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Rendalls Rambles #9 The final two seasons from James in his wonderful nostalgic look at 25 years of Inverness Caledonian Thistle and more, from the first game at East Stirling to the last game at Tannadice in the play off semi-final. It's been some journey and the roller coaster that is following the Caley Jags will continue; for better or for worse. The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #ICT25 No.24 (Games 1,125 to 1,204) Old familiar: After the trauma of the previous season and the agony of the narrow margin which saw us relegated, it was good to see a sensible choice in manager come to fruition. It is said, never go back, and in the case of Craig Brewster it hadn't worked, but Robbo is folklore in Inverness, he was the man who guided us into the top flight all those years ago. Now he was tasked with ripping up the squad and starting over. It was never going to be easy, and the early results were typical of a side who had just come down. I am sure though, as October and November clicked round some of us were remembering the run we put together to get us immediately back up previously! It was an inconspicuous start to my viewing season, a turgid 0-0 at Stirling (not the first in recent history) followed by a narrow 2-0 penalty shoot out win, the lowest penalty shoot out win in Scottish history ☺. Having taken Dunfermline apart in the League Cup at East End last season, they got early August league revenge this time around, as we went down 5-1, and we knew it was going to be a long season. Hapless Brechin were thumped 4-0 at the iconic Glebe Park, but the next time we pitched up there in late December they still hadn't won a game and ran us close, however we came from behind to win 3-2. In October a 2-0 win at Tannadice was the catalyst for thinking we were ready to go on a run! Bedding in for a point at Livingston wasn't all bad, they rather disturbingly from an ex-Meadowbank perspective were going well. The goals dried up, but Robbo was endeavouring to get our defence more solid too, and the leaking of goals also dried up. We were becoming tougher to beat, and another 0-0 with QotS at home was case in point, then a narrow 1-0 win over Dumbarton in early December, the first time we'd met the Sons at home in a league game! Morton nibbled a 1-0 win at Cappielow, although I have a vague recollection this was a dubious penalty?! Post Glebe joy, we toughed out a draw to open the New Year 1-1 with Livi, but it was a real quality game, before losing again in Renfrewshire at the Methadome. More élan was on display as we sweep QotS aside 3-1, but going down at the Bairnabeu by the same score was making this season seem like a game of snakes and ladders, no consistency. The score was tighter but the Pars won 1-0 at Parslandia, a team that would inadvertently come back to bite us a few months later. While the league results were up and down we had found ourselves in the Challenge Cup Final having seen off Northern Ireland's Crusaders amongst others. Dumbarton were in the final too, a first final for 100+ years! They nearly took us all the way, but a late, late goal won us this gong again and sent the Sons back to the Rock with nada! That result did inject impetuous to a late charge for the play offs, and when we played the Sons in mid April the Pars management were hiding amongst the ICT fans running their eye over our form. We won that night 1-0 and four days later we were on our way leading Dunfermline 2-1 until a late equaliser meant that they had the advantage going into the last game, at home to play out bound Dumbarton, and they saw it through, we ended fifth. We'd left it too late, but signs of green shoots were visible in our play. It was encouraging, unlike my solitary peek at Scotland's continued European debacles. St Johnstone having lost out to Armenian debutants Alashkert last term went and did it again, this time with a home loss to Trakai from Lithuania! The most unusual friendly ever, saw Stranraer entertain Twente Enschede on a glorious day down at Stair Park. They got thumped 5-0 but that was never the point, the bandstand outside the ground was a kitchen for the evening, as food, drink, dance and friendships were made, an absolutely brilliant day. Buckie came down to Cowdenbeath in the League Cup, a sample of what might have been had the Moray boys got past East Kilbride at the end of last season. The Fifers won 3-2 but they'd have more Highland battles by the season's end. Brora were also in Fife in the Challenge Cup, they lost 3-0 but it was a cruel scoreline on a brave open performance at Raith, but in January they'd be along the road at Methil beating East Fife 1-0 in the 4th round of the Scottish Cup. Spartans were regularly viewed and CSS, Dalbeattie, Gala and Edinburgh Uni were all beaten home or away as they headed towards a terrific Championship winning season