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    2007-08 - Brewster Returns

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    A topsy turvy season, a push for the top six that ultimately failed, an early season change of manager, a late season change of chairman, a new main club sponsor and a new league sponsor. Things are rarely dull around Tulloch Caledonian Stadium. SPL survival ceased to be an issue by Christmas with Gretna propping up the table and an ever-widening gap appearing between twelfth and eleventh spots.

    With an early decision not to apply for Inter Toto Cup entry it was back to Italy's Tuscany region for a pre-season training camp. Missing from the squad were Stuart Golabek (to Ross County), Darren Dods (to Dundee United) and Craig Dargo who, after much speculation, signed for St Mirren. Back-up striker Gary McSwegan ended his playing contract but was appointed under 19 coach. In January he was in turn replaced by Alex Clelland and, after a break, McSwegan returned to playing action with Clyde in March.

    There were two new faces in the Italian party - Don Cowie (from Ross County) and Dean McDonald (from Gillingham) - plus promoted youngsters Ally MacDonald, Guy Kerr and Garry Wood. Goalkeeper Ally Ridgers signed after a loan period from Clach and Jonathon Smith moved in the opposite direction on a short term deal before heading to college in the USA. During the Italian trip long-serving defender Grant Munro was appointed club captain to replace Darren Dods. The Italian trip included victories against a Qatar U20 side (2-0) and a Romanian under 21 team Universitatea Craiova (2-1)

    One reason for giving the Inter Toto Cup a miss was the fact that Tulloch Caledonian Stadium would have been unavailable for the opening round because of the high-profile concert by Elton John on Sunday 15 July. The squad flew back from Italy in time to join the 17000 crowd and enjoy the music of the Rocket Man in the summer sun. The Elton John concert also affected the pre-season programme as preparations and the aftermath meant that all matches were played away from home. There was the usual pre-season circuit of Highland League venues plus matches away to Peterhead (1-2) and Ross County (2-1).

    Transfer activity continued with the focus on Marius Niculae. It took a special financial deal to lure the Romanian international to Inverness but gaining a work permit was quite another matter - it was at first refused but, following an appeal to the SFA and a fans' petition, it was granted and he was free to play. The new season saw the start of a lucrative two-year sponsorship deal by regional airline Flybe and thus new kits.

    The first match at home, and the start of the SPL campaign, could not have been harder - Rangers in front of the Setanta cameras. The 1230 kick-off created a little bit of history as the first match of the Clydesdale Bank's four-year league sponsorship deal. A new record crowd of 7711 saw Caley Thistle go down 3-0. A small section of stand was opened at the west end of the ground to house a ‘singing section' - thus the capacity was increased and allowed the crowd record to be broken. The aftermath of the match raged on for a couple of weeks with Rangers' fans accused of racist chants but all calmed down and Rangers escaped punishment. Niculae made his debut the following week in a 2-1 defeat away to Motherwell then it was the same score in Paisley against St Mirren.

    After these three league games Charlie Christie decided the stress of managing his home club could not continue. He dramatically stood down on 20 August and a stunned Graeme Bennett now had to search for another new manager. The usual suspects were named as contenders - plus some surprises (including former Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock) but in the end Craig Brewster returned to the club as player/manager assisted by Donald Park. Brewster expressed his delight at being back and said he had ‘unfinished business'. Before the appointment Park occupied the hot seat for a home match against Dundee United and a 3-0 defeat - with former ICT favourite Barry Robson converting two penalties.

    24 hours after his appointment on 27 August Brewster took charge for a home CIS Insurance Cup tie against Arbroath. It ended 3-1 for Caley Thistle but was not all plain sailing. At 2-0 Arbroath hit back and it took a third goal from Marius Niculae (his second of the game) to settle it. Brewster had been playing for Aberdeen since leaving the manager's post at Dundee United and he was at this point top SPL goalscorer. In his last Aberdeen match he scored twice away to Hibs and now he had to lead his ‘new' club to Easter Road. He opted not to play but may have had some regrets as ICT went down 1-0 to a Steven Fletcher penalty goal.

