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  1. Rendall's Rambles #2 After the first three seasons, enjoy another stroll down memory lane with Caley Jags and world football fan James Rendall. He's a well travelled football connoisseur who has been following the Caley Jags from the start. He has put together a fascinating nostalgic review of Inverness Caledonian Thistle's first 25 years as witnessed through his own eyes. Thanks James, a remarkable commitment to the beautiful game. The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #25 No.4 1997/98 (Games 97 to 141) Following the joy of the club's first promotion as Champions from the fourth tier the season before the step up in quality, it took a little time to filter into our play. An August 0-1 home loss to East Fife was turned into a 5-1 away win by the end of October in Methil which signalled the changing of the guard. A veritable pot pourri of great servants for ICT scored that day: Paul Sheerin, Duncan Shearer, Mike Teasdale, Paul Cherry and a young Martin Bavidge, still knocking them in for Peterhead! The slow start meant a promotion push was not on, but we did play a magnificent role in deciding who went up! On the penultimate round of league fixtures, I saw a scenario that could alter the shake up at the top. Livingston, essentially my old club with a new name written in crayon over the beauty of a badge that once said Meadowbank Thistle, were top but Stranraer as well as Clydebank were close. I headed down to Stair Park in the hope Stranraer would beat them, and how they did, 2-0. That meant, ICT's last game of the season at Livingston just became huge! I would not have unduly expected people from the north to have any grudge about Livingston, but what happened that day was almost as if I had written to the club and pleaded for them to play as they did ?. Paul Sheerin and our wee dynamo Ian Stewart scored in a 2-1, with Stranraer and Clydebank (enjoying their last moment of joy) winning, a combination of events that saw Livi plop from first to third ?. And the Caley Thistle players partied as if we'd gone up! I could not have been more joyful. Needless to say at the other end of the stadium rage was building. A rivalry was set, and they would get a sort of revenge the next season! The cups are always special for an Inverness fan, and a signal of future intent was visible with a penalty kick win after a 2-2 draw at Motherwell in August in the the League Cup, our first ever visit as an opponent to a Premier League side! In the Scottish Cup we raked up our club record win, an 8-1 win over then non League Annan Athletic, memorable latterly for Steve Patterson fining our Norwegian left back Vetle Anderssen for being disrespectful to our opponents by juggling the ball between his feet as he nudged down the left wing!! The money probably went into Steve's gambling or drinking ? fund. We hadn't quite worked out at this stage what problems our attack minded boss was having. His autobiography is one of the most warts and all reads of all time! The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #25 No.5 1998/99 (Games 142 to 182) "First floor perfumery, stationery and leather goods, going up" ?. In the fifth season of our existence a second promotion, but it would be the one Championship flag that eluded us! Alas I have no desire to step down to League One as it is now to put that record straight! Inverness and Livingston ran away from the rest, and by the penultimate game it was merely a question of who would win the title. This was Livingston's revenge for our part in preventing them going up the season before! Astonishingly they led 4-0 after not much more than 20 minutes! However with still a good thirty minutes to go it was 4-3. We threw everything at the Livi goal but it just wouldn't go in. I was tempted to stay away from the A9 the following week, but I always recall Martin imploring me to go, as if we could score, we would be the first team since the twenties to score in every league game! Alloa were the visitors with the irascible Terry Christie in the dug out. He sent his team out with one ambition, to stop us scoring, and our sole counter in a 1-1 draw came merely two minutes from the end. It was a proud achievement, but losing out to Livi meant it felt like a second prize, but no matter, we were heading to the second tier! In an odd and rare season where I didn't see a game abroad, a fledgling Bosnian league provided Zeljeznicar as Euro opponents for Kilmarnock in Europe so we crossed the Eaglesham Moor to watch, with Killie narrowly coming out on top. A small band of us always went to a top flight match in England in October for a few seasons, and Blackburn v Arsenal was this year's diet, with a narrow Gooner win. By the season's end Hearts found themselves down at the wrong end of the top flight and had they lost to Dunfermline on an early