Ross County boss Malky Mackay wants Caley Thistle back in the Premiership to create mouth-watering derby days again next season.
The Inverness club have been out of the top-flight since being relegated in 2017 and they face a battle to return to the top tier.
After a stunning start to their season where they won seven of their first eight games, they are currently ensuring an 11-game winless run stretching back to December 11 when they crushed Morton 6-1 at Cappielow.
However, performances have improved and ICT head coach Billy Dodds will be driving his team to at least remain within the play-offs, with leaders Arbroath visiting the Caledonian Stadium this weekend.
A brilliant run of form, only bettered by Celtic and Rangers in the last six matches, has taken County into the top six, which is a remarkable turnaround for a team which has been mainly based at the foot of the Premiership this season.
Three straight wins and two successive clean sheets has helped the Staggies to move to within one point of a European place ahead of their trip to leaders Celtic a week on Saturday.
Mackay, who replaced John Hughes as the manager last summer, had to swiftly oversee major squad changes, but he has a free-scoring, attractive side, which is dangerous to any rival.
With County well clear the relegation zone with three pre-split games remaining, their goal is to stay in the top half and fight for an amazing shot at European football.
And Mackay would love the 2022/23 season to include the return of the Highland derby within Scottish football’s top table.
The north neighbours last met in the Premiership in April 2017 when Liam Boyce scored all County’s goals in a 4-0 Dingwall rout.
They faced one another six times in 2018/19 when they were in the Championship as they also locked horns in the Scottish Cup, including a replay, which ICT won on penalties.
The last fixture between them was last April when Inverness ran out 3-1 winners in the Scottish Cup at Victoria Park.
Stadiums would ‘rock’ on derby days
Having taken the region to his heart, Mackay wants to experience top-table showdowns with ICT.
He said: “I relish derby occasions, so for Inverness to be promoted and us to stay in the league and have a game here and have a game at their stadium that I drive by every day, it would be great.
“It’s good for the Highlands. It has been before, it’s good when the Highland teams are doing well.
“I’m immersed in everything that goes on up here now, and I would love to have a derby.
“If they manage to go up as champions or through the play-offs, and we’re not involved in that, then that would be great and we could get a couple of full houses here and get the stadiums rocking. I would welcome that.”
Mackay fond of derby experiences
Mackay explained he’s sampled some brilliant local contests across Britain, so it’s only natural he’d want to manage a northern version when in charge of the high-flying Staggies.
He added: “I’ve been involved in derbies my whole career. They are fantastic occasions, and they are occasions that players should want to play in, and you should want to manage in.
“Obviously being at Celtic, I played against Rangers which is just incredible.
“The Norwich-Ipswich derby is surprisingly and incredibly vociferous. They are two one-county teams, and that’s one heck of a derby.
“Watford and Luton is a small derby, but it’s a very intense small derby that I played in there.
“I played for West Ham against Millwall and Crystal Palace, that’s not a pleasant derby, trust me.
“Over at Cardiff, I was the manager there when we were in the Championship and a friend of mine, Brendan Rodgers was in the Premiership with Swansea.
“We didn’t have that, but then we got it when Michael Laudrup came in as the manager, and it was the first South Wales derby in the top division ever.
“There were 30,000 in the stadium, and it was bouncing, it was bananas, an incredible atmosphere.”