culminating in a 0-0 with East Stirlingshire, which was enough courtesy of Stirling Uni stunning East Kilbride. They also hosted Linfield in the Challenge Cup, coming up just short of a shock. The league below the Lowland, the East of Scotland League was now a step on the ladder to the league football and the inaugural Junior defectors Kelty Hearts were run close by Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale, but when I saw them play Tweedmouth they won big 11,1! That was part of a weather hampered groundhop, which included a Burntisland home game for the first ever time for me, and a first ever Shipyard goal in a 2-1 loss to Preston Athletic. The final game of the day saw another first, my first ever indoor game at the Oriam, a cracking 2-2 draw between Heriot Watt Uni and Leith Athletic, whose equaliser still ranks amongst the best goals I have ever seen. I continued seeing Spartans on occasion as the title came closer, going down to Innerleithen and Hawick to see them win. I then found myself in Castle Douglas for the first ever South v East play off for promotion. A tight first half led to a four goal Kelty blitz in the second. Threave's trip north was a mere formality the following week, and having nipped up for the second half from Cowdenbeath, it was 6-0 to the Fifers at the break, and remarkably they failed to add to the score in the second. Cove fell short at Central Park where dubious officiating had played with the Cove heads, aiding them losing 3-2 as Dung for a second successive season had survived, just! The domestic season ended with Kelty winning the very old Kings Cup 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Preston Athletic at Dalkeith. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #ICT25 No 25 2018/19 (Games 1205 to 1310) So nearly joyous: With the 26th league campaign of the Empire starting out next Saturday, it seems appropriate the curtain comes down on a quarter of a century of memories on Mother Inverness with the final recollection here. Of course it all ended so horribly last May in Arabia, and guess where it all starts on Saturday? Yip back in the sands of Arabia, in a street we will be well familiar with by the end of August as today (Jul28th) we play Arabia's near neighbours, the Dee and again in under 4 weeks! Passport obliteration with Arabia stamps ?. But one is jumping the gun ?, lest we wind back the clock just over a year. France hadn't lifted the World Cup yet when we trotted out at home to Cove in the League Cup! The first game of any new season, always a bunting kind of occasion, and against the crack Highland League winners so cruelly denied at Cowdenbeath a few weeks earlier. However, before a ball was kicked the first disappointment of the season? You will notice in the photo below an array of programmes, from the English 6th and 7th tier, the Scottish 5th and 6th tier and even the German 3rd tier, but not one Inverness souvenir of the season ?. We have gone digital, and I for one am not happy. It is a cheap cop out, and a tawdry online effort too! The programme might be a diminished notion in the eyes of some, but it is still a highly treasured item for those who love their football. The club should at least offer a printed version at a cost if anyone wishes to have a hard copy, and they should at least attempt to make even the online effort worthy of people looking it up! I see this malaise continues in the north with Peterhead joining the ranks this season. But not to have a feature celebrating the first 25 years in a traditional programme, it's shabby. Rant over! ?. You'll find me contributing to the Aberdeen programme for the Euro clash with Chikhura and if they progress, Rijecka! They put together a programme together that they can rightly be proud! So we saw off Cove 2-0 on a bright mid July day and trotted into Tynecastle with a maximum nine points having thumped Cowdenbeath 5-2, but we got a right doing that day 5-0 against a team we could benchmark ourselves against later in the campaign. The league opener saw us collect all three points from the Bairnabeu, 1-0, and a few weeks later having drawn at home with new boys Alloa and Ayr, Dunfermline were despatched convincingly 3-0 at Parslandia. The squad hadn't altered hugely, the confidence of the near play off late charge last season was still there. But it somehow got bogged down in too many draws and we started to lose touch with those who were collecting three rather than one point. By late November we were still unbeaten, and I hadn't been at an ICT game since late August due to a variety of trips and other sundry debacles, but the club record unbeaten record was close. It seemed to be going up in a puff of smoke, but remarkably the metal of the team was shown, racing back from three down at Palmerston to get a draw, indeed we nearly won it! Alas, an inability to beat QotS and struggles versus Alloa were two reasons