May Monday night it might have brought ICT to Tynecastle a lot sooner, but a 2-0 win eased nerves and kept them in the Premier League. The decline of our National team was noticeable, losing 1-2 at home to the Czech's but I guess in that fixture we played an attacker ?. The following season the name Inverness Caledonian Thistle would become known throughout the world ? ?. The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #25 No.6 1999/00 (Games 183 to 215) Putting the city on the global map! Before a ball was kicked of the 99/00 season, an inaugural 'football free' trek to South America changed my world forever! Not so much the incredible beauty of Perü and Bolivia, or the winter chill of Santiago but a few days in Mendoza, where the atmosphere and the spirit of the Argentines just got me. Within nine months I would be back again, more later! The initial bedding into Scotland's second tier didn't go well for ICT, soundly beaten 4-0 at Dunfermline in our opener and then a narrow home loss to Falkirk. An innocent loss standing on its own, but remarkably Falkirk would beat us in August for the next five years!! This was merely the first chaotic last minute smash and grabs they would instigated in Inverness in that series! It took us until game five of the season to register a win, at home to Clydebank, a club that would play an inadvertent part in a moment of history never to be repeated, more later! That first win steadied the ship and while were never going to be promotion material, we settled into the lower mid table and just became a nuisance ☺. The season low was a Friday night fixture at Morton, thumped 5-1, a club record loss at the time, the night before Scotland hosted England in a Euro Play off, where that old adage of glorious failure became once again appropriate after we lost 0-2 at Hampden, but won at Wembley and nearly pushed it to extra-time. The following weekend we played in our first ever Cup final, The Challenge Cup Final at Airdrie v the mighty Alloa Athletic. It may well rank as the best Cup Final ever, a 4-4 draw, where we just couldn't swat those pesky Wasps away, and the final sting saw them come out on top 5-4 in the penalty shoot out! The very last game of 1999 in Scotland to finish was a 27th December home fixture against Clydebank, where Barry Wilson scored the last goal in a 4-1. Post Millennial skip, for some reason the first game in Scotland on the 2nd January included us at Inverness at Livingston, and who scored the first goal in a 1-1? Barry of course, Mr Millennium!! No one will ever achieve that wee claim again! February was the month of months, and yet as we sat in a shabby part of Glasgow stuck in a traffic jam, hearing our Saturday Cup fixture at Celtic was off due to the wind ripping part of the stand facing off left us wondering who was the amateur amongst us!! Indeed, twice in six years an abandonment or a cancellation, and both from that fabled top league!! If it had been the other way round, that horrific journey to Inverness, sic, and we would never have heard the last of it. But ten days later we were headed back for the rescheduled game and this time while the stadium stood up to the barrage, the opponents unravelled spectacularly, Inverness beat Celtic 3-1!! When Mark Viduka didn't appear for the second half we had not only got under their skin, they'd imploded!! It was just the most magical night, and thanks to The Sun newspaper we went viral before it was a proper thing!! "Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtic are atrocious". They were all heroes, but the aforementioned Barry Wilson, Bobby Mann and Paul Sheerin scored as a fire drill broke out at Celtic Park ?. Having taken an eternity to get there for the cancelled game, we set off sharp and found ourselves with time to kill in the concourse. The Bookies were offering 18/1 in a two horse race! Martin told me I should tap into my firm belief we were going to do it, but not being a betting man I missed an opportunity there, but I am sure a few highlanders landed a big payout! I am unsure if any club in Scotland has a winning record in Scottish Cup matches with Celtic, but we are leading that particular series 3-1 too ☺. Eight days later, having almost floated to Bueños Aires, Martin and I were in the theatre of dreams, Il Cilindro, Avellenada where Racing Club (another of Celtic's Dr Evils ?) were playing Boca Juniors............ Thanks James, that's another great look back at our early years and February 8th 2000 will always be a special day in our history. Look forward to the next three seasons coming along next week. You can read all about James' worldwide footballing travels in his own excellent blog FOOTBALL ADVENTURES WITH JAMES RENDALL