    Brewster's arrival coincided with the last few days of the summer transfer window so he was a busy man off the field. As the window closed Zander Sutherland went off to Elgin City on a six month loan (that was eventually extended until the end of 2007/08) and he was joined at Borough Briggs by Ally Ridgers. Ridgers went on loan but signed for them in January 2008. In turn Ridgers was replaced as back-up ‘keeper by Zibi Malkowski on a season-long loan from Hibs. Steven Watt had already been brought in by Charlie Christie on loan from Swansea City as a back-up central defender but Brewster reinforced the defensive options by signing defender David Proctor from Dundee United and bringing in Phil McGuire on loan from Dunfermline.

    After a blank Saturday it was off to Celtic Park on 15 September. It was a black day with a record 5-0 defeat but a stirring ICT performance despite the score. It was better the next day when a young ICT side beat Elgin City at Forres to take the ITP Solutions North Cup 3-2 after extra time. The winner came from rising star Dale Gillespie seven minutes before a penalty decider would have been necessary.

    The first SPL point was a long time coming but after six defeats it came in style. SPL match number seven was against Hearts at home on 22 September and the pundits were predicting further misery for Caley Thistle. An Ian Black own goal in 34 minutes had the gloom merchants shaking their heads but a Dennis Wyness equaliser and an injury-time Craig Brewster winner changed all that. Three points on the board at last. This was to be Brewster's last competitive goal as he later decided to hang up his boots at the end of 2007/08. ICT were still lying at the foot of the league but at least there was now hope. Three days later Gretna were defeated 3-0 in Inverness in round three of the CIS Insurance Cup then the following Saturday it was 4-2 at home to Falkirk. This completed September's programme with ICT up one precious spot to eleventh.

    October started with a 2-2 draw away to Kilmarnock and a bizarre goal for each side making the headlines. Defensive errors led to a tap-in goal for Killie and an own-goal at the other end. Caley Thistle played Aberdeen twice in October but with no success. It was 1-2 on live TV at home (with Dennis Wyness netting his 100th goal) then an even more disappointing 1-4 at Pittodrie in the quarter final of the CIS Insurance Cup. Sandwiched between the Aberdeen matches was a convincing 4-0 win against Gretna at their ground-sharing home of Fir Park, Motherwell. The Gretna match was a basement battle and the result ensured that ICT moved up another vital notch to tenth. There were just three matches in November with 3-0 defeats to Rangers (away) and Motherwell (home) before a 1-0 win at home to St Mirren ensured the month ended in tenth spot. On 26 November Donald Park left his assistant head coach post to return south for family reasons and was quickly replaced by Malky Thomson. Thomson left his coaching post at Chester City to reunite with Brewster.

    December was to prove much more successful. A narrow 1-0 win away to Dundee United was followed by a 2-0 win at home to Hibs with Niculae scoring both goals to end his SPL duck. The highlight of December was a classic home match against Celtic on Sunday the 16th. This live TV match was one that Gordon Strachan would refer to several times as the one that could have cost them the league title. Ironically former ICT hero Mark Brown was in the Celtic goal and at the wrong end of another ‘Ballistic' result. The match had everything - five goals, a spirited fight back, a red card, a penalty, a disallowed goal and a wonder save from home ‘keeper Mike Fraser. For the first 41 minutes Celtic looked well in control but John Rankin's converted penalty in 42 minutes spurred ICT on to a great second half performance and ultimate victory - all despite losing David Proctor to a red card. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink had scored in both the 24th and 25th minutes to give Celtic the lead but when Rankin made it 2-1 just before the break there was hope. David Proctor headed an equaliser in 56 minutes, just eleven minutes before he was dismissed for a last-man tackle on Scott McDonald. In between the goal and the red card Don Cowie slid in to make it 3-2 for the home side and, despite the man disadvantage, Caley Thistle held on for victory. Celtic knew it was not their day when, in the dying minutes, Mike Fraser somehow pushed out a Stephen McManus header that looked destined for the top corner.