we would fall short of challenging for the top spot. In the Scottish Cup at Edinburgh City, the drawing theme continued in a game we seemed comfortable but were ultimately hanging on. By the start of 2019 the unbeaten run was over, but the draws kept coming, 2-2 at the Bairns in a game that really ebbed and flowed, but the second trip to the Pars saw us lose 1-0, followed by a similar score at Arabia, albeit via a dubious penalty. It was all slipping away, enthusiasm started to dampen. When I next pitched up it was Hampden, sandwiched between trips to Italy and Germany. Hearts fans were nervous and unlike the 5-0 drubbing we were in this. Even after falling behind we came at them strong, and had it been a right footed player whom tackled Mulraney it would have been more obvious that ball came of the Hearts players foot and no offside would have denied McCart's exquisite finish. The JT keeper had a magnificent save and from then our fight back petered out as Hearts found a little confidence and ran out 3-0 winners. We made the play offs, a first for the club, and we kept our fine hoodoo over Ayr with a good win down at Somerset Park in the first joust 3-1. It all seemed to be coming together nicely, how marvellous would it have been to end 25 years back at the top table. Alas the officials had other ideas, and Liam Polworth's last contribution to the club was a harsh red in a tight first leg at home to Arabia. However that incident pales into insignificance along side ridiculous penalty award they got just ahead of the break in the second game. It was the straw that broke the camels back, as up until that moment we were in the game. Karma comes in a variety of forms, but Arabia missed ALL the penalties versus St Mirren after two tedious play off final encounters. We will trot out there next Saturday looking for revenge!! However, James is a man of many stadiums and here's an insight into how he spent his non Caley Jags time last season........ The season started for me on the 5th July at the Bairnabeu when East Stirlingshire were hosting Frickley?! And two days later Wick beat Orkney in a thriller up north!! Cove were back at Central Park for a re-match in our LC group, but this was a tame affair, the Fifers prevailing 1-0, before zipping up to Kelty to see Brora beat Clydebank 2-1, as you do! The Spartans entertained Killie in the LC too, losing 3-0 but putting in a brave shift. Hibs were in Europe and this time I saw all the goals as they roared back from 2-0 down to Greek side Asteras Tripolis to win 3-2. They then hosted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Molde as he showed his Man United credentials with a 0-0 in Leith ?. Kelty Hearts had been promoted to the Lowland League at the first time of asking and hosted Dalbeattie in their first ever game in that league. It ended 2-2, but exactly a year on, the same fixture ended 8-0 yesterday with Nathan Austin getting a brace. My Football Weekends escapades took me beyond Inverness to Golspie to cover the Scottish Cup tie with that other great Cup name Burntisland Shipyard. The Shippy are now semi professional having ditched the amateur status and won here relatively comfortably, 4-1, and I saw them host Bonnyrigg, a side who beat them 14-0 as amateurs last season. The same 4-1 score for the Rose, but it flattered the visitors. The explosion of East Juniors into the East of Scotland League spiced up the entertainment locally from that league. At the lower end of the leagues you have to admire the commitment of the players and back ground staff, as well as programme producers for the sheer effort and love of the game. As money continues to ruin the game at the top end, it is wonderful to enjoy merely a game without all the nonsense! A host of new venues were experienced. Tranent, without Ian Black lost 1-8 to Bonnyrigg, but with him, they would end the season in sweet revenge beating the Rose to win the King's Cup. By season's end Bonnyrigg were floundering, having won the most astonishing conclusion to the East of Scotland League season only to find out days later the SFA had denied them a license. It ruined a potentially significant haul of cups, but they won the league, and eventually commonsense prevailed as they were promoted. I saw the first Lowland fixture yesterday and intent was signalled with a 6-0 thumping of Vale of Leithen. It will be intriguing to see how they go at Berwick on Tuesday, teams who were two leagues apart last season! I was at all three of the one off title deciders in the East of Scotland League with Penicuik narrowly seeing off Broxburn, and then they lost narrowly at Bonnyrigg. The final game at Broxburn had everything! Leading 2-0 and Rose down to ten men, Broxburn were winning the title. At 2-1 Penicuik were Champions, then at 2-2 Rose ? were back on top. In the final seconds as Broxburn looked for the winner, the ten men broke free and scored to win!! I