  2. Rendalls Rambles #1 Enjoy a walk down memory lane with Caley Jags and world football fan James Rendall. He's a well travelled football connoisseur who has been following the Caley Jags from the start. He has put together a fascinating nostalgic review of Inverness Caledonian Thistle's first 25 years as witnessed through his own eyes. Thanks James, a remarkable commitment to the beautiful game. Take a walk in James' shoes and relive the early days, with added input from CTO fans.............. The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #25 No.1 1994/95 (Games 1 to 20) There wasn't an exact moment I pinned my tail on Caledonian Thistle as they were known then. On the very same night as the club trotted out at Firs Park, Falkirk to face the Shire in its first ever competitive game, I chose to see my first ever Faroese team in HB (Havnar Bóltfelag) who oddly were visiting Fir Park! A bit like buses, the Faroese National side came by Hampden a couple of months later, going down 5-1. The legacy of post Meadowbank blues was still with me, and while I was drawn to both North clubs, the very fact the Inverness club was a cleansheet, a new club was the factor that swung it. My first ever Caley Thistle game was a 3-1 win at Telford Street versus Forfar in September, a rare moment of first season joy against the side who would romp away with the title. Indeed, by mid April I was at Victoria Park, Dingwall the day The Loons clinched promotion, and the final brilliant hoorah of an average campaign for Caley Thistle was thumping Ross County at Telford Street 3-0, a result that prevented them from going up ahead of us The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #25 No2 1995/96 (Games 21 to 61) The club were bedding in better, red had been rightly added to the club colours and we were putting teams away with greater ease. The first programme here was the first of two back to back 0-5 away wins, but ultimately we'd come up short of promotion perhaps distracted by a wonderful Cup run, that included a last minute equaliser at old Bayview with East Fife and a subsequent penalty victory on the coldest Monday night ever! After another higher league side in Stenhousemuir were beaten 1-0 away in the next round, we drew Rangers at home for the only time thus far in our history in the Quarter Final. The game was eventually moved to Tannadice but with Gascoigne, McCoist and Brian Laudrup all playing for the opposition, we gave a battling performance, if beaten 0-3. It gave us a taste of the Scottish Cup as a new club, but the two component parts had long loved Cup ties. A lockout at Perth by virtue of the extraordinary number who ventured south, a classic tie at old Brockville in a blizzard v Stirling Albion were two memories of Caledonian, while Thistle had beaten Kilmarnock 3-0 as well as gaining notoriety for the longest cancelled Cup game with Falkirk in history! The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years, #25 No.3 1996/97 (games 62 to 96) In our third season in the league the new club was beginning to find its feet, and new heroes were developing. Having struggled with the loss of Meadowbank and even more so, my father, this was the season where I finally moved on too and really felt part of the new ICT nation. No one could know what would unfold in the coming years but this was to be quite a dramatic campaign and the start of a journey! Inverness was added to the name, the best thing they decided to do, as well as giving us notoriety for the longest name in European club football! The club also moved away from Telford Street, the home of Caledonian, allowing the ghost of both club to be finally left behind, although the new ground still carries the Caledonian name, a mistake in my opinion, especially if you are looking to heal wounds. It is odd how football regularly offers a sense of symmetry, with Arbroath acting as the first ever league opponent in August 1994, and the last at Telford Street with Ian Stewart and Brian Thomson scoring the goals in a 2-0 win. The wee star, Ian Stewart was at it again a month later scoring the club's first goal at the new Caledonian Stadium with low key opening day visitors in Albion Rovers, who nicked an equaliser in front of a full house. The stadium has evolved a lot since then, and the road behind the stand is a main stay of the Inverness road system, but considering what it cost, and when you look at Falkirk's main stand etc, the need for that road reduced the availability of funds to build a proper mainstand! By March, messers Stewart and Thomson were at it again in a 3-0 win over the wee team, Ross County, a result that kept ICT top of the league and the wee Dingwall mob in its place! By the time symmetry came round again in the shape of Albion Rovers a month later, Caley Thistle were relishing the wider expanse of the new stadium, and another Ian Stewart brace, as well as a Barry Wilson goal and a rare Marco de Barros strike gave us a 4-1 win and clinched the Third Division title. Who would join us going up was still