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Caley Thistle legend James Vincent on 2014 League Cup final regrets – and how defeat sparked Scottish Cup glory a year later

The Hampden hero feels the defeat against Aberdeen provided Inverness with the platform that culminated in Scottish Cup success in 2015.

James Vincent scores the winner for Caley Thistle against Falkirk in the 2015 Scottish Cup final.
James Vincent scores the winner for Caley Thistle against Falkirk in the 2015 Scottish Cup final. Image: SNS

James Vincent believes Caley Thistle passed up a great opportunity to win the 2014 League Cup final on a day when nerves hampered both sides.

Aberdeen lifted the silverware at Celtic Park a decade ago after they triumphed in a penalty shoot-out, which followed 120 minutes of tense action.

The victory was the Dons’ first trophy for 19 years – since they defeated Dundee in the final of the same competition in 1995.

In 2014, Inverness were an established Premiership club, having won promotion back to the top flight at the first time of asking five years earlier.

Rangers were working their way back up the leagues, but in 2013-2014, John ‘Yogi’ Hughes’ side finished fifth in the league behind Celtic, Motherwell Aberdeen and Dundee United.

They had each won 1-0 in league meetings that season with Aberdeen also winning a thriller 4-3 at the Caledonian Stadium just before Christmas.

The League Cup showpiece was ICT’s first major national final.

There was every reason to suggest Inverness had a real chance of leaving Glasgow as the winners, despite 43,000 Aberdeen fans roaring on Derek McInnes’ side.

Midfielder Vincent, 31, who now plays for North West Counties First Division South leaders Stockport Town scored the Scottish Cup final winner against Falkirk the following year.

Set-up was costly to ICT’s chances

However, he feels the chance was there for the Highland club, but they set-up too cautiously.

He said: “I remember the build-up to the game and how we set up. It was the club’s first – and that new group’s first – taste of playing in such a final.

“If I’m being honest, we were a little bit reserved. It was like a Christmas tree formation – a 4-3-2-1 – really compact and really narrow. There was not a lot of width, although we had good attacking options in our team.

“Had we approached the game differently, we might well have caused Aberdeen some really problems and won it.

“In my opinion, it was a bit of a stalemate. Both teams were nervous as no one wanted to make that first mistake. There was a mutual respect from both clubs, one goal would probably have won it.

“Afterwards, we took the view that we’d reached the final on credit. We deserved to be there and had just gone toe-to-toe with Aberdeen, who also had a really good team, and were a club far more established than we were.

“The nucleus of that Aberdeen team stayed together and performed very well for many years.

“We then felt we could have a real go next time we get an opportunity. It really gave us a push for what was the follow next year. We had a few good cup runs on the back of it over the years, so it was a learning process.

“We took it all the way to penalties, but it was an opportunity for us to reflect and aim to do better next time.”

James Vincent celebrates after scoring the winner in the 2015 Scottish Cup final for Caley Thistle against Falkirk at Hampden. Image: SNS

Hughes wanted free-flowing football

Vincent explained playing on the front-foot was actually more the call from Hughes as ICT not only won the 2015 Scottish Cup final against Falkirk (after knocking out Celtic in the semis), but they finished third in the Premiership and qualified for the Europa League.

The latter ended in a 1-0 aggregate loss to Romanian opponents Astra Giurgiu in the second qualifying round.

Vincent, who also coaches at League Two title contenders Stockport County, said: “Yogi’s approach in the 2014 League Cup final was to stay compact and stay in the game and we had chances to win it.

“Generally though, Yogi didn’t change his principles, so we knew what we were capable of as a squad. He wanted us to play football and go and express ourselves.

“As long as the backline was secure and we were happy, he wanted players going forward and playing free-flowing football. He got the best out of the squad.

“He gave us that belief. Without that, it is really difficult to drive on as a club.

“We had such good talent in the team as well as physicality. Everyone worked really hard and we were like a well-oiled machine.

“We had depth as well, so when someone was out of the team, someone else stepped in and it never affected the team and how we played.

“Credit to the club and it came down to the work we did on the training ground. We did repetitions of how we wanted to play it brought out the best in us all.

“The manager created an environment where, when you were disappointed when you didn’t play, it was on you to go and win your place back.

“He gave you a chance and a platform. Players felt that was fair and pulled in the same direction.”

Scottish Cup-winning Caley Thistle John Hughes.

Friendships were strong foundations

Those special days of competing at the sharp end of Scottish football were unforgettable for Vincent.

He said: “It was a fantastic time to be an Inverness player and a lot of that was driven by the leadership and the manager.

“We had a strong group, but strong individuals such as Richie Foran and Gary Warren, who would set such high standards.

“Given the location, at Inverness, that group are your friends and that was a big factor. Everyone wanted to do well for one another.”

Richie Foran slides in to challenge Aberdeen’s Niall McGinn in the 2014 League Cup final. Image: SNS

Momentum can boost ICT’s hopes

Ahead of Saturday’s home date with Ayr United, Caley Thistle are ninth in an ultra-competitive Championship, but also only seven points below fourth-placed Morton.

Duncan Ferguson replaced Billy Dodds in the hot-seat last September, and Vincent hopes the team can turn the heat on for these final eight games to edge into promotion contention.

He added: “When I saw Inverness had appointed Duncan, I thought it was fantastic for the club to bring in such a high profile figure in the game.

“Everyone knows all about him and what he has done in his career. He commands respect. Hopefully, with his leadership and presence, he will really get a grip of the team and shape it to do what he wants.

“There are still some fantastic players at the club and I think they have made some good signings, such as Max Anderson, who was at Dundee when I was there.

“Hopefully Duncan will get the best from that group. Any team that can put a run together, especially at this point in the season, can win promotion or at least get into the play-offs.  Momentum can carry you forward – Inverness have finished strongly before.”

Inverness manager Duncan Ferguson. Image: SNS