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    2010-11 - Hard Decisions

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    Not a season to remember for Scottish football with a referees strike, an SPL manager attacked during a match, bomb threats to football people and post match altercations on the touchline - but for Caley Thistle it was excellent. A very successful first season back in the SPL, close to a top six finish, seventh place achieved, a remarkable undefeated away league sequence, a place in the quarter final of the Scottish Cup and another famous victory over Celtic.

    The clearance operation around the stadium after the May Day promotion party had barely been completed when preparations began for season 2010-11. The summer of 2010 was similar to 2009, a new division anticipated and a search for players to fill key positions for the challenge ahead. This time the aim was not promotion but survival and hopefully more back in the SPL. Survival was virtually assured early in 2011 and from October to March Caley Thistle were in the top six.

    Many players were out of contract and hard decisions had to be made. Six players departed reserve goalkeeper Kyle Allison went back to his former club Dunfermline, defender Lionel Djebi-Zadi left but was still without a club at the end of 2010-11, young defender Jamie Duff joined Elgin City after a season blighted by injury, Robert Eagle went to Grimsby Town, Dan Stratford signed for Hereford United and Nauris Bulvitis returned to his parent club in Latvia at the end of his loan period. Most of the out-of-contract players remained and signed new deals. Several had been the subject of interest from other clubs but elected to remain in Inverness. Long serving defender Ross Tokely was the last to re-sign. After 14 seasons at the club he was tempted to move on and he had offers from clubs at home and abroad. In the end he stayed and took his place as a regular in the 2010-11 side. Richie Foran succeeded Grant Munro as captain.

    New faces came in to fill the gaps. Stuart Duff had impressed on loan from Aberdeen at the tail end of 2009 but returned to his club after a month. He featured in the Dons first team regularly for the rest of 2009-10 but was released at the end of the season. Despite playing as a trialist for St Johnstone and receiving a contract offer from St Mirren he signed for Caley Thistle in September 2010. Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey came from Partick Thistle to act as backup (and competition) for Ryan Esson. Young ‘keeper Max Johnson also joined the club after three seasons as a trainee with Newcastle United. Israeli under 18 midfielder Gil Blumenshtein joined in July, Scotland under 21 defender Kevin McCann came on a loan from Hibs and French defender Kenny Gillet came to Inverness after three years at Barnet.

    To prepare for the increased pressure on the admin side of the club former board member Kenny Cameron returned as Operations Director. There was a new shirt sponsor for 2010-11 with former chairman Alan Savage’s Orion Group signing a two year deal worth potentially a six figure sum depending on results and achievements.

    Apart from the traditional pre-season matches against Highland League opposition there were some new adventures. The first was a trip to England to play Fleetwood Town and Stockport County in late July previously the only matches played in England were against Berwick Rangers and the 1st Battalion The Highlanders at RAF Catterick in May 1997. A 2-1 defeat to Fleetwood was followed by a 1-0 victory against Stockport. The second departure from the norm was the visit to Inverness of two foreign sides in early August. Spain's Real Valladolid was first but the match ended a rather flat 0-0. Next up were Belgian side Royal Antwerp and this time it ended 1-1.

    The first competitive match of the season was sandwiched between the English trip and the foreign visits to Inverness on the last day of July Caley Thistle beat Queen's Park 3-0 in the first round of the Co-operative Insurance Cup. The SPL league campaign started with the high-profile visit to Inverness of Celtic on 14 August. Before the match the Division One Championship flag for 2009-10 was presented and the team went on to produce a fine performance. They were undone by one solo Paddy McCourt goal but the signs for the season were good. An away trip to Tannadice eight days later proved to be an excellent day out in a performance described by Terry Butcher as one of the best since he took over Dundee United were trounced 4-0. August was completed by a 3-0 win over Peterhead in round 2 of the Co-op Cup then a poor home defeat 1-0 by Hamilton with former ICT player Dougie Imrie scoring a spectacular goal in 40 seconds.