    The purple patch continued six days later at Tynecastle when Hearts were defeated 3-2. Caley Thistle were 2-0 up, conceded two goals then Graham Bayne scored a winner two minutes into added time. Five SPL wins in a row led to a climb into the top six, albeit only for 24 hours until Aberdeen took a point from Rangers to go above ICT on goal difference. The only black spot of December was on Boxing Day when a flat performance at Falkirk led to a 1-0 defeat. It was much better three days later when Niculae scored twice in a 3-1 home win against Kilmarnock. The third goal came from Don Cowie whose superb performances and goals were proving vital. The calendar year was completed in a very creditable eighth spot and there was a double celebration when the SPL December awards for manager and player went to Craig Brewster and Marius Niculae.

    2008 started with the 16th attempt to beat Aberdeen but the away league match ended 1-0 to the Dons thanks to a late Barry Nicholson penalty. Three days later it was back to winning ways with a convincing 3-0 home defeat of Gretna. This was to be ICT's last win until the next match against Gretna in April.

    After leaving Inverness Donald Park became assistant manager at Raith Rovers for a short period before moving on 10 January to be assistant to new Hibs' manager Mixu Paatelainen. By coincidence the duo's first match was a Scottish Cup tie at Easter Road against ICT two days later. With the help of Park's inside knowledge Hibs easily won 3-0. A week later it was another big match, at home to Rangers in the league and once more in front of Setanta's cameras. ICT lived dangerously but a battling performance looked like earning a point until Rangers' substitute Jean-Claude Darcheville scored 90 seconds from time. Two blank Saturdays meant no more football in January but as usual the month was dominated by transfer talk and action.

    Transfer activity usually resumes in January but this season it started early when, in December, Dean McDonald went back to former club Gillingham on trial. Things did not work out and he returned north for a few months before heading for Canada in March, returning to Inverness in April and being released at the end of the season. Stuart McCaffrey had been finding a regular first team slot difficult to achieve so in January he went off on loan to St Johnstone then signed a deal with the Perth club at the end of the season. John Rankin had fallen down the midfield pecking order and his departure was known in advance of the transfer window. After considering a number of options he joined Hibs. Alan Morgan moved to Kilmarnock after a short loan spell at St Johnstone. Rory McAllister went off on loan to Peterhead but returned for the tail end of the season. Phil McGuire signed a 2 ½ year permanent deal following his loan from Dunfermline. There was a financial bonus for the club when Barry Robson was transferred from Dundee United to Celtic for £1.25 million - his May 2003 move from Inverness to Tayside included a clause giving ICT a share of any future transfer fee.

    February was a disappointing month but the 1-1 away draw at St Mirren on the ninth did include the club's 1000th goal scored by skipper Grant Munro. It was the same score at home to Dundee United a week later then three defeats on the road - 3-1 at Motherwell (the club's 500th league match), 2-0 against Hibs and 2-1 at Celtic Park. March was no better with a 3-0 defeat at home to Hearts, 0-1 away to Falkirk, 1-4 at Kilmarnock (ICT's 600th senior match) then a pulsating 4-3 defeat at home to Aberdeen. This match on 29 March will be remembered as a classic despite the result. It was 2-2 at half time then in the interval ICT were reduced to ten men with Russell Duncan's dismissal - he had been booked for an over exuberant celebration of his 39th minute goal then he kicked the ball into the stand after the Dons equalised just before the break. A dramatic second half saw a goal for either side then a last gasp winner by Chris Maguire for Aberdeen, four minutes into added time. Maguire was suspiciously offside and there was amazement when Dons manager Jimmy Calderwood embraced the linesman! Grant Munro was less than complimentary to the officials as he left the pitch and was shown a red card in the referee's room ten minutes after the final whistle.

