Alex Samuel is determined to get sharper with a run of competitive game-time to help Caley Thistle push up the Championship table.
The striker secured a loan move on Friday with Duncan Ferguson’s Inverness, switching from Premiership Ross County until May.
The 28-year-old repaid the ICT manager for handing him his debut on Saturday with a strong shift and a debut goal in their 4-0 Scottish Cup fourth-round victory against Lowland League Broomhill.
While County were crashing out at the hands of Partick Thistle, ICT were avoiding any slip-ups, with Samuel recovering from seeing his penalty saved by tucking away the second goal of the afternoon.
Lack of starts for Ross County
The Welshman, who was snapped up by ex-Staggies boss Malky Mackay from Wycombe Wanderers in 2021, battled back from a crucial ligament injury in his first year in the Highlands.
However, he’s never been a regular, with eight of his 13 appearances last term being from the bench.
That said, he started and impressed in key run-in games as County stayed up via the play-off final triumph against Partick.
This season, 15 of his 16 County appearances have also been as a substitute – and he’s yet to get the nod to kick off games under current boss Derek Adams.
With Inverness losing out on signing David Wotherspoon to Dundee United, the swoop for striker Samuel was rubber-stamped to help boost their attacking options.
Debut start appreciated by Samuel
Samuel appreciated being given the immediate chance to shine by Ferguson less than 24 hours after the deal was confirmed.
He said: “I absolutely loved it.
“I have come in and the gaffer has put me in the team straight away. That shows the intent.
“I’d heard they play good football here, but to be actually in the team to experience that was great.
“I was happy to get a goal. It was a shame about the penalty, but I am glad to get off the mark.
“I want to help take Inverness up the Championship table now. I have come here to work my socks off.
“I’ll give everything, that’s who I am, and let’s see where it goes.”
Striker kept cool after spot-kick miss
After his penalty, which was won by Aaron Doran, was saved by Broomhill goalkeeper Luke Scullion, Samuel remained confident he’d have another opportunity to score, and he guided home a shot following a header from on-loan Wigan defender James Carragher.
He said: “That was the important thing – I knew I was going to get another opportunity.
“It was a case of making sure you’re in the right position to grab a goal and thankfully I was.
“It was great to get the first one off the mark. We can now focus on Raith Rovers on Saturday.”
Supportive Ferguson helped Samuel
And Samuel, who had a spell with Championship side Morton in 2015-2016, stressed that no amount of daily grind on the training pitch can beat being given the chance to prove your worth in competitive games.
He added: “All I need now is games. It doesn’t matter how much you train, match-fitness is what you need and you get that on the park.
“To get those minutes in the legs on Saturday was fantastic. I am looking forward to my four or five months at Inverness.
“The manager has been so supportive. I came in on Friday and it was a really quick turnover.
“He made me feel so welcome and that’s what you need in a gaffer. I really appreciate that.”
‘Heart and passion’ is with Inverness
Samuel explained that all thoughts about what may lie ahead on his return to Dingwall this summer are on ice because he wants to show what he can do for their Highland neighbours.
He said: “My heart and passion now is with Inverness.
“I’m a Ross County player and I care for them too, but I’m here to do my best for Inverness.”
62' | 2-0
GOALLLLLLL! ALEX SAMUEL MAKES IT 2-0! pic.twitter.com/r7dY202cEd
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) January 20, 2024
Samuel sets sights on Raith Rovers
Inverness return to league action on Saturday with a trip to second-top Raith Rovers, who have lost three games on the spin, including the weekend’s 2-1 defeat at Premiership Livingston in the Scottish Cup.
ICT, who are seventh, have won just one of their last seven league games, but Samuel is hopeful they can get one over title-chaser Rovers.
He said: “If you apply yourself and put in 100%, then we’re confident we can come away with three points.
“I know Kyle Turner (who is on loan at Rovers from County) and Keith Watson (former Staggies’ captain), but this is one we’re looking forward to.
“It will be good for me to work towards that game. Saturday was the first time I’d met everyone at Inverness, which was nice.”