    The points at Tannadice ensured a fifth spot finish to August. There were three SPL matches in September with mixed results â€" a 1-1 away draw with Hibs, a 3-1 home defeat to Hearts and a 2-1 away victory against St Mirren. The league position was rather topsy turvy but away form ensured seventh spot at the end of September. There was one cup match in September with a 6-0 defeat away to Celtic in the Co-op Cup. This equalled the club’s worst ever loss and was clearly a night to forget. There was a clear pattern emerging of mixed home results and a better away record. The Co-op Cup defeat to Celtic was clearly a hiccup but in the league Caley Thistle were now undefeated away since November 2009. There was one excellent home result at the beginning of October when at long last Aberdeen were defeated in Inverness. The 2-0 victory was only the second ever against the Dons and this was followed two weeks later by a 1-1 draw at home to St Johnstone. This was another first â€" the first ever SPL meeting of the sides. Next it was down to Kilmarnock and a 2-1 victory to continue the away record. The month ended with a visit to Ibrox and many thought this would be the end of the run. Eric Odhiambo’s 81st minute goal made it 1-1 and all was well. Caley Thistle finished October in fourth place and Terry Butcher was named SPL Manager of the Month.

    November was an exceptionally busy month with five SPL matches and a testimonial for Roy McBain. Third played fourth in the ‘Match of the Day’ when Motherwell came north. The Steelmen took the points 2-1 as home form continued to be up and down. Aberdeen were hammered 9-0 on the same day by Celtic so the midweek match at Pittodrie a few days later took on extra significance. Would there be a backlash from Aberdeen or would their slump continue? In the event Caley Thistle won 2-1 but Aberdeen’s performance had improved and manager Mark McGhee held onto his job for a little longer. A 3-1 win away to Hamilton avenged the defeat in August and continued the away league run. Hibs came north on 20 November under new manager Colin Calderwood and were soundly beaten 4-2. This was just Caley Thistle’s second home league win of the season and continued the record of Hibs never having beaten ICT in Inverness â€" their only ‘away’ league victory having come at Pittodrie in 2004-05 .

    When Caley Thistle lost 2-1 to Partick Thistle in Maryhill on 28 November 2009 it proved to be the last league defeat of 2009-10 and would be the last league defeat away from home for a year â€" if at least a point could be taken away to Celtic on 27 November 2010. A strike by referees was proposed for that day in protest against criticism in recent weeks (and months) but some matches did go ahead when the SFA brought in referees from abroad. Alan Hamer and his assistants from Luxembourg did the honours at Celtic Park in what proved to be a memorable match. Celtic had not been firing on all cylinders so ICT hopes were high â€" but memories of the 6-0 cup thrashing in September were still fresh. Caley Thistle travelled down on the day and had a long fraught journey due to deteriorating weather. Perhaps unsurprisingly they took a while to settle but still the first half was pretty even despite Celtic taking a 38th minute lead through Ki. The restless home fans relaxed a little when a superb solo goal from Paddy McCourt put them two ahead in 65 minutes. Caley Thistle continued to play good football and were rewarded in 70 minutes when Richie Foran pounced on a defensive mix up and scored to make it 2-1. The home fans were now very unhappy with their side and things went very quiet. The visitors sensed this and it encouraged them to continue to press the Celtic defence. When Grant Munro scored an equaliser with seven minutes left it was no more than Caley Thistle deserved and, as the home stands began to empty, they pushed for a winner. It did not come but the 2-2 draw was reward enough for a good day’s work and it ensured that the remarkable away league record remained for over a year. The draw ensured that fourth spot in the SPL was maintained at the end of November.

    Roy McBain celebrated ten years at the club with a testimonial on 23 November against a ‘Legends XI’. The current ICT side won 4-1 but the 1000 fans who turned up enjoyed the nostalgic sight of past players such as Jim Calder, Charlie Christie, Paul Sheerin, Bobby Mann and Barry Wilson performing once more at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium.

    Heavy snow in late November started a period of widespread disruption and the SPL card on 4 December was wiped out. Major efforts around the club ensured that the televised home match against Rangers went ahead on 11 December. A Jonny Hayes wonder goal gave Caley Thistle the lead but Rangers equalised through Kenny Miller. Defeat looked on the cards when Rangers were awarded a late penalty but the legs of Ryan Esson saved the day and it ended 1-1. A week later it was off to Tynecastle and a backs-to-the-wall performance which earned a 1-1 draw. Caley Thistle were lucky to escape a second half onslaught from Hearts. The draw meant three in a row against the top three sides and the calendar year completed undefeated away in the league.

    The home match against St Mirren on Boxing Day was less pleasing. An early Lee Cox goal was cancelled out by two Steven Thomson efforts and Saints took the points. Three days later an exciting home match against Kilmarnock ended in a 3-1 defeat â€" once more the home hoodoo had struck. Despite these setbacks Caley Thistle ended 2010 (and the first half of the SPL season) in a remarkable fourth spot.

    At this halfway stage of the league campaign Caley Thistle had 27 points from 19 matches â€" 17 ahead of bottom club Hamilton (who had played three games less) and 11 ahead of Aberdeen who lay second bottom after playing 18 matches. With all the cancellations due to the weather Caley Thistle’s completion of 19 games was the most by any SPL club â€" thanks mainly to just one postponement at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium and that was due to conditions on the A9 and around Inverness rather than the pitch. So much for the doomsayers who predicted many weather problems when Caley Thistle joined the SFL in 1994-95.

    2011 started with another first â€" the first SPL clash with St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, Perth. It was due to take place on New Year’s Day but was shifted 24 hours to 2 January. With icy roads and lethal footpaths around Perth there were doubts about the game going ahead despite a very gradual intermittent thaw. A meeting with police and Saints’ officials on the morning led to it going ahead. The 24 hours made all the difference as Saints were having real difficulty clearing ice on the 23 acre site of McDiarmid Park. In the end it was not much of a game but Saints 1-0 win was significant as it ended Caley Thistle’s undefeated away league record.

    Snow and freezing temperatures threatened many of the Scottish Cup fourth round ties on 8 January but Caley Thistle’s home match against near neighbours Elgin City went ahead. It took two late late goals to see off plucky Elgin in this first ever senior meeting of the clubs. Indeed for Caley Thistle this completed the set as Elgin City were the only league side which they had never faced competitively before now. The home side dominated for almost the entire match but a late flurry from Elgin nearly paid off for them. Just when a replay seemed certain Dani Sanchez sent a 16 yard volley into the net to effectively take the tie. This was two minutes into added time and a further two minutes later Adam Rooney added a second.

    January as usual saw the opening of the transfer window but there was little business around Scotland. Caley Thistle’s fear was losing prolific striker Adam Rooney whose contract was to expire at the end of 2010-11. He was free to talk to other clubs and was being linked on a weekly basis with different clubs including Russian side Kuban Krasnodar who were reputed to have had a £100,000 offer turned down â€" the club denied that any offer had been received. Rooney stayed and the squad was strengthened by the arrival of Chris Hogg from Hibs, Aaron Doran on loan from Blackburn Rovers and Alex MacDonald on loan from Burnley.

    The league campaign in January was very disappointing with a drab 0-0 draw at Motherwell, a narrow 1-0 defeat to Rangers at Ibrox, a 1-1 home draw against bottom club Hamilton then a 2-0 home defeat to Aberdeen, resurgent under new manager Craig Brown. There was controversy surrounding the Rangers match â€" it had been originally scheduled for 29 January, was put back to 2 March then hurriedly rearranged for Tuesday 18 January to fit in with Rangers’ heavy programme. There was clearly little regard for Caley Thistle who had been down to Motherwell three days previously and were given little time to prepare to face Rangers. In the circumstances losing just 1-0 was an achievement. The goal was controversial as the referee allowed an Andy Webster foul on Adam Rooney to go unpunished and Rangers ran upfield and scored. Despite the poor January Caley Thistle remained fifth.

    February started with a Scottish Cup tie against Greenock Morton on the fifth â€" a home match which ICT comfortably won 5-1. There were just three league matches in February starting with a six goal thriller away to St Mirren on the 12th , end to end stuff and a 3-3 result. A 2-0 home win against St Johnstone the following week was sweet revenge for the January defeat in Perth. A 2-0 defeat away to Hibs ended February and saw Caley Thistle in sixth spot â€" but only just. Dundee United were close behind with three games in hand. There were also just three league games in March with two defeats to Dundee United (2-0 at home and 1-0 away) and a good 3-0 win at home to Motherwell.

    March’s highlight was the Scottish Cup Quarter Final at home to Celtic on the 16th â€" postponed from the 13th because of a waterlogged pitch. It was another dramatic night in the short history of Caley Thistle. The postponement cost the home club up to £100,000 as Sky TV had to pull out of the rearranged date and other revenue was lost. Caley Thistle took the lead through an Adam Rooney penalty just before the break but Celtic’s Joe Ledley equalised right on half time. Celtic ‘keeper Fraser Forster brought out a world class save early in the second half to deny Shane Sutherland and Ledley scored his second midway through the half to earn Celtic victory. An exciting match but the wrong result. The 13 March postponement was the third similar call-off in a short time and Chairman George Fraser vowed that the matter of the drainage would be investigated.

    With three games to go before the SPL split Caley Thistle were lying seventh but with tough April matches ahead. Motherwell were four points ahead but with one game more played. A match against Celtic was due to be played on Saturday 2 April with a 1200 kick off and TV coverage on ESPN â€" it also should have been Terry Butcher’s 100th in charge.  Heavy overnight rain resulted in an 0945 postponement and bitter disappointment all round. An attempt was made to contact the SPL to request delaying the kick-off but this proved impossible and despite the pitch improving by the minute the game was off. In midweek Motherwell played their 32nd match, beat Dundee United and this put them seven points ahead of ICT which made the task of catching them almost impossible. Top six hopes disappeared on 9 April when Caley Thistle took a point at Kilmarnock and Motherwell did the same away to Hearts. The seven point gap remained and Caley Thistle had to be content to aim to be the ‘best of the rest’. The 1-1 draw at Kilmarnock was the 100th game in charge for the Terry Butcher/Maurice Malpas management team. In an unusual move the SPL decided May 4th was the date for the re-arranged Celtic match â€" thus a pre split match was scheduled for a post split date! The post split timetable was issued before the first 33 matches were completed by most clubs but by now the top six/bottom six split was known. Match 32 for Caley Thistle was a 1-1 home draw against Hearts which saw Aaron Doran score for the home side and Ross Tokely seeing red for two yellow cards. Thus ICT went into the last fixtures knowing their SPL status was secure and, of the bottom six, only Hibs and ICT could say this with certainty. After 33 games Hamilton lay nine points adrift from second bottom St Mirren with Aberdeen just three points better.

    Match 34 was away to St Johnstone on Easter Monday, 25 April. Originally it was to be at a rather unusual 1400 for ESPN TV reasons but was quickly amended to 1945 after representations. With many players out of contract they were now playing for their futures and the management team was planning for next season. Saints were finding goals hard to come by and so it proved once again with ICT running out very worthy 3-0 winners. It was rather different the following Saturday when they lost 1-0 at Aberdeen with a performance that angered the manager.