ventured down to Annan to see Fraserburgh beat this joke side Edusports, now moved to Strathclyde Park and called Caledonian Braves, is this some American franchise?!! Brora fell tamely 1-0 at Cowdenbeath in the cup, while the CSS stalled East Kilbride's title charge with a 3-1 win. There are too many to go through the lot, when the dust settled on last term I had been at 105 games! I had never been close to that number previously. Meanwhile, back to the task at hand, the celebration of 25 years of Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and James has the last words on his voyage.......... What a season that was, what a quarter of a century for ICT too! A Scottish Cup, third in the league, two Challenge Cups, playing in Europe and a host of drama aside. I hope I have caught a flavour of the times here over the last six months. Fingers crossed for a fantastic 26th season, starting soon at Dens!! Thanks James for sharing 25 years of the Caley Jags. Here's to more success and the next 25 seasons of our club. James' own blog of his worldwide football adventures can be found HERE. Enjoy
Rendall's Rambles #5 If you have been following James on his ICT journey, here's the next three seasons. He's a well travelled football connoisseur who has been following the Caley Jags from the start. He has put together a fascinating nostalgic recap of Inverness Caledonian Thistle's first 25 years as witnessed through his own eyes. Thanks James, a remarkable commitment to the beautiful game. Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years No.13 #ICT25 Season 2006/07 (Games 512 to 578) A very European feel season. Football in eight countries!! The third season of Caley Thistle at the top table. While the essence of each campaign was survival, the general feeling amongst the fans seemed to be more insistent that cheap Pomagne was traded in for a drop of the proper stuff. Reaching for the fabled top six was the want, but the reality for a brilliantly run club on a shoestring, they can't just switch up and splash the cash. Our 13th season wasn't unlucky but it wasn't one that lives long in the memory. That said, I was here, there and everywhere so I may have missed a classic memorable game or four! Before the season started Neil Warlock brought Sheffield United to Inverness for Ross Tokely's Testimonial. It was a good crowd, a worthy attendance for a wonderful servant of the club, who many years later was poorly dealt with by Terry Butcher. In this game, the Blades were flashing past us, and ran out 3-0 winners. The league didn't start brilliantly, it rarely does, and losing at home to St Mirren was a poor opening gambit. A brave point at Aberdeen, as well as home points versus the green duo steadied the ship somewhat, but it was the 29th September before I saw us win a game, a narrow 1-0 at home to the Pars. Falkirk were then beaten at home 3-2, a rare moment of joy versus the Bairns in the Highland Capital. A bag of struggles ensued, but Christmas came with a morsel of festive cheer, a 2-1 versus Rangers. This remains to this day, the only time I have ever seen Rangers lose!! Darren Dods and a John Rankin screamer won the day. The biggest win of the season that I saw was a 3-0 thumping of Hibs, who rarely enjoyed their trip up the A9. Ultimately it was the bottom six again, but with limited chance of going down, and perhaps with a relaxed, let's enjoy life attitude, we beat Motherwell, Dunfermline and St Mirren before the curtain came down. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #ICT25 No. 14 2007/2008 (Games 579 to 631) Fourth top table safety secured: August is still a month I dread when it comes to ICT even if we have marginally improved in learning to hit the ground running! In this particular season we absolutely hit rock bottom with four straight defeats, two home 0-3 biffings by Rangers and Arabia, with narrower 2-1 losses on the road at Well and Les Buddoise sandwiched in between. I was so hacked off I scampered off to Italy and Doncaster before casting eyes on a win finally, 2-1 on the 22 September at home to Hearts. A bit like buses another win came the following weekend with a 4-2 with over the Bairns also at the Caledonian Stadium. A rare moment of home joy against a team that had previously inflected such painful home losses, but the monkey was far from gone as next season will tell ?. In truth this season quickly panned out as a walk in the park, even for the less ambitious teams. Gretna had overstretched in too quick a time, and having to play 'home' games at Fir Park for a small village team, it was the financial straw that broke the camels back, and indeed, maybe it exacerbated Miles Brookson's illness. His investments in the USA were collapsing, his health was deteriorating and his family were trying to hold onto what family legacy hadn't been pumped into Gretna, and to a lesser extent Workington. Miles was a good egg, his heart was in the right place, Gretna was the mouse that briefly roared, but despite completing the season, they would fold by the summer. The new Gretna doesn't ever wish to be associated with the old one which I find sad. As mentioned previously seeing Miramar Misiones beat Central Español in Montevideo the previous season, one of the stars of that win would end up at Gretna, Fabian Yantorno. ICT had already thumped them 4-0 away, but when they came to Inverness on the 5th January, my programme article on the Uruguayan game would start a beautiful friendship, and I hope I will get to see him play one last time before he hangs up his boots when I head across to South America in late Feb next year! We won that encounter 3-0 but prior to that from late November, we won four games on the trot making up for August loses to St Mirren and Dundee United before back to back home wins versus the green duo, 2-0 v Hibs and more memorably 3-2 versus the hoops, John Rankin, David Proctor and Don Cowie with the goals. The day before that I had watched third tier Moss County struggle to beat Berwick Rangers 2-1. Ironic that next weekend the Dingwall mob will be promoted to the top table again, and Berwick could well be sent to walk the plank versus East Kilbride or Cove! Scotland could lose it's English club ?. It kind of dribbled away after that home win v Gretna, I scampered off to South America and Donny again but did catch a close run 3-4 home loss to Aberdeen, but following a 6-1 clubbing of poor Gretna again, the 0-0 last day draw at home to St Mirren kind of summed it all up. There would be no Gretna the following season, were we ready for the fight? Find out in next week's gripping instalment!! My neutral games in Scotland hit an all time low in this season! I never saw any European games, save a Murrayfield friendly between Hearts and Barcelona. I will let you work out who won ?. I finally got a league game at Borough Briggs Elgin, a 2-1 home win versus Dumbarton. What I didn't know then was that this Sons goal would be the only one I had seen to this day since they pulped Hearts 5-2 at Tynecastle!! There was a fire drill that day ?. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #ICT25 No.15 - 2008/09 (Games 632 to 696) That sinking feeling! August, usually that perennial bad month for ICT started so well, a 2-0 win at Pittodrie, but a week later, the new boys Hamilton Kaccies, beat us 1-0. However this was to be a different first month of the season, but before any more league hostilities, Liverpool duped 7,000+ at the Caley Stadium for Barry Wilson's Testimonial into thinking an 'XI' might include a star or two, but they were in my opinion disrespectful in sending a bunch of kids, and they got what they deserved in a 5-0 home win! Things settled down nicely, a 1-1 versus Hibs was followed by a rare August win versus Falkirk, albeit away, and it merely acted as a poking of a well oiled bear that would haunt the rest of this season. Sandwiched in between these league games was an uninspiring 2-2 (4-2 pens) win at Arbroath, although Gayfield is always one of the great wee stadium of this land! We were still picking up points here and there, beating Killie 3-1 at home days after getting the better of Morton in the League Cup. Narrow losses at Arabia and at home to Well, who had a cracking record versus us in Inverness in those days, sadly, before we were back at the Bairnabeu for the League Cup Quarter-final, going down 1-0. Somewhere soon after that game Craig Brewster departed, and Terence Butcher arrived! We bounced back in the league with a 2-1 over Hibs at Fester Road. We had a habit of winning there at this juncture, but what is more remarkable is that my mate Fabian played his only full game for Hibs that day! Sorry hombre ☺. The tale end of the year was fairly torrid, Les Jambons, the Darling Buds of Chic, Dons, Arabia and the Castle Greyskull tenants all stuffed us without us even as much as tickling their under carriage so to speak! The new year started in better fettle with a fine 3-0 dismantling of the Maryhill Magyar, before I scampered off to South America a few weeks earlier than normal. Upon my return, a draw at Tannadice and another win against the Cabbage saw us nearing a top six place, but we would fall short, as well as exit the Scottish Cup in a bad tempered home fixture to Falkirk. Two weeks later they murdered us 4-0 down at their place, but we ended the regular campaign comfortably clear of the bottom. Alas, Butcher would experience this post split demise not only with us, but Hibs a few years later. We just couldn't get the win that would keep us safe, and other results conspired to drag us further and further into the muck. Two points from twelve meant we were 11th just above Falkirk going into the last game. They had already thrashed us 4-0 and knocked us out of both cups, the sense of foreboding was prevalent before we kicked a ball. Hughes had moulded a street fighting unit, marshalled by one Steven Pressley, who would fall down holding his head so often after a corner it was embarrassing. When he did it in the cup match and winked at the crowd, the normally passive home crowd were positively foaming. Bad blood was overflowing on the last day, six games in a season playing each other was taking it's toll. Tokely's red card was central belt decision making and the game was up. Hughes ran on the field at the end like a demented flea and we were down. His antics that day never left me, and while he might have overseen ICT highs in latter years, he was never fully embraced by a good number of Caley Thistle fans. The one crumb of comfort from a real fall from grace might have been we were, and still are, the team relegated with the highest ever points total, only ran close by our second relegation! But hey, what fun we had the next season, and it would be years before we ever had to play the Bairns again, and despite having ten men that day too, oh what joy ?. European games in Scotland numbered two viewings, Hibs were eased aside by Swedish team Elfsborg 2-0 in the Intertoto to kick off the season on the 6th July, but Queen of the South put in a braver effort against Nordsjaelland, going down 0-1 to the Danish outfit on one soggy Airdrie night! South America called me and the curtain came down on futbol Sud America across in Greater Bueños Aires, with Lanus playing out a 1-1 draw with the Goats (Chivas) of Guadalajara in the Libertadores! All done before heading home for the hangman's noose and our first demotion in the fifteen year history of ICT. 'Fifteen points and you f***ed up' next time out ? Thanks James, some great memories in there once again. Not all of them enjoyable, but thems the breaks More to come from James, 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
Rendall's Rambles #4 If you have been following James on his ICT journey, here's the next three seasons. He's a well travelled football connoisseur who has been following the Caley Jags from the start. He has put together a fascinating nostalgic recap of Inverness Caledonian Thistle's first 25 years as witnessed through his own eyes. Thanks James, a remarkable commitment to the beautiful game. Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years No.10 #ICT25 2003/04 (Games 344 to 396) First floor perfumery, stationery and leather goods, going up ?: And so it came to pass, that upon the last kick of the 10th year of the empire, Mother Inverness were going to the top table! It started in exquisite fashion back in early August with a 5-0 win over Gretna in the Challenge Cup, our only ever visit to Raydale well ahead of the Border team making its brief mark on the world of Scottish football. Did we lose to Falkirk in August? What do you think?!! 2-1 for the Bairns, and even in the closing games of the season they held us 0-0 in the third last game of the season, a result that kept us off the top of the league, but only for one more week! Aside from the Bairns bogey, other teams were put to the swords with 4-0 away wins over Raith, St Mirren, and Queen of the South beaten 4-1 at home. We had never hit the top of the league until the penultimate day when we went to Cumbernauld to play long time leaders Clyde! That was the closest the Bully Wee came to the top flight in the modern three or four tier era. It didn't start well, as Clyde took the lead, but their was a momentum to us, and the equaliser when it came from the most unlikely scorer in Liam Keogh saw a celebration akin to Marco Tardelli scoring versus West Germany in a World Cup Final! The winner came from our at times frustrating but equally reliable Steve Hislop, and we didn't just win the game, we went top! They had a "helicopter" Saturday the following week, but in truth the Championship was never in doubt, David Bingham settled the nerves, Paul Ritchie got the second, and Barry Wilson blasted a late penalty to see off St Johnstone 3-1 with a pitch invasion of riotous joy ahead of the trophy arriving. I am sure Partick Thistle thought our Championship would see us denied promotion, but assurances were made, and while we played a lot of the next season in Aberdeen, when we came home the stadium met all the necessary requirements. The cups were joyful too this term, with the club winning it's first Scottish knock out trophy with a 2-0 win over Airdrie United in the Challenge Cup Final in Perth. We reached a second consecutive Scottish Cup Semi Final, with Dunfermline our opponents at Hampden. A 1-1 draw saw maybe the last ever semi final replay, which took place at Pittodrie. We lost a cracking match 3-2 but I am still haunted by a near miss by Paul Ritchie that might have made all the difference. We would get used to Pittodrie the following year, and we would take our revenge on the Pars, but that's next week's tale! The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #ICT25 No 11 2004/05 (Games 397 to 453) Nibbling at the top table: Life in the Premier, the top league in Scotland, they say it doesn't get any better than that! In our eleventh year, we had scaled the whole way up the leagues, and while I am sure many were relishing the challenge, I was both shocked and terrified! Yes in 1973 when I first went to a game with my dad it was a top flight game, but Hearts v Arbroath in a league on 18. We only ever went against the lesser lights, and with fan violence on the increase, by 1978 I had rebelled and I had gone off to find my own adventures, far from any such goings on. In the fifteen years I was a Meadowbank fan, only once did we even get vaguely close to the Premier League, finishing second behind Hamilton. Only once before I walked out in 1993, sickened by the hijacking of the club and the protests, did we play in Glasgow against either of the Old Firm, a League Cup semi final first leg at Ibrox. We lost 4-0 but stuff was being hurled at us, and it was a very uncomfortable night. For ICT playing in the Premier League, I needed my own ground rules, and that was banning myself from going to Ibrox or Celtic Park for any league game! Having made that decision, I relaxed and I have stuck to it to this day, and even though we played The Rangers in a League Cup tie at Ibrox and won, I didn't. I have never seen us play at Ibrox, but I have been at Celtic Park for Cup ties just twice, once rather memorably! The start of the campaign didn't have a very top table feel too it, Livi away, and Dunfermline 'home' at Aberdeen, much to Partick Thistle's disgruntlement!! We were absolutely horrible on debut, going down meekly 3-0, just as we had been a few years earlier in our first game in the Championship, a 4-0 loss at the Pars. Oddly the last time we played Dunfermline had also been at Aberdeen, the cup semi replay loss, but this time we got things right, and game two of the season brought us a 2-0 win, with the honour of our first ever Premier League goal going to an unlikely scorer, Stuart Golabek! It was never going to be an easy season, doubly so playing so many games away from Inverness, but this early win was vital. Our next Pittodrie home match was versus Celtic and we were competing terrifically well and then came a sickening moment that I will never forget, and while many seem to dislike Neil Lennon for a variety of idiotic reasons, the utter shameful gamesmanship of going down holding his face when Juanjo nudged his chest was one of the worst moments of cheating I have ever witnessed. Juanjo was sent off, Lennon never received any retrospective punishment (it probably didn't exist then) and the dynamic of the game changed, from 1-1 we lost 3-1. Hosting Aberdeen at Pittodrie was always going to be a unique and funny thing. We got the home stand and doubtlessly the home dressing room. It was a terrific atmosphere, and while hardly a derby, we are two northern teams. We did get the chance to keep the wee team firmly in its place too, winning 1-0 in Dingwall in the League Cup. We ended up playing home games in three stadiums that season, with our Scottish Cup win over St Johnstone coming shortly after the last game at Aberdeen, with this one being played in Dingwall with a 1-0 ICT win. On the 29th January we were home finally and we did the home double over the Pars with another 2-0 win, Barry Wilson scoring our first proper home top flight goal! A March into April series of wins were enough to see us clear of trouble at the bottom, starting with a fine 2-0 win at Tynecastle, then a rare win at Kilmarnock and a stirring 3-2 win over Dundee. The Dees neighbours came to Inverness on the last day of the season in their thousands, where a dubious penalty saw mayhem erupt at the away end, scored by Barry Robson. The Arabs had saved themselves but it was a portent of things to come! It was never going to be anything other than a hard season, but we made it!! We'd even get a wee trip abroad before we knuckled down to life at the top table again the following season, stay tuned for the next instalment next week! I was doubtlessly missing trips to Inverness as I found myself at Clachnacuddin versus Brora in November, on a day when ICT were making a league debut at Celtic Park. It ended in a 3-0 home win for the Lilywhites, a result that wouldn't happen now! Oddly, I was to see two more Highland teams the very next week! I was just entering Aberdeen for our match with Dundee United when the radio informed me that the game was off. No one had cleared the snow off the pitch! As luck would have it, Inverurie were playing Keith in the Scottish Cup, so I headed there. The referee was none other than my old work mate and Pomona player Crawford Allan. It was an odd appointment for an Edinburgh ref, and in chatting to him, the last thing he wanted was a replay. Well nothing like a dubious last