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  1. 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 Γ©lan 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 πŸ”«, 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 πŸ˜”. 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! πŸ˜€. 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
  2. Rendalls Rambles#8 Another couple of seasons from James' remarkable lookback at our first 25 years in existence, and in his own words, the good, the bad and the ugly............ The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #ICT25 No.22 2015/16 (Games 993 to 1053) The Good, the Bad and the quite frankly ugly! Since I became interested in football on the other side of the seas surrounding this island it has been a longstanding dream of mine to watch my team play in Europe. At Meadowbank this was merely a pipe dream, and in 1994 who would have thought it could ever happen for Inverness, but it did. It brought up a JFK moment, I will always remember where I was when the news broke of the Europa League draw, do you?! I was in Salzburg supping coffee β˜• with an Armenian lass, as you do, when a message from home brought the news we were headed to Romania and Giurgiu. I knew the club, but hadn't a clue where it was. St Johnstone had drawn a club from Yerevan as it happens in an earlier round, and I was immediately writing to a colleague in the office to pass information on to my boss regarding getting there and where to stay. He went, had a great time, but in the return leg Alashkert playing their inaugural Euro ties beat St J, who were out before we'd got started. It became apparent that none of my wee ICT gang were going to Romania sadly, but I was determined not to miss out, after all I had been in Denmark for the first friendly! Giurgiu was south of Bucharest, tucked away on the Romanian side of the Danube. My stroke of luck came in the form of a Brazilian friend, Luciano who had a translation buddy in Bucharest who was willing to meet me at the airport and head south. I booked my passage for the day of the game! In the first leg in Inverness, it kind of demonstrated again the lack of any club organisation or undue pride in this momentos occasion. They'd printed half and half scarves for a game versus a Liverpool third string, but when Euro football came to town, it was just like any other game, aside from the usual sized programme being ramped up to a fiver! Odd quirk number one saw a goalkeeper, just signed that day, starting the game! Owain Fon Williams would prove his worth in the coming months, but their still remains a nagging doubt that the goal Astra scored that night was stoppable. They were slightly better on the night, if too willing to take a tumble holding limbs. It was disappointing to have lost at home but at one down, it wasn't an impossible position. Before we headed to Romania, it was known that West Ham or a Maltese side would play the winners, Astra had knocked the Hammers out last season! It was an early flight to Amsterdam and then Bucharest, complete with a loss of two hours in the time difference, making it all the more remarkable that Razvan had time to take me to my Bucharest hotel, before heading south, through Giurgiu into a major roadworks traffic jam to cross the Danube and eat in Ruse in Bulgaria before the game! We managed it easily and joined the away throng in the 'cage'. It was a fantastic away support, circa 600, and we so nearly got the goal that would have forced extra time, but alas despite a few near things, Astra held on for 0-0. It was back to the capital late that evening, but two more games were on my roster, at stadiums where ex-Caley centre forwards were plying there trade!! Going out having failed to score was disappointing, but we could have pride in the away display against a useful and experienced team. Before the season had started Yogi had gone to the board and got them to pay Russell Latpay's contract up until the end and release him. He was hellbent on getting Brian Rice in, and while we didn't know it then, he would oversee some of the worst moments in the club's history. This script gets reproduced on Caleythistleonline and by virtue I am unwilling to regale the tale of what I was told regarding the circumstances of this disturbing replacement of our assistant manager, suffice is to say, it still leaves a bad taste and further diminished my limited admiration of Yogi, who by the season's end did a runner before his stock fell too dramatically, but oddly no one has taken him on since! Post Europe, a 1-1 draw in the league at Perth was a tedious affair, and a chance to trade "what if" stories with another early Euro exitee! Livingston were recovering from financial woes but we saw them off 2-0 down in West Lothian in the League Cup. By November a 3-1 win at Motherwell was a welcome three points, but once again we lost at Partick with me in the stadium! But the year ended with a bizarre 4-3 win at Hamilton. Cruising 2-0 up we nearly blew the whole thing, save Liam Polworth and a