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Billy Mckay: ‘It would mean everything’ to keep Caley Thistle in Championship

The Highlanders' record scorer is determined to see off Montrose in the Championship play-off semi-finals.

Caley Thistle striker Billy Mckay ahead of the play-offs tie with Montrose.
Caley Thistle's record scorer Billy Mckay has Montrose in his sights. Image: Mark Scates/SNS.

Billy Mckay admits Caley Thistle dropping into League One is “unthinkable” as the club’s record scorer aims to help them survive the relegation play-offs.

The experienced forward, with 111 goals to his name, has had three spells at Inverness, kicking off in 2011 when he moved from Northampton Town to sign for Terry Butcher.

He’s experienced the highs and lows, such as reaching the Scottish Cup final last year, scoring goals in Scotland top-flight over many seasons, but also going down to the second-tier with ICT in 2017.

He has also suffered the pain of relegation with Wigan Athletic, Dundee United and Ross County in his career, so he’s in no mood to feel the same again.

The former Northern Ireland international hopes tonight’s Championship play-off semi-final first leg at Montrose can put Caley Thistle on the path to safety after finishing ninth in their division.

Mckay said: “It would mean everything to me to keep the club in the Championship.

“I’ve been here a long time and know the people inside out. I know how important this club is to people, so for me it (relegation) is unthinkable to be honest.

“It is something I put to the back of my mind.

“I want to help it. I want to stay up and there’s no ifs or buts. That’s what I’ll try my best to do – help the lads and hopefully the lads are with me.”

Dressing room hasn’t fallen apart

Mckay says there’s been no sense of a club heading for demotion at ICT, despite where they’ve finished.

He said: “I’ve had a few relegations, so I know what it looks like at a club.

“The boys who have not experienced it, you need to let them know how important it is that it doesn’t happen.

“I think the squad realises it. We’ve always been together.

“It has been a strange year because I feel we aren’t the second worst team in the league and the dressing room has never fallen apart in the way it can when you’re down there.

“I’ve not felt it coming until maybe the last couple of games when you realise it could happen.

“But we’re not down – we have four games to rectify the season.

“We know it hasn’t been good enough in terms of where we want to be at this club, but there are positives to take – but only if we get ourselves out of this.”

Positive away result at Montrose is goal for Mckay

The pressure is mainly on Caley Thistle against their Angus play-off opponents, who finished fourth in League One.

The winners of the semi-final tie, which concludes with Saturday’s second leg in Inverness, will take on League One runners-up Hamilton Accies or third-place Alloa Athletic in next week’s two-legged Championship play-off final.

Mckay explained how vital it is to stay focused on beating Montrose in their semi tie – and not what is riding on the outcome.

He said: “You can’t get caught up in thoughts of what it means, because then it turns to a lot of pressure and your mind can take over, rather than thinking about the positive at the end of it.

“It is the old cliche, I’m taking it one game at a time, and it’s just important we get that first game out of the way, with a positive result to bring back home.

“We’ll look to get through that first round and then look at the next team after that.”

Inverness striker Billy Mckay. Image: Mark Scates/SNS.

‘We have got to get ourselves out of it’

ICT beat Morton 3-1 on Friday, meaning they were one point behind eighth-placed Queen’s Park and just five points behind fifth-placed Ton in the final Championship standings.

A haul of 42 points wasn’t enough to save them, and Mckay said: “It is a bit surreal, really.

“The last couple of years we’ve been up at the other end of the table, and we’ve had a Scottish Cup final.

“I don’t think anyone saw it coming this season.

“I don’t think we’re the second-worst team in the league.

“Obviously, the table tells us differently, but anyone who has watched us all season would probably agree with me.

“But we are where we are. We’ve got to get ourselves out of it. We’ve got to do ourselves, the club, and the fans proud and keep us up.

“We can have a refresh from there.”

Montrose will be confident – Mckay

With home form on the up for ICT, Mckay hopes they can secure an advantage for when they take the tie back north this weekend.

He added: “We’d love to go there and put the tie to bed in the first game, but we know it is going to be difficult.

“We’re a division above, but they’ll feel like they’ve had a good season, and they will be confident.

“I’m very confident in the squad we have . We’re a really good team when we’re at it and we will need to be at it.

“If we are, I think we’ll get the right result to take back to Inverness.”