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Cammy Harper ‘can’t imagine’ Caley Thistle in League One

The homegrown star can't believe Inverness must beat Hamilton in Saturday's play-off final to remain in the Championship.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle's Cammy Harper,
Cammy Haroer is determined to keep Caley Thistle in the Championship. Image: SNS

Cammy Harper’s first taste of Caley Thistle action was as a nine-year-old ‘hotshot’ – and he watched the club compete with the best in Scotland as a teenager.

As a player, the 22-year-old attacking full-back has lived the dream in recent seasons, and even played in last year’s Scottish Cup final against Celtic.

He cannot believe that a draw or defeat at home to League One runners-up Hamilton tonight will result in Inverness tumbling down to League One, seven years after their relegation from the Premiership.

Cammy Harper can’t believe Inverness could drop to League One – if they beat Hamilton, they remain in the Championship next season. Image: SNS

The proud Invernessian will be doing all he can to help ICT turn around a 2-1 deficit from midweek’s first leg of the Championship play-off final.

After being pipped by Queen’s Park in their bid to avoid ninth spot, and beating Montrose 1-0 in the play-off semis, they now have it all do to avoid the drop.

Harper used to promotion shots

Having attended the club’s ‘Hotshots’ coaching courses as a youngster, he’s largely enjoyed the journey he’s been on over recent seasons, from being a breakthrough talent pushing for promotion back to the top league to being a key man for manager Duncan Ferguson this term.

Speaking about those very early days at ICT, Harper said: “I was nine. I was at Clachnacuddin for a couple of years, then I went to a (Caley Thistle) Hotshots course, then later I came here (as a player).

“When I grew up, Caley Thistle were in the Premiership.

“I am only 22. I have played over 150 games for the club, won 70 now and we were always in the play-offs going up the way.

“This year is a different side. It has been mad professional career so far. I wouldn’t change it, but we must keep this club in the division.

“I can’t imagine a club of Caley Thistle’s size being down with League One. All the stuff that goes with relegation it, I don’t want it. It would mean everything to keep the club in the division.”

Accies ‘have a Championship team’

On Wednesday, Kevin O’Hara’s 47-yard wonder-strike and a Fergus Owens header had Hamilton 2-0 ahead inside a frantic first half before sub Aribim Pepple halved the scoreline ahead of the crunch Highland showdown, which starts at 5.30pm.

Hamilton, the clear runners-up to Falkirk this year, were relegated from the Championship 12 months ago.

Still with former Inverness midfielder John Rankin in charge, Harper believes Accies look like a club capable of holding their own back in the Championship, so is wary.

He said: “Hamilton have a lot of players I have played against in the Championship before.

“They have a Championship team and are dangerous going forward. They gave us a good test in that 15-minute spell in the first half going forward.

“We probably started off better and that 15-minute spell happened (where Accies scored twice) and we don’t quite know how it had gone like that.

“In the second half, we were dominant, so we are confident for Saturday.

“The goal down there was massive. It keeps the tie alive. It is game on again. It’s now only one goal and anything can happen.”

The Inverness players look dejected after Hamilton’s Fergus Owens makes it 2-0. Image: SNS

Daring to dream of top-flight push

While there has been plenty of focus has been on the consequences of dropping into League One, Harper knows with Dundee United going up as champions and Livingston dropping down, the 2024-25 campaign could open up a promotion chance for ICT.

“The Championship is probably not going to have that one massive club with a big budget.

“It would probably be one of the best opportunities with all the teams having a similar budget. Staying in the division would be massive for us.”

From cup final to relegation threat

A year ago, ICT were just about ready to meet Celtic in the Scottish Cup final. They bravely went down 3-1 against Ange Postecoglou’s treble-winners. 

Harper was asked how keeping this current challenge compares to a very different scene last summer.

He said: “Both are big games. Football goes from high to lows. Nobody expects to beat Celtic with their budget and players. We were heavy underdogs that day.”

Aribim Pepple scores to make it 2-1 at Hamilton, offering Inverness a final lifeline. image: SNS