    In early March the Gretna bubble burst and they were forced into administration. An immediate ten-point penalty was enforced and this should have eased any last remaining relegation worries for the rest of the lower SPL clubs. Instead there were rumours that, if Gretna went out of business before the end of the season, another team would be relegated. Crunch time was the period leading up to their match away to Aberdeen on 15 March - the administrator had doubts as to whether a team could be fielded and the media carried alternative league tables with points won against Gretna removed. ICT would lie ninth just three points from the foot. In the event the Aberdeen match went ahead and emergency SPL funding assisted temporary survival. Gretna were to survive to the end of the season but their existence beyond that was in grave doubt. On 29 March they lost to St Mirren and were formally relegated.

    On 5 April Caley Thistle's long run of no wins (11 games) ended with a 2-1 victory away to Gretna - but the score flattered the home side. This was the last match before the SPL split and Caley Thistle took their place in the bottom six. Kilmarnock were soundly beaten 3-0 at home on the 19th and April ended on a disappointing note with a 1-0 defeat away to Hearts. On 3 May Gretna came back north and were soundly beaten 6-1. Despite their troubles Gretna put up a strong performance but were eventually crushed by a new ICT SPL record score. The six goals came from six different players including Barry Wilson who had spent March on loan to St Johnstone. This move, in his testimonial year, had looked like the end of his long ICT career but he came back to produce some stirring performances, score his 82nd and 83rd goals (and become the club's second top goalscorer) and earn a new deal. The final match on 17 May saw St Mirren come to Inverness but, despite creating chances, neither side could score and the whistle went on another season. This still left the final league position undecided but two days later St Mirren lost to Rangers and ICT were confirmed in ninth spot.

    Don Cowie ended an excellent first season in the SPL by taking all the ‘Player of the Year' titles and he was also the player with the most appearances - 41 out of a possible 42. Marius Niculae was top of the goalscoring charts with ten and Don Cowie was runner up with nine.

    International recognition was achieved by a number of players at different levels - Dale Gillespie played for Scotland under 19s, Rory McAllister appeared for Scotland's under 21 side, young goalkeeper Andrew McNulty was named as a standby player for the Republic of Ireland under 19 squad in March, Richard Hastings returned to the Canadian full international side and Marius Niculae was reinstated to the Romanian team prior to Euro 2008. While the focus of attention is naturally the first team congratulations must go to the youngsters. The reserve side pushed hard for the SPL Reserve League title and finished as runners up to Celtic. Congratulations also to the under 14 and under 17 sides that won their respective age groups in Dublin's Umbro Cup in August.

    At the annual Highlands and Islands Business Awards in November the club was presented with a Special Achievement Award to reflect the many successful aspects of the club in addition to football. On 7 September the ICT Supporters' Trust held a fund raising dinner and inaugurated a Hall of Fame for past players. It is intended that this will be an annual event and the first inductees were Bobby Mann, Mike Teasdale, Mike Noble, Alan Hercher and Jim Calder. Club secretary Jim Falconer received a special award for his long service on the administrative side of the club. In January the Rev Hugh Watt took over as club chaplain in succession to long-serving Arthur Fraser.

    As has been the pattern most years the composition of the board changed during the season. Mike Crowe of Lifescan resigned due to a move back to his native United States and he was replaced by David Cameron. Alan Savage stood down as chairman in April and Rok's George Fraser took over the post.


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    1. Scotty
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      By Scotty,

      03-05-2016 2-27-22 PM.pngIts that time of year again .... time to go through all the polls and calculate who is winning the race to be the 16th recipient of the CaleyThistleOnline Player of the Year award. The CTO - POY award was started in season 2000-2001, and other than the Supporters Club / Trust Player of the Year award, it is the only external award recognised officially by the club and included in their year on year stats, a fact we are very proud of. 

      An interesting fact about our award is that in the 15 years of its existence it has never been won by the same person twice, although, to be fair, it has often been won by a player who has made such an impact with ICT that he has moved onward and upward at the end of that season or the next. Ryan Esson, who won the trophy in 2010-11 is the only player still on the books who has won it before. 

      Last year Marley Watkins was like a runaway train in this poll. He amassed the highest quantity of votes and points for 4 out of the first five months of the season as well as the last two months of the season and won it with 79 points. His closest rivals were Graeme Shinnie - looking to be the first ever player to win it for a second time - and Greg Tansey who both amassed what would normally be a respectable total of 44 points each. Ryan Christie and Josh Meekings rounded out the top five with 36 and 29 points respectively. 

      So onto season 2015-16 and with several of the top points scorers from last season gone, it was a question of who would step up and take the challenge this year .... The season started early with our Europa League debut and Gary Warren was the front runner that month winning the Player of the Month and grabbing maximum POY points in both games against Astra Giurgiu.  In August, with a heavy six game schedule, Danny Williams grabbed the monthly honours on number of votes received, closely followed by Ryan Christie and Owain Fon Williams. Christie however jumped into the points lead in the standings courtesy of more of his votes being first place votes. September and October belonged to Miles Storey and it was beginning to look like he "might do a Marley" but up stepped CTO sponsored player Liam Polworth to grab the honours for November and December. Miles was back at it again in January winning the Player of the Month again, but Ross Draper, Owain Fon Williams and Carl Tremarco have all taken it in the last three months. With one month, and three games to go, so a maximum of 15 points up for grabs, there are still 5 players who can win it. Miles Storey currently leads with 51 but he is only 5 points ahead of Ross Draper. Gary Warren, Owain Fon Williams and Liam Polworth are a little further behind, but not out of it by any means. Click on the graphics below to view the current standings. 

      03-05-2016 2-56-49 PM.png     03-05-2016 2-56-10 PM.png    



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      I was watching a quiz show the other night when they asked the question "What is the most commonly used letter in the English language?". The answer given, and accepted as correct was the letter "E".

      But is it really? Even setting aside the ever increasing use of text speak and it's tendency to drop vowels the ever increasing use of social networking sites seems to have brought with it new habits which would might mean the statistics might need a little revision.

      For a start, the letter "X" which is currently ranked third from the bottom can be seen at the end of most communications...several times in some instances. Surely that would move the letter far further up the table than it is currently given credit for? Then you have "LOL" which seems to have a foot on both the TLA and Text Speak camps. Currently ranked mid table (11th place), you would think that the letter "L" must be due a promotion.

      These are just examples that spring immediately to mind, I am sure others also exist....but nothing I can think of would suggest that "E" deserves to be holding the crown for most commonly used letter....certainly not if you take a true reflection of how the English language is communicated in this day and age.

      I have no idea where the statistics are drawn from, but it would appear that currently used (and apparently accepted) tables are in need of a bit of revision.

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      blog-0891453001328648252.pngGot into a discussion with a Rangers supporting (Scottish) workmate earlier today about Rangers' financial woes, The Celtic fan spitting on a steward at the TCS at the weekend, and the general malaise surrounding Scottish Football. We didnt have time to really mention the stabbing that also happened at this weekend's game, but it would just have been the cherry on top ...

      It got me thinking, and I sent him back a fairly lengthy email about where I thought Scottish Football was going wrong, where I think it still has its head up its ar*e, and where it may even be possible that Major League Soccer in the USA and Canada may be getting things right and where the Scottish game could learn from it !!!

      It pains me to say it, but Scottish Football is indeed dying on its feet ... or perhaps on its knees whereas the often sneered about "Major League Soccer" is slowly but surely building its brand and developing as a major player in a continent obsessed with "Pointy Ball" (American Football / NFL), Baseball (MLB), Basketball (NBA), and Ice Hockey (NHL) ... the last one being obsessive for Canadians at least, but maybe less so for our friends south of the border. In Canada of course there is also Lacrosse (the official national sport) as well as CFL Football (like NFL but 3 downs instead of 4) to contend with ....

      so here is the email I sent him ......

