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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
RENDALLS RAMBLES #7 And it's here in this threesome, the cup final season from James. He's been everywhere man! And he has been following the Caley Jags from the start. He has put together this fascinating nostalgic recap of Inverness Caledonian Thistle's first 25 years and more, as witnessed through his own eyes. Thanks James, a remarkable commitment to the beautiful game. The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #ICT25 No19 (Games 830 to 887) Runaround now!! The wanderlust was starting all over again, but trekking outwith the confines of Britain still hadn't recovered its mojo, and it's only in looking back now, how did such an avid World football fan go two seasons without such adventures? Never again!! The variety on offer however was as ever eclectic ☺. The ICT start to the campaign was fairly dreadful, but their were new names being tried out, and while the quality seemed to suggest we were going to struggle, hey, what do I know!! They say even when playing badly, if you can tough out results then you will succeed, and two horror show 2-2 draws at Edinburgh's duo was case in point. The draw at the Cabbage was especially memorable for one extra moment! Hibs had played us off the park for 40 minutes and led 2-0, but in pulling one back just before half time out of nothing, the Hibs fans booed their team off!! It was hilarious as well as doubtlessly galling for the home players, who never recovered the same superiority and we might have nicked all three points. League Cup progression was equally stuttering seeing off the maroons of Arbroath and Stenhousemuir, 0-2 and 5-6 on penalties after a turgid 1-1 draw. County came to Inverness for the first time in the top league in early October and left with a good 3-1 spanking, complete with a raging Derek Adams, lovely! This was the pivotal moment, confidence started to rise. Dundee were slapped about 4-1 at Dens, and we held Hearts to a 1-1 at home. As Christmas approached I was witness to another of those absolutely remarkable games. Trailing 3-0 in Arabia a Billy Mckay triple and another from Gary Warren put us 4-3 up! Alas, an Arabian took a tumble in the box late in the game (this sounds familiar!) and the conversion made it 4-4. We walked out feeling we'd lost!! An angry Inverness bagged another four versus the other half of Dundee the following week with just two from Billy, but Owain Tudor-Jones and Andrew Shinnie (remember them!) got amongst the goals, whereas the D got merely one ?. The feeling of joy in Inverness' play was such a contrast to the start of the season the Festive draws with St Midden and Les Johnoise seemed anti-climatic, but we were ticking up the points and the top six, that mythical waste of time engineered merely for the greedy to get more greed was in sight, and when Aberdeen were screaming murder after a 3-0 Highland capital thwacking, ambition nudged into new realms!! Alas the progress to a first ever Big Cup Final was tempered for another season with a third Semi final loss, this time in the League Cup and only going down on penalties 4-5 to Hearts at Fester Road after a 1-1 draw. The moment the last of our penalty takers stepped forward, their was a collective need to hide in our stand. The on loan lad from Arsenal (I have forgotten his name! Or airbrushed it out! ((Phillip)Roberts, I think), an absolutely over confident misfit who was only going to miss, did ?. The ship wobbled at Les Buddoise who beat us at the Methadome 2-1 in midweek, then Killie and Well added to our misery. These would be important losses at the end of the campaign. We finally got back on the horse ? with a morsel of revenge for the LC loss by seeing off Hearts 2-3 at their own pavilion. Two draws with County and Dees away, was followed by another derby win at home to Moss Co, and we were in the top six, but so were they!! By the time we got a rare home win versus Motherwell in a belter of a last home game, the possibility of finishing 4th and qualifying for Europe seemed on! But on that fateful day, the last game of the season in Dingwall, it almost seemed that the whole thing was too much for the club, and we feebly allowed Moss to beat us in the top flight for the first ever time 1-0. Finishing fifth was the highest we had ever been, but I didn't hang around to applaud at the end, my dream of European football had died, and I felt that we didn't want it, which annoyed me!! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #ICT25 No.20 2013/14 (Games 888 to 935) Back on the travel game. While it may be close season for the domestic football game, just in Italy with the last game last night, but our journey through the first twenty five years will nearly be over as ICT step out in the League Cup of 2019/20 and the start of the 26th year of the Empire! The 20th year was another stepping stone on the upwardly mobile progression of Inverness, and we took full advantage of the "natural order" being shot to bits. We even managed to send a Trojan Horse to another club, and by the end of campaign, three of Scotland's biggest clubs were in the second tier! Even the time honoured tradition of being rubbish in August was cast asunder with an opening day trashing of St Midden, followed up by three points at Arabia before ending the month with another win against troubled Hearts, all three without loss of a goal. Terry Butcher's team was beginning to mould wonderful into a solid, and at times, exciting unit. In September, despite a narrow loss at Aberdeen, we thrashed Hibs in Inverness 3-0 by which time our boss was starting to attract attention. Indeed, while I scampered off to Armenia, the curiosities of the Scottish fixtures meant in early November upon my return, we played Hibs away with no manager, as he sat in the stand as Hibs manager in waiting. The small, but vocal away support made sure that he knew he was making a mistake, and the players did it too, winning the game 2-0. By seasons end he'd done it again, taking a 7th placed side post split down, albeit via a Hamilton penalty shoot out success. The winning feeling kept going, seeing off the Johnnies, and the Jambos, but County ruined New Year's Day winning 2-1 at our place, however a rare win at Pittodrie was the perfect tonic. John 'Yogi' Hughes had of course moved in to the hot seat, a relatively easy position to take over as the team were very familiar with each other and the formula was already tried and tested. In many regards, what happened in the next two seasons was built by Butcher, and merely pushed on by Yogi. My own thoughts on his legacy, statistically our most successful boss, but when we needed fresh faces and the unit started breaking up, his ability to replace like with like was at times questionable. By the time we played Hibs in a cup replay, the year after we won the cup, we were a shambles! But I am getting ahead of myself. In his first real test, a groundhog League Cup semi v Hearts at Fester went all the way this time, holding out with nine men valiantly for a penalty shoot out win. We were going to our first 'big' final, but before that, the very next week down at Stair Park, Stranraer, we were brought down to earth having to fight so hard for a 2-2 draw. The League Cup saw a near full Celtic Park a riot of Northern passion and colour for the game with the Dons. Yogi set us up in a very defensive way, a failing he would regularly trot out especially when visiting the same stadium for league action. We took some horror thumping here, and likewise against Aberdeen we rarely threatened. Looking back I can't recall one moment when you could say, 'if only'. We cancelled Aberdeen well, but never looked like scoring, and even in the penalty shoot out we weren't at the races, missing the first two kicks, losing 4-2. This loss shook the confidence and while we made the top six, no mean feat in itself, but it had all been threatening so much more glory laden earlier in the campaign. Undoubtedly expectations had risen, and just being one of the top tier teams didn't seem enough, and yet that was where it was all wrong, we were riding the crest of our own wave, and it was going to get higher yet!! ___________________________________ The season had started with the unique one off double header between Spartans and Threave for a place in the Challenge Cup. This was the start of the Lowland League, a bedding in season before the new pyramid system came into play the following year. Spartans saw off Threave and went on to win the inaugural Lowland League title, and I saw a few of the home games along the way. Brora came down to Clyde in the cup with Munro and Tokely at the back, but lost out narrowly 2-1. Fraserburgh made it one round further but lost heavier 3-0 at Stenhousemuir. Raith Rovers had made the Quarter Finals and hosted St Johnstone in front of a big crowd losing 3-1 as the Perth team went on to win the trophy for the first ever time! Earlier in the season they had a fabulous European win over Rosenborg, a cracking win, the night Malmo were slapping the Cabbage about 7-0!! Having had innumerable treks south over the last two years, this season I only had an Easter scamper, Accrington v Mansfield (1-1), Doncaster v Derby (0-2) and Halifax v Macclesfield (2-1), all entertaining jousts. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #ICT25 No.21 2014/15 (Games 936 to 992) The Castle ? on the Hill: There are seasons in football that are instantly forgettable, but every now and again, an absolute golden nugget of a season comes along, maybe just once in a lifetime. Roy of the Rovers could not have written the script any differently, Inverness reached two incredible milestones, finishing third in the league, and winning the Scottish Cup. Delightfully, in the week leading up to this article, our Cup winning goal hero James Vincent has returned to the club. Wow, just remembering the moment Jamie MacDonald palmed a trundler from Marley into his path. He had ran the length of the field, boof, unbridled joy! We had been in survival mode, a man light, but the spirit of this team was it's gritty determination. Even in the semi, we were pegged back twice against Celtic, but we never stopped believing. Will we ever see the likes again? You know, we can always dream, but it doesn't matter, those who were there will never forget it, and long after we are gone, the longest name in Scottish football will forever be engraved on the Scottish Cup! It was absolutely amazing. Jamie of course entered the pantheon of the Inverness song book, and it is always nice to sing that he won us the cup!! ? Right under our name on the trophy sits the name of Hibernian, a club who had craved a cup win for 114 years! That monkey is off their back, and they did it in dramatic style too, but their fans genuinely think winning the cup was a bigger thing than an Inverness success?! I would suggest having to wait that long as one of the lands 'bigger' clubs is more embarrassing than anything! No matter, these two Cup successes were the last before tedium returned to predictable trophy hand outs. At one point, more Scottish teams had won trophies than any other country!! It all started somewhat late for me with a 23rd July friendly at Banff, complete with Mariano, an Argentine chum who'd whisky sampled his way off the A9 along to Deveronvale v ICT for a routine 0-3 win, he was deliriously happy. August didn't start badly either with a 2-0 success at Hamilton, followed by a disappointing 0-0 against strategically placed Dundee dustbins "15 points and you ****ed it up' ringing in their ears, still!! Life was changing for me, my dear mum was starting to need more help, something that continues to this day, so "staying local" has been a necessity of my football ⚽ days, which resulted in less travelling to Inverness. In September we lost to Partick away, we always lose at Firhill when I am there! A 1-1 draw with County in early November suggests we still hadn't kicked into gear, but a month later "15 points" was back in vogue as we won at Dens 2-1, always a good hunting ground for us, but back to back 1-0 losses at Perth and home to the Dons made for a disappointing Christmas. That scoreline was reversed as we saw off the Darling Buds of Chic in the first game of 2015, "our year". Accies were despatched 2-0 again away before those resolute and pesky neighbours ran over the Kessock Bridge ? with another draw. My season is always interspersed with trips abroad, when I can get cover for mum, I am off, and in 2015 after a long 5 year gap I was back in Argentina and Uruguay, meaning by late March when I returned it was back to the Maryhill Magyars, and we lost, again! Dundee held us again. Looking at these repeat games now, every one of them had the same outcome?!! Celtic were beaten in the Scottish Cup for a third time in a third different venue, (do we get to keep them), and the rest is history. My only regret is staying away from the last league games of that remarkable run that got us third place, just so that the Cup Final would be my 500th game! But what a game ? ?. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Here's Graeme Shinnie holding the Scottish Cup aloft as painted by local artist Sophie Robb? Eclectic is how you would describe my increasingly here, there and everywhere viewing! With my great Italian friend Stefano we plundered Carlisle for a 0-2 loss to Derby, followed by a similar score as Rochdale lost to PNE. I would be back at Carlisle a few months later for a belter, 4-4 with Wimbledon, and again the day Falkirk beat Hibs in the cup semi. In order to settle cup nerves I watched Carlisle beat Plymouth 2-0. The 4-4 wasn't the biggest goal fest of the season with Bo'ness beating Elgin in the cup 5-4. In late August when I went to the coastal Angus derby at Arbroath, the visitors from Montrose were top of the league having won all three games. By seasons end I was watching them toil to see off Brora in the first ever relegation/promotion play off having finished bottom! St Johnstone provided my sole Scottish Euro encounter, edging out Luzerne 5-4 on pens, but an impressive and rare scalp! Fraserburgh were close by at Linlithgow but went down 2-1 in the cup, and then I was at Elgin v Forres in the cup too, but it ended 0-0. Spartans were regularly viewed, and they caused a shock knocking out Morton, and scoring late to grab a replay with Berwick. I was down at the second game, by which time the winners knew that they were going to Easter Road. A huge Spartans support went down, but the team rarely threatened, losing 1-0. Remarkable to think that this will be a league fixture next season! Edinburgh City, who won the Lowland League hosted Brora twice, losing 2-3 in the cup, and drawing 1-1 in the first ever Lowland v Highland promotion play off! The most eclectic game of the season was the Highland League bottom of the table joust at Rothes, with Strathspey in town, a game that ended 1-1. More wonderful memories in there once again. And there's more to come from James, the next three seasons coming along soon. Prepare yourself for less memorable times. It happens.............. You can read all about James' worldwide footballing travels in his own excellent blog FOOTBALL ADVENTURES WITH JAMES RENDALL
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