late, late pile driver that will stay forever in the memory. By early January, the defending Cup holders trotted out at Stirling Albion and in the end we were hanging on for 0-0! Kilmarnock beat us 2-1 at Rugby Park, a regular away loss, followed by another win at Motherwell by the same score reversed. Dens is rarely a bad hunting ground but merely got a point ahead of a 2-0 loss at Tynecastle. We had been spluttering and the lofty high of last term might have set the bar too high but shambolic displays with no forward thinking prowess was beginning to become common place. Somehow we toughed out a 1-1 draw in the cup at Easter Road, and before the replay in Inverness another toothless loss at Perth was endured. Both these games had seen a huge centre forward from Cambridge called Hughes play, and he was absolutely useless, making Andy Barrowman seem like a great signing a few years back. The growing unrest and disquiet 'boiled' over among the usually calm centre stand crowd at the replay versus Hibs. Remember, they were a Championship team at the time and we were second best for long spells of the game. I have rarely seen such animation at a home game. An incident in the second half involving the Hibs keeper that went on for nearly ten minutes drew foam from our usually passive fans! You know, I am unsure if that goalie ever played again for Hibs! It merely acted as a mask for the discontent of our own teams display, and while some late bluster nearly brought an equaliser, at full time our Cup had gone, not that we expected to retain it, but the manner of the loss drew knives in the angry booos at the end. It was a night that signalled a changing of attitude in my opinion. If Yogi had enjoyed a honeymoon start, it was over now, and he knew it. It all fell flat after that, losses here, there and everywhere. By the summer, doubtlessly unable to find the right players to replace the departing heroes of yesteryear, Yogi blamed the board and scampered. Things were never his fault!! Elsewhere, Kairat Almaty were in Aberdeen on European duty, and I did the programme notes for the Reds magazine, getting a couple of tickets for the game for my trouble. I sat in the back row of the old stand just in front of Richard Gordon and Co in my yellow and black tracksuit top chuffed to bits with how Kairat managed the game, a 1-1 draw and a 2-3 aggregate success for the Kazakhs. Forres Mechanics were at East Kilbride in Cup, so I went through and had the joy of telling the Can Can directors that they had missed the equaliser from Forres, caught over doing the hospitality at half time!! Another Cup tie brought Fort W to Prestonpans, and you will never guess, they won 3-2!! I have a 100% win record with the Fort ☺. Huntly ended up along at Spartans twice, winning a pre season friendly 2-0, but going down 3-0 in December in a cup replay with sixth tier LTHV. Fraserburgh were in the central belt in a later round, but Falkirk were to good, winning 4-1, as were Linlithgow Rose who thrashed Wick 5-1 but some horrible officiating aided the result as Wick ended with 9 men. Hibs, perennial Cup Final blowers did it again, Ross County getting top silverware in winning 2-1, but a trophy that brings no Euro place these days. We will always have that wee extra over them ☺. I was inadvertently at Shires last ever league match, a 3-0 drubbing by Elgin, but I missed the relegation against Edinburgh City as I was on the Faroe Islands! English escapes took me to Holker Street, where Barrow saw off Southport, and an Easter duo, with Accrington beating Orient, and FC Halifax getting the better of Altrincham on a day they thought they'd done enough to survive, but a late missed penalty on the last day sent them down to the sixth tier, a week before the highlight of the Shaymens history. I was at Wembley to see them beat Grimsby to win the FA Trophy amid tears still lingering from the week before. Morpeth thrashed Hereford to win the FA Vase before hand, but the Bulls were the best supported of them all! The day after the Inverness game in Giurgiu, I was at Dinamo Bucharest's stadium, home for Marius Nicolae! Alas, a newly promoted side FC Voluntari from outside the capital were ground sharing while their home was being buffed up. A healthy Voluntari crowd saw a second 0-0 draw for me against Targu Jiu. The following night I was in the national stadium in my Caley shirt hoping to see any ICT stragglers like me, but none were spotted, aside Gregory Tade, rested by Steau ahead of Champions League qualifier versus Partizan Belgrade! This game brought two goals in a 1-1 draw with Cluj. After a few years away I was back in Italy with the top draw, the third tier 'friendly' between Ancona and SPAL, a 1-2 away win that took the Ferrara club to within touching distance of promotion. Ahead of this game I watched a turgid encounter between Bologna and Torino, and followed by Modena thrashing Perugia creating a false dawn before relegation, and a third 0-0 draw on my CV involving Sampdoria, this time at Sassuolo. The curtain on my Euro travels came down in the unlikely village of Stremnes on the Faroes where EB/Streymur beat Giza/Hoyvik 3-0 in the Faroese second tier as Whit Sunday had moved the top tier fixtures to the day I was flying home πŸ˜”. The final game of the season was in early June, a first ever Junior league match for me with Kelty Hearts ahead of jumping codes beating Linlithgow. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #ICT25 No. 23 2016/17 (Games 993 to 1,053) New depths: It was a brave move, doubtlessly a cheap option, but the moment we appointed one of our footballing heroes of the modern era, Richie Foran to the lofty position of manager, I knew it was a risk. With no experience, and left with Brian Rice as his only experience, the downward spiral sadly continued. In the end, after the dust settled, down we went, but it ended up frustratingly close! A litany of missed penalties would cost us, as well as Hamilton having gained three points, just, after two St Johnstone players decided to have a fight at the half time whistle! Dundee couldn't do us a favour on the last day, and we were relegated a mere one point behind Accies. The only consolation was we had accumulated the second highest points for a side going down, second to our first demotion!! Yet it all started reasonably well, winning narrowly at bumpy Central Park, Cowdenbeath in the new group stage League Cup, and continued along the road at Dunfermline in a fabulous 5-1. Driving home that night, Richard Gordon on BBC Radio Scotland said, 'Inverness are going to be fun to watch this season'! But while July moments of joy gave rise to possibilities all to briefly, reality hit home came as early as the opening gambits of August! We lost at Partick, again, and even worse, weakly submitted to Alloa, then a third tier team 1-0 in the League Cup, followed by a pathetic 5-1 mauling at Hearts. It wasn't a crisis yet, but Richie hadn't found the secret of getting a better link up between midfield and attack. It was fairly clear we would be fighting a battle at the bottom end of the table, and a crucial joust at Hamilton in October ended 1-1, then post a trip to Italy a return to Lanarkshire saw maybe the high point of the season, an imperious 3-0 win at Motherwell. Had we turned the corner? It spluttered on. In January we had a first competitive game at Elgin as a merged club, a renewal of old rivalries. It was a cracking day, and a competitive game, where we prevailed narrowly 2-1. Losing 3-0 at Hamilton was a sore one, but they showed fighting spirit at Tynecastle in a 1-1 draw. We even managed a similar score at Maryhill, a rare moment for me there where we didn't lose! Wins were needed, and another 1-1 at home to Ross County was further frustration, as was yet another at home to Killie. This sequence of draws would be another reason we went down. At least we weren't losing, but like last season, draws killed us! We couldn't repeat the success at Motherwell, going down 4-2, a too late in the day last hoorah at Kilmarnock failed to bring us a point, losing 2-1. I didn't head north for the last game, I just had lost faith, and with Dundee down so quickly at Hamilton their was no excitement in the possibility of getting the play off place. With my own charges a difficult watch, the wanderlust to other venues was always more relaxing. Hearts and Hibs were both in Europe. The JT struggled to beat FC Infonet Tallinn, who subsequently merged with Levadia in Estonia. Hibs were hosting Brondby, and I was going to the game with one of my Hibby chums. He was late, and as he had tickets I was stood outside as a roar went up to welcome to the teams, followed by immediate silence. I checked my phone, and sure enough the Danes had scored. When we eventually found the right stand, it was a quarter of an hour in, and we'd missed the only goal! There was a giddy week in late August into September, when East Stirlingshire were 7-3 up at HT at CSS, a new high of ten goals in a half! They only scored one more, winning 8-3. The following Saturday Bonnyrigg Rose 🌹 thrashed Burntisland Shipyard in the Scottish Cup 14-0, the biggest win of my football viewing! They only managed nine goals in a half though 😊. Wick were down in Dalbeattie in September, and with a horrendous wind howling down the pitch, it was a game of two halves, with Wick seeing it through 3-1. The next day, Leith Athletic were making a rare Scottish Cup appearance, a 0-0 draw with Cumbernauld. At Christmas time I saw Buckie beat Cove 1-0 as the fishing port town nibbled it's way to a Highland League success sandwiched in between braces by Brora and Cove to come! They would lose out to East Kilbride in the promotion play off, and the west side ran Cowdenbeath very close, but one missed penalty in a downpour saved the Fifers. A quick whisk in land saw Alloa's excellent start to the season count for nothing as Brechin forced penalties as well after a brilliant 4-3 lose, but 5-5 aggregate. City wouldn't necessarily regret going up, but they set a whole bunch of new records! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Thanks James, nearly there.............. You can read all about James' worldwide footballing travels in his own excellent blog FOOTBALL ADVENTURES WITH JAMES RENDALL