      The biggest problem for me is that the powers that be at some clubs and certainly within the SFA/SPL still think the Scottish game is up there with the top leagues in Europe …. It’s not, and has not been for years. Both halves of the OF have tried to cling on for years, spending money they don’t really have to maybe get a good run in Europe every once in a while, but even if they are successful one year, they have to stand by and watch how even mediocre teams in England get £10s of millions in sponsorship the following year just by being the best in the championship or even the worst in the premiership … not an even playing field.

      We simply cannot compete with the EPL, La Liga, Serie A, or any of the other big, or even moderately sized leagues. The interest, and therefore the sponsorship is just not there. I don’t want to see any team go bust or into administration, but the whole thing needs torn up and rebuilt ! I know you probably won’t like this, nor would anyone of the green persuasion, but maybe financial hardship (as opposed to administration, which benefits no-one, and certainly not the big two) could be a good thing for Scottish football…. It will force Celtic and Rangers to cut their cloth to suit, it will allow other teams to be more competitive against them, it will force more Scottish teams to try and build from youth, and in the end it could turn the downward spiral on its head …..

      I have always been an advocate for expanding the SPL. I don’t buy the argument that it should be 10 or 12, it puts way too much pressure on the teams at the bottom who are trying to avoid relegation from day 1, means games are no longer anticipated when you know you will play the same team 3, 4, or even 5 or more times a season if you draw them in the cups, and it stifles youth development as teams are scared to go with youth …. That lack of interest, and relegation avoidance tactics makes for a turgid game and an unexciting league (for most).

      When we were relegated, SFL division 1 was a refreshing return to excitement where there were 8 or 9 good teams, all of whom had been in the top flight, and all of whom on their day could get a result against the other, and none of whom would look totally out of place in the SPL …. To my mind, it should be 16 minimum, in fact the Scottish leagues should be 3 leagues of 16 …. The 42 existing teams plus the 6 most ambitious teams from the Juniors, South/East of Scotland or Highland leagues. 2 up 2 down in each division with relegation to/from the bottom league to allow non-league teams a chance to progress and the perpetual under achievers to find their true level. Caley Thistle and Ross County are good examples of what can be achieved by letting in ambitious non-league teams even if Peterhead, Elgin and Gretna are not !

      Prices are another issue too ! Was speaking to a few friends recently and for 2 adults, 2 kids to go to a (non Old Firm) game was about £70, add on pies, programmes, and petrol and the day out cost them over £100 and that was before any of them had a few beers ! All of this to sit in a ground where new laws or rules have deemed standing is a capital offence, singing/chanting in even an innocuous fashion is frowned upon, and looking the wrong way at a steward or cop can get you a football banning order … its no longer fun, it’s “duty” !!!!!

      I actually enjoy (prefer) going to MLS games these days, and I think the SPL/SFA could learn from them … they (MLS) had their flame that burned bright in the 70s/80s and which fizzled out when they didn’t have the infrastructure to develop home grown talent, or the revenue to sustain the wages for players like Beckenbauer, Pele, Best etc ….. the “new” MLS formed as part of the agreement in getting the 94 world cup in the USA deems it mandatory for new sides to have an academy, has a wage cap to stop silly money being paid, and a few other squad/roster rules that help … It wants to develop the league, but it seems to have learned lessons from the past and is doing so slowly .. adding TFC in 2007, Vancouver in 2011, and Montreal this year as well as a few American teams in the other years too …. And better still, my season ticket, in the supporters section (cheap seats), where standing or chanting is encouraged rather than banned only costs me an average of about $20 a game.

      For me, however, the most exciting part is the academy. Toronto FC already has 5 young graduates in the main first team squad, some of whom have already been capped by Canada, and they are not there just to make up the numbers, these guys look pretty good … and there is more to come (Vukovic, the top scorer in CSL last year may make it into 2012 squad).

      The rules allow for some exciting designated players to come in (Frings, DeGuzman, Koevermans etc at TFC as well as the likes of Beckham and Henry in LA/NY, and a rumour of Michael Ballack to Montreal!) but rather than blindly follow the 70s/80s model of players coming over the pond for a last big paycheck, it also gives both the youth and college kids an avenue to progress …. and for the transfers to start going the other way (Edu from TFC to Rangers for example).

      I have no doubt that the Canadian national team will soon start to see the benefit of these policies, and this in turn will raise the profile of the game in Canada as they climb the FIFA rankings, and this will eventually trickle back to benefit the club sides …. A nice upwards spiral where development breeds improvement and improvement feeds further development. It’s a bit like a strong Scottish national team that used to qualify for all the world cups was able to showcase how Scotland produced players with heart and passion, and sometimes with skill, and which made the Scottish game good, or at least interesting, to watch and desirable for some to play in …… Oh to see another Scottish team produce a Dalglish, Souness, Bremner, Jordan, Cooper or even a McCoist !!! just not happening these days as we do everything we can to price the game out of the working man’s reach, do nothing to promote youth development, and allow jumped up traffic wardens to stifle what’s left of the enjoyment of it !

      So there you have it .... some points for discussion perhaps. You may agree with me, you may disagree but its my personal assessment from watching both Scottish Football and Major League 'Soccer' over the last few years .....

      Sneer all you want at "soccer" in (North) America, but its a league on the rise, a league that is fostering grass roots development as one of its core principles, a league that has put checks and balances in place to try and make sure it doesnt overstretch itself in terms of finances and one which embraces fan culture in an effort to encourage crowds to grow with the game in this continent .....

      there are plenty of little things about Major League Soccer that I dont like, or take issue with, and I may go into those in later blog entries, but as an organisation with a focus on development from the ground up, and with a keen sense of community development, there is plenty to look at and perhaps learn from them .....

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      Well, what a difference a festive break and a little confidence can do to a team, hey? Eight weeks have passed since the last edition of Gringo's Gossip and there's certainly a lot to catch up on. What better place to start than our current form and league standing...

      Eight weeks ago, our team was sitting in 9th in the league, having previously spent the entire start of the campaign rooted to the bottom. Despite being tenth at the moment, the gap between ourselves and bottom side Dunfermline has grown to 9 points. More importantly, with results continuing to go our way, ICT now sit just 3 points (and 7 goals) of a top 6 place - of which is currently occupied by Aberdeen, who have also played a game more.

      The festive period had indeed been kind to Caley Thistle, and that 'panic button' which was ever present at the start of the season has since been gathering dust in the ICT boot room. An away day at Ibrox was the last time we suffered defeat, and even then the team was unlucky to end the game without a single point following a late strike by Kyle Lafferty. Since then the team have advanced to the 5th round of the Scottish Cup after a replay with Dunfermline, kept three clean sheets in as many league games, and have also seen their first 0-0 draw since an away day in Motherwell just over 12 month ago.

      Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad, summed up by the horrific injury that Chris Hogg suffered in our December fixture against the Arabs. Following a challenge with Dundee United's Gary Mackay-Steven and former ICT loanee, David Davis, Chirs Hogg suffered a serious knee injury and was stretchered from the field of play after just 15 minutes of play. Guarenteed to be out for the remainder of the season, Hogg started an online blog called The Fightback, which can be seen here- http://chrishoggthef...k.blogspot.com/ - It's well worth a read, and all credit to Chris for putting his experiences into words as he goes through rehabilitaion. We all wish him well and welcome the fact he has been offered a new contract.

      The month of January throws up many an issue for clubs as the transfer window begins. Already ICT have lost David Davis; Loaned out to ICT from Wolves in August, Davis made good of his time here after a slow start and was an asset in the midfield, and Aiden Chippendale; A Huddersfield loan signing who rarely featured during his time at the Tulloch Caledonian Staduim, mostly because of injury. Now it looks like Lee Cox, somewhat a fans favorite who signed from Leicester in 2009, seems likely to be heading South to Paulo Di Canio's Swindon Town. (Since inititally typing this out, Cox has indeed signed for Swindon, noted in the Highland News as being a figure in the region of £50,000)

      Coming up to ply their trade at TCS are two loan signings in the form of Claude Gnakpa (from Walsall) and Sam Winnell (from Wolves). Two strikers who, judging by their debuts against St Mirren recently, could add a little extra spice to our current strike force.

      With the transfer window comes transfer rumours, and no rumour has been more talked about around Inverness than that of Johnny Hayes to Celtic. It must be something to do with him being Irish?

      Johnny has been magnificent for Caley Thistle since his return from injury, culminating in gaining the captains armband for our away fixture against Motherwell. A game from which we captured our first clean sheet of the season by securing a 1-0 win thanks to a fantastic Gregory Tade effort.

      I personally can't see Johnny Hayes going anywhere, and the fact the Terry Butcher has started talks of an extension to his current deal can only suggest Hayes is going nowhere. Let's hope that's the case!

      Away from the teams highs and lows of the past 2 months, there have been a few happenings off the park that perhaps deserve a mention. Firstly the new look CTO website, which came live shortly after the last edition of Gringos Gossip was published. Credit must go to CaleyD and Scotty for their continuous hard work behind the scenes, and also to the rest of the monderation team for their efforts in keeping the site fresh and well managed.

      I'd also like to say a well done to my step-son, Marc Hurst, who raffled off his signed Ryan Esson shirt and gloves (given to him by Ryan on the final day of our Chamionship winning season) to raise funds for the Archie Foundation just before Christmas. I know how much I love and enjoy my own memorabilia and how hard it would be to part with it, so credit to Marc for parting with his prized posessions to help a very worth cause.

      With Caley Thistle having to play Celtic twice in as many weeks, both in the League and the Scottish Cup, as well as Rangers at the back end of February, it'll be very hard to maintain the unbeaten run that we currently see ourselves on. I guess it's probably too soon to be taking about the unbeaten run of 2010, but even so, it's nice to dream. Who know's, with the spirit and momentum the team has at the moment, it's probably a dream that could well become a reality...we'll see

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    • Caman I am quite sure you are not trying to be cheeky but did you notice that the thread had already "gone off topic"  before Auld Pimple woke up and seized on one of his last desperate attempts for recognition before fading away for good. The old fella is losing his memory and fully expects to lose his marbles sooner rather than later  now.  Some people already think he has lost everything  and it will happen to you too many years from now. Remember, life is short, shorty.... It's just that one thing leads to another and so...it-t-t-t-t-t-t-t's.... back on topic and I have avidly read your comments  on Mr. Vigurs. I remember him from his time at Ross County when I felt strongly that he was an aggressive, quite dynamic player who went at it full pelt in most games. I think that as his career has motored on he has dropped a wee bit of his drive and the vigor of Vigurs is not quite what it was. i.e. He's like the 79 year auld Pimple--he's reached a platform and needs a leg-up now and then. Aye!
    • The council charges too much in business rates. 
    • On 13th June it stated on the ICTFC website that there would be an 'Open Day' for season tickets holders to meet with current players, management and directors. Any word of when this is happening?  Getting tight for time before the start of the season now.  
    • Don't mean to be cheeky Scarlet Pimple, but what has Foran got to do with this thread? Let's not talk about last season and the managerial disaster (albeit not intentional on his part) Foran was anymore please.  Let's move forward, and hopefully upwards and onwards please. 
    • Well, Mantis, it seems he was certainly bearded in his den and catapulted into the darkness at the end of the season. I was thinking about him just the other day and trying to empathise with his situation. Which, in a sense, went downhill so fast, almost from the sublime to the ridiculous. Can anyone throw light on what he is doing for a living now or is he concentrating on some other career path... like becoming a home builder... I wonder? Or, as the Donald would say..."SAD!"  
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