in the balance going to into the penultimate fixture. Forfar who had gone up in our first season must have come straight back down, and in our last home game of the season the party was not spoiled by a 0-4 first league loss at the new ground. The win kept Forfar second on goal difference from Ross County, and the following week I went to Station Park to see the Loons finish the job beating Queen's Park to step up with us. It would be years before County would find the promotion formula Next two installments coming up weekly............. You can read all about James' worldwide footballing travels in his own excellent blog FOOTBALL ADVENTURES WITH JAMES RENDALL ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Our own Mantis can go back further than most, and he was there on day one....... I was at the Shire game where Wilsie scored the first ever goal - the date is easy to remember as it’s my brother’s birthday. Followed up on the Saturday with the 5-2 v Arbroath and the following midweek at Dundee where the away strip got its first airing. Red and white stripes and blue shorts. In those days, midweek games kicked off at 7.30. I then missed a 4-0 hammering at home to Queens Park (boo!) and the Wilsie-inspired cuffing of County at Dingwall (big regrets), before we won at Albion Rovers with a second half strike from ‘spineless Norman’ (Monty Python reference for the young team). I fished out my season ticket for the 3-1 defeat of Forfar, which took us to the top of the league, with Dick Campbell moaning that we were a long ball team, despite having Charlie Christie, John Scott and Mike Noble in the team. I think the season ticket was about £45, maybe £50, which sounds very cheap as I think it was £4 at the gate. My final game, coincidentally, was a 1-0 defeat at Firs Park in April, featuring out of retirement Billy Urquhart, who had been at the first game as a supporter. My tally for the season was only 11 matches though, as like the team, I fell away badly after exiting the Scottish Cup, and I was still not the biggest fan of the merger. That second season, 95-96, was a low in my attendance at games. The whole ICT thing hadn't really caught fire for me after the merger, and I ended up seeing only 9 matches. Steve Paterson had taken over from Sergei, thankfully, and it wasn't all that long before the difference began to show, in the playing style and the results. The team finished the season in 3rd place behind Livi and Brechin (but ahead of County naturally) but was to sweep all before them the following year. If I'm honest, I showed up at a few games just to notch some new grounds, but I got my Caley Thistle news from the small band of regulars who travelled away with Caley Thistle, notably John Stewart, ex-Caley committee and his sons, one of whom is of course David, the MSP, and the other, Alan, who is a regular on here. I also became a regular traveller with big Dougie Lynn, and through him, met Ken MacDonald from Point in Lewis who, of course, is the father of big Lewis. The season started for me at Cliftonhill where 2 goals from Herchie looked to have won it before Rovers equalised in the last minute. Then a goalless draw at Brechin which we really should have won. A place which became a happy hunting ground for ICT in later years. Apparently Charlie scored a late equaliser at Telford Street to salvage a point against Alloa but, unusually, I can't recall anything of the game. A week before Xmas we had a dour 0-0 draw at Cowdenbeath in front of 230, although at the time I thought there were more people in the main street to see Santa and his sleigh before the game ? In the New Year, a highlight was beating Livi 2-0 at Almondvale with late goals from Christie and Teasdale. But of course the icing on the cake, as it so often was with Caley Thistle, was the Cup. I missed the legendary Herch-inspired comeback v Livi and jumped in at the East Fife stage. As Steve Archibald substituted himself late on in the replay, thinking the game was won, a wee bit of the future ICT spirit was revealed with a late Herchie equaliser and a cool 3-1 win on spot kicks. This led to the famous win at Ochilview as the team, backed by a healthy following, progressed due to a Luggy screamer with 15 minutes to go. From my acquaintances in the game, I can exclusively reveal that Terry Christie was so depressed by this result that the Stenhousemuir board and some of his friends had to talk him out of resigning. Then there was the Rangers game at Tannadice. A taste of things to come for ICT. Although we were well beaten in the end, most of us would have been happy with a goal, and we almost got one, courtesy of John Scott's drive which flashed narrowly over (I'm sure he went on to be a star somewhere ? ). For me, the ICT passion would be ignited next season. Here is TheMantis' own pre-merger site at Caley Nostalgia................ Thanks Mantis.