minute penalty to save the journey north again, with Keith the happy recipients winning 2-1 courtesy of the spot kick! The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #ICT25 No12 2005/06 (Games 455 to 511 Five dots to Farum ..... ?The second campaign in the top flight was always going to have an anti-climax feel to it for me after the season started with Inverness in action abroad! The train down to South Denmark from Copenhagen to Nykobing wasn't exactly with the same anticipation as the trek to Giurgiu, but in 2005 who could have envisaged that ICT would ever play competitive International football! Walking around the quaint Danish town I was beginning to fear I might be the only visiting fan! The small posse never bumped into each other ahead of the game, but we were ultimately a collected gathering of five at the first ever ICT game abroad with Don Taylor, his wife and son as well as another lass lending our support. Nykobing Falsters Alliancen was the rather cumbersome name of an allegedly new Danish super club, but as far as I am aware they have never troubled the top tier. They were to beat ICT on our European bow 2-1 with Liam Fox claiming our first overseas goal. We all spent some quality time in Copenhagen, which really is a fabulous city, joined as we were by one more fan, Alex ahead of the local metro train out to Farum. It was a well heeled sleepy hedgerow suburban town at the end of the metro line. It took an age, but we eventually got down to five dots on the train map in the carriage, a phrase that stuck in the legend of the trip! Nordsjaelland's stadium had a hotel, where the team were staying, complete with a bar/restaurant. The pre and post match tipples were scooped here, latterly with the team chomping a meal ahead of having a night on the town in the city. This was a well earned night out as we had just beaten an up and coming top flight Danish team 1-0 on a very warm afternoon. David Proctor gave us the win, as we all enjoyed cinema-esque padded seats, albeit they were getting rather hot! Nordsjaelland would crop up in competitive European football versus Queen of the South a few years later, and only one fan travelled to Scotland, so respect to the six of us who went to Denmark for friendlies! Back to the bread and butter Premier League football we started with a moment of reverse history defeating Falkirk in their back yard in August as a welcome to the top flight! We didn't suffer too badly from second season syndrome and picked up points regularly to keep the bottom well below, but never enough to make the top six. A 2-1 win at Easter Road was a notable early result, which eventually became a treble over the Leith side winning 2-0 in Inverness, and 2-0 on our second visit to Easter Road. We nibbled a home point off Celtic in a 1-1 draw as well as thrashing the Bairns 4-1 at home too. Ridiculously we played at Livingston four times away including a League Cup Quarter Final loss, finally winning one of these jousts to keep us safe in the top flight in late April. This was the season where George Burley's Hearts won the first ten games of the season including a 1-0 success at Caledonian Stadium, but then he was sacked, and where did he disappear to after that? Hearts did have something to celebrate at the end of the season, just, when third tier village sensations Gretna nearly won it, and maybe only a perfectly timed Robbie Neilson tackle saved them from losing ahead of winning the penalty shoot out! Hibs had a horrible season when I was in the stadium, murdered 4-0 at Tynecastle and in the only game I saw that they didn't lose was a feeble 0-0 with Dnipropetrovsk from Ukraine. I was at three English games in three days at Preston, Doncaster (the first of three in the season), then Chesterfield, a chance to see Saltergate before it disappeared with the bees of Brentford winning 1-3. Scotland very nearly beat Italy but a controversial late free kick for Italy brought their goal in a 1-1 draw, but we then lost to Belarus at home 0-1. Typical modern day Scotland! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Thanks James, some great memories in there. Five dots to Farum? When asked how far to go, I looked at the electronic display in the carriage and that's where the five dots to Farum came from, each dot representing a station. Mee was the other fan, all the way from Foyers. Farum was home to FC Nordsjælland, managed at the time by former Celtic player Morten Wieghorst, really nice guy. The floodlights were not visible as we strolled to the ground en mass, all six of us, and the reason became clear when we got there. The ground was close to a flight path and the floodlights were on hydraulics enabling them to be retracted when not in use. The Stadium was 10,000 all seated with leather seats and beer cup holders on each one. Wonderful! More to come from James, 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