ll remember.
“The reaction was really nice from the fans and I’d really like to thank them for that. I am honestly so grateful for their support.
“To be honest, it took me a bit by surprise. I was not aware that I was well-liked by the fans, so it meant a lot to me.
“I never got the chance to say goodbye, but I had such a good time up there.
“Throughout my career, I always tried to give everything to clubs I played for.
“I gave everything for Inverness and battled through many injury situations to go out and give everything for the team.”
Both goals today were pretty special
✅First senior goal for Cameron Bruce
✅ First goal on debut for Sean Welsh
✅Our youngest (Bruce, 18 and 29 days) and oldest (Welsh, 33 and 304 days) players on the pitch getting on the score-sheet👶🏼👴🏼 pic.twitter.com/miExjJWNPl
— Queen's Park FC (@queensparkfc) January 13, 2024