  3. 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 πŸ˜€. 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 πŸ˜”. 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!! πŸ˜€ 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 πŸŒ‰ 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 πŸ† πŸ˜€. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Here's Graeme Shinnie holding the Scottish Cup aloft as painted by local artist Sophie RobbπŸ’— 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
  4. Rendall's Rambles #3 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 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 #ICT25 No. 7 2000/01 (Games 216 to 252) Bedding into the second tier: In the second season of life in Division One as it was known, was largely a dull mid table affair, but there were a few highs, one controversy and one angst ridden end. The first full season of the noughties was upon us, and it brought two new clubs to the league in Elgin City and Peterhead, amongst the last clubs to be 'voted' in following a summer of tweaking the roster. I was at the first Elgin game at Glebe Park, Brechin a 2-1 loss for the new boys. Indeed, edging close to twenty years in the league, Elgin have never kicked on, stuck perpetually in the bottom tier, which is a shame as they have true fan based potential to be a northern Queen of the South. The centre pieces of an up and down ICT season was our never say die attitude, especially in the New Year derby at home to County, when we trailed 3-1 going into injury time. Three minutes later, a Dennis Wyness brace had the regularly morgue like Caledonian Stadium in a lather! A little bit of payback on one of the Falkirk hammers of Caley in any given August (yes we lost 2-3 this season), Owen Coyle, tried to dribble to the corner flag at 2-3, he lost the ball, belted forward and our very own deadly Dennis the menace did the rest 😊. A few weeks later we were at it again! Ayr United raced away to a three nil lead in the Scottish Cup, taking advantage of our hopeless cross catching/line glued goalie Les Fridge. The chap beside me was so disgusted he left at half time! But this was the last hoorah days of our increasingly alcohol fuelled boss Steve Paterson, and his sides never knew when they were beaten. Paul Sheerin, Davide Xausa, Bobby Mann and Dennis 'he used to be shite, but now he's alright' had us in a Wyness wonderland!! We were 4-3 up with 25 minutes to play!! This win brought us a home game with the other Ayrshire mob, Kilmarnock, and after a 1-1 draw the replay brought another shocking top flight howler, a midweek abandonment because Killie switched off their undersoil heating so as not to disturb the neighbours!! The re-run a week later saw us narrowly knocked out 2-1. The season fizzled out and in the "what goes around, comes around" fashion, Livingston got a secondary doze of revenge for us denying them a promotion four years earlier. This time a 2-3 away win saw them clinch promotion to the top table for the first time. I rarely leave early, but a club wearing my old teams shirt with Livingston written over Meadowbank in crayon, I wasn't for watching them celebrate on our patch. Meadowbank under its own steam came within a whiff of the Premier League, but the SFA sent a ref to a home game with Clyde to clip our wings, and second top was the giddy high we achieved. The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years #ICT25 No.8 2001/02 (Games 253 to 289) A tale more of travels: It was almost as if I had foreseen a quiet season on the horizon for ICT as I was on the move around the globe more in this season than at any other point in my life, see below. Somethings were never changing, and August had developed into a real stumbling block for the club. The annual late loss to Falkirk was there, 1-2, as well as a loss to Partick, a place I have rarely ever seen us win, and a couple of draws at Clyde and St Mirren, oh, and a Challenge Cup loss to Alloa, again!! Before the season hit a true low with a league record 6-0 horsing at Airdrie, I was at a game that spooks me to this day! 11th September 2001 will go down in history as one of the worst days ever, the day of the Twin Towers collapse and terror was everywhere across the pond. I knew it had happened, and post work, I listened intently on the radio as I drove to Coatbridge, but only after a fairly routine 2-0 Caley Thistle win, seeing it on the TV back home, did the full horror sink in. All games were cancelled the next night, and while Cliftonhill is never a throng of lively atmosphere, that night it was eerily quiet and the players seemed to be just going through the motions. On a more positive note, three days earlier I took my nephew to his first ever game of football, a 5-1 first win of the season at home to Arbroath. When we scored initially the poor lad got a fright when everybody stