First European game on Thursday night and Inverness welcome Romanian side Astra Giurgiu.
A lot has changed since Inverness won the Scottish Cup in May. Starting at the top, Russell Latapy has moved on, looking to get into management as a number one, good luck to him. Cup lifting Captain Graeme Shinnie has gone to Aberdeen. No offence Graeme, but may the curse be with you. Cup final hero Marley Watkins has left the building, opting for Barnsley over signing a new contract at Inverness. Nick Ross, the semi-final hero from our League Cup win over Hearts is off to Dundee. Billy Mackay's replacement Edward Ofere has moved on after filling the gap adequately in the run up to the final. Bit part player Tarmo Kink and young defender Ryan Baptie were also released.
What have we done to counteract those losses. Well, it's tough to get the quality we have lost, especially Shinnie and Watkins, but shrewdness is our middle name and in has come Nat Wedderburn from relegated Cowdenbeath, Dani Lopez from La Roda and Jordan Roberts from Aldershot Town. Who, I hear you shout. Oh my, what did you expect with our budget, it's car boot sales for us I'm afraid. We will just have to see how it all goes. A late addition is Brian Rice who will fill Latapy's shoes.
Pre-season has come and gone and ended with a 1-1 draw against relegated St Mirren, not the season booster we were hoping for. Greg Tansey scoring with a free kick in that one.
So, it's in at the deep end I'm afraid against a good quality Romanian side in Astra. The same Astra that were narrowly ousted over two legs in the Champions League qualifiers by Celtic last year. It's a tough ask for Inverness in our first competitive foray into Europe, but we will just have to get on with it.
Plenty of problems for John Hughes to sort with the departures and incomers. On top of that we are hearing snippets of news that some players are struggling with innjuries. Dean Brill is still out akong with Richie Foran and Josh Meekings, Carl Tremarco, Danny Williams and Aaron Doran did not feature in the most recent friendly.
Astra are an unknown quantity for us, and their side has changed from the one that played Celtic. They are littered with potential match winners from around the globe and I expect a tough welcome to European football for Inverness. Constantin Budescu is one to watch, and new signing Filipe Teixeira is highly rated in Romania. According to one source on CTO, the Astra defence could be suspect and like us, they are more dangerous when given the underdog tag.
It's a historic occasion whatever the outcome and the City of Inverness should be proud of the achievements of the club. Fingers crossed, there will still be something to play for when Inverness visit Giurgiu next week.