    On 2 May the club issued a press release highlighting four veteran players who were not being offered new contracts for next season â€" Roy McBain, Stuart Golabek, Russell Duncan and Grant Munro. Chairman George Fraser singled out local boy Grant Munro who had risen through the youth set-up to become club captain. It was indeed the end of an era to see these stalwarts move on. A further six players were heading for the exit door as Terry Butcher planned for next season â€" Max Johnson, Chris Hogg, Chris Innes, Gil Blumenshtein, Dani Sanchez and Eric Odhiambo. In addition loan players Alex MacDonald and Aaron Doran were expected to return to their parent clubs.

    Having not quite achieved top six status it was rather strange to face Celtic post split. The postponement of the match on 2 April proved to be a fixture headache as Celtic could not fit in all pre split matches. In the event this clash had no effect on the split so it was agreed it could be played later. To avoid Champions League TV the kick-off was a less than popular 1800. The rearranged match proved to be effectively the SPL title decider. Celtic lay a point behind Rangers before the match and were expected to overtake their Glasgow rivals but Caley Thistle had other ideas. Celtic should have learned their lesson from the classes of 2000 and 2003 but once more Caley Thistle did Inverness proud. The home side lifted itself from the depths of the Pittodrie performance to astound Scottish football and beat Celtic 3-2. It was a well deserved victory which could easily have ended 4-1. A Charlie Mulgrew own goal in six minutes gave Caley Thistle the lead but Kris Commons equalised two minutes later. It was 2-1 in 53 minutes when freed defender Grant Munro drove home from 20 yards. A Shane Sutherland volley in 61 minutes made it 3-1 before Adam Rooney nearly increased the lead. He was one-on-one with Fraser Forster but the big ‘keeper managed to block Rooney’s shot with his legs. In added time Commons made it 3-2 from the penalty spot and there it stayed despite Celtic claiming a second penalty when Paddy McCourt collided with Munro. Rangers’ one point lead stayed intact and indeed it remained that way at the end of the season.

    The final three games of the season meant nothing to Caley Thistle except pride, points and pounds but they resulted in three victories. The first was at home to St Mirren and a win for Saints would have ensured their SPL survival â€" Caley Thistle won 1-0 but the following Wednesday Hamilton lost to St Johnstone and St Mirren were safe. In another home game it was 2-0 against Hibs then 2-1 away to relegated Hamilton. Thus Caley Thistle ended the season in seventh spot on 53 points.

    Adam Rooney came out top in the appearances record for the season with 43 out of 44 and Ross Tokely and Grant Munro both made 40. Rooney also topped the goals chart with 21 (15 in the league and 6 in cup competitions) and second was Richie Foran with 9 (7 in the league and 2 in the Scottish Cup). Ryan Esson took most of the annual club awards â€" Supporters’ Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year, Supporters’ Club Player of the Year, CaleyThistleOnline.com Player of the Year and Supporters Trust Player of the Year. Nick Ross took the other two awards - Matchday Programme Player of the Year and Supporters Trust Young Player of the Year.

    The club was well represented on international duty throughout the season. Jonny Tuffey played for the full Northern Ireland side in November against Morocco then in February against Scotland in the Carling Nations Cup. Prolific striker Adam Rooney was capped for the Republic of Ireland under 21s against Turkey and Switzerland in September 2010. Nick Ross scored on his debut for Scotland under 21s against Northern Ireland in November. Alex MacDonald was an established Scotland under 21 international when he joined in January and he continued his under 21 career with a substitute appearance against Belgium in March. Liam Polworth gained 13 caps for Scotland under 17s including captaining the side against Malta in January.

    In July 2010 Charlie Christie took an under 16 squad to compete in the 2010 Barcelona Cup and they came home as winners. They survived a tempestuous semi final against a Valencia side despite the referee needing police protection from angry parents of the Spanish players. Their side was being outplayed by the Caley Thistle youngsters and they did not like it. They won through to the final on penalties and took the cup 3-1 against Catalonian side Centro Tecno Futbol. With the under 15s having won the Como Cup at Easter and the under 12s winning in Orkney in June this was the third trophy for Charlie Christie’s youth players.

    In November the fine work of groundsman Tommy Cumming over many years was recognised when he was named SFL Groundsman of the Year and Scottish Groundsman of the Year. A compensation case involving former striker Marius Niculae passed another hurdle in December. Niculae had claimed a percentage of the transfer fee received by the club from Dinamo Bucharest in August 2008 but the club insisted that the transfer had been instigated by Niculae. With £130,000 at stake this was a major case for the club. FIFA’s dispute resolution chamber ruled in favour of Niculae but this decision was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland. There is still a case to be heard at Inverness Sheriff Court [Editor's Note: This case was dropped at Inverness Sheriff Court on May 30th with the club being deemed not liable] . On 21 April Tulloch Caledonian Stadium was the venue for an under 18 schoolboy international between Scotland and England. Scotland won 1-0 to share the Centenary Shield with Northern Ireland.

    The issue of reorganisation was a thread running through the season. On 16 December Henry McLeish published the second part of his review into Scottish football. Its main recommendations were the merging of the SPL and SFL, an earlier start to the season, the regionalisation of the lower leagues and a change to two Premier Leagues of 10 teams each. An SPL Strategy Group was already on the reorganisation case and they also recommended two SPL leagues of ten clubs â€" this was a major surprise to some (notably the ICT board) who had been of the impression that the Strategy Group was to choose between the status quo and an increase in the SPL to 14 clubs. A meeting of all SPL clubs took place on 3 January and afterwards SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster was confident the plan would be adopted when put to the vote on 17 January. An 11-1 majority would be required and very quickly cracks began to appear. Dundee United chairman Stephen Thomson was strongly against the idea, other clubs expressed a similar view (including Caley Thistle) and, crucially, a vote arranged by Supporters Direct showed fans were 88% against the ten team proposal. This was no straw poll â€" 5000 fans were canvassed and this strength of feeling was very important. Fans bombarded the media with their views and there was a strong feeling that the SPL’s proposal was just a reversion to the four division set-up established in 1994 â€" albeit with 42 clubs instead of 40 and with ‘SPL’ badging for divisions one and two. Lower league clubs felt ignored â€" especially as they had not taken part in any of the discussions â€" and many people in the Scottish game could not see how football as a whole could benefit from the plan. There were strong views in favour of expanding the SPL to 14 or even 16 teams but those opposed to this felt the economics would be wrong. In the light of the massive opposition, and when an 11-1 vote in favour was clearly impossible to achieve, the meeting proposed for 17 January was cancelled. Back to the drawing board! By the end of the season the issue had still not been resolved.

    Editors Note:

    This season review, like all others in the history section since 1994, has been provided by Club Historian Ian Broadfoot. Ian has meticulously kept records and stats for all Caley Thistle games from the very beginning and these have long been recognised as the definitive ones for Inverness Caledonian Thistle. They are widely used on here, on the official club site, and also by various media outlets such as newspapers and the BBC.

    Ian mentioned the fine work of Tommy Cumming in his review, and he is correct, but he is perhaps too modest to add his own news and talk about his own fine work. We, however have no such problem ..... After 17 seasons of ICT record keeping Ian has decided to retire from "active duty" and will no longer be providing weekly updates to ourselves, the club or the media. This is a loss to all of us who rely on his stats and means we will all have to work just that bit harder to make sure our own are correct and comprehensive reviews like this one and those of the last 17 years continue !!!!

    We would like to take this opportunity to thank Ian for all his hard work over the last 17 years and show our appreciation of yet another ICT stalwart who has worked tirelessly and without any fanfare in the background for the good of the club. In the early days, some of you may also remember Ian working as a volunteer manager of the Club Shop so he truly has contributed to the club as it was growing and developing.


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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. 

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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.

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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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      Recent Entries

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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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