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Duncan Shearer: Difficult decisions lie ahead for Caley Thistle with jobs throughout club surely now at risk

Relegation from the Championship to League One will have serious consequences for the Caley Jags.

Duncan Ferguson was dejected following Caley Thistle's relegation to League One. Image: SNS.
Duncan Ferguson was dejected following Caley Thistle's relegation to League One. Image: SNS.

Some difficult decisions are going to have to be made as Caley Thistle come to grips with their new League One reality.

Relegation from the Scottish Championship is going to have major consequences for my old club.

The financial impact is obvious, but there is little doubt having less income from what has already been a very challenging period for Caley Jags is going to have a horrible ripple effect through the club.

The club’s run to the Scottish Cup final last season brought in some much-needed cash, but it was a sticky plaster over what has been a gaping financial wound at Caledonian Stadium.

The nine-year anniversary of the club’s Scottish Cup glory in 2015 is next week – but the contrast between 2015 and today is stark and sobering.

Within two years of the highs of 2015, Inverness faced the nightmare of relegation to the second tier in 2017.

I felt the effect of relegation personally as dropping down a division cost me my job at the club.

The decision was made the club would not run a reserve team and it meant I was effectively made redundant.

It saddens me to say there’s a strong possibility more job losses are coming as Caley Thistle face up to life as a League One club.

Jobs could be at risk following relegation

Inverness Caledonian Thistle striiker and captain Billy Mckay.
Caley Jags striker and captain Billy Mckay. Image: SNS.

Every penny is a prisoner for Caley Thistle and every pound which can be saved from one department can be put towards the football budget.

That is what the board of directors will be weighing up right now.

Even then, the football operation will need to be cut for next season as the money simply is not there.

The failure to secure the battery farm project made that inevitable, even if the club had stayed in the Championship.

But what cuts need to be made is the biggest questions of all.

The future of manager Duncan Ferguson is likely the first decision which has to be made.

He may want to claim the damage was done before he arrived, but I don’t agree.

Yes, it was a poor start to the season for former boss Billy Dodds, but there can be little arguing this is Ferguson’s team now. He signed six of the players who featured on Saturday.

He has tried to change things up and it has not worked. They have been a possession-based team, but one who have struggled to make their possession count.

I’m far from convinced deploying your best natural goalscorer in Billy Mckay in a deeper role supporting a striker was the best move either.

But it is not for me to judge those decisions. That’s for the board to do.

They must decide if they believe Ferguson can lead the club back to the Championship – and more importantly whether they can afford to keep him.

Could Caley Thistle become part-time?

Inverness chairman Ross Morrison. Image: SNS.

There are rumours we could see the club switch to a part-time or hybrid model.

It would be an easy move to make considering there are only a handful of players, led by Mckay, under contract for next season.

But, given the challenge of luring players to the Highlands from the Central Belt, doing so for part-time football is going to be an even tougher task.

It’s also not going to do much to improve the fractured relationship with the fanbase right now.

There is a lot of anger among the Caley Thistle support. That much was evident at full-time on Saturday following defeat by Hamilton Accies.

Cries of sack the board and for chief executive Scott Gardiner to leave the club rang out in front of the stand from the furious fans on the pitch.

I understand the frustration. What has happened at Caley Thistle is horrific.

But I don’t see a line forming of people queueing up for the chance to join the board and finance a recovery.

League One will be a tough slog

Dropping down a division has halved the average home attendance from just 3,946 in 2017 to 2,057 today.

Losing those big travelling attendances of Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs is worth at least £500,000 a season.

Just ask Ross County – they played out their final league game against Aberdeen on Sunday and the Dons, with nothing at stake, sold out their 2,200 allocation.

The total attendance for the play-off final second leg against Hamilton in Inverness attracted 2,863.

It does not take a genius to work out the away support visiting Caledonian Stadium next season for League One football will be sparse at best.

It will be a tough, competitive league, too.

Inverness, in their current guise, would be among the favourites for promotion, but we don’t know how drastic the changes are going to be.

The squad had better get used to artificial pitches as well, as seven of the nine teams they will face in the division do not play on grass.

The fight to get back up the league is going to be a ferocious one.

Ross County only have themselves to blame

Ross County midfielder Yan Dhanda. Image: SNS.

It has been a pretty depressing weekend all round in the Highlands after Ross County failed to secure their Premiership survival on Sunday.

The 2-2 draw with Aberdeen, coupled with St Johnstone’s shock 2-1 win at Motherwell, means a play-off beckon for the Staggies for the second year running.

Fans will point to the late equaliser they conceded in Perth last week, or the fact they failed to beat the 10-man Dons, but County had chances months ago to not be in this position.

County won back-to-back matches only once in 38 games. They went eight league games without a win between September and November, and 10 without victory between December and February.

It wasn’t the last two games which cost them – they have had numerous chances all season.

Despite the disappointment of being pipped on goal difference by St Johnstone, they should have enough to beat Raith Rovers in the play-off final this week.

But I thought Caley Thistle would have enough to stay up, too.

The one thing County do have is goals in their team, but I was concerned by how poor their midfield was against the Dons.

I’ve seen enough of Raith this season to know their midfield is very good and, for me, that is where County’s survival hopes will be determined.

Following Caley Thistle’s relegation, the last thing we need is a double dose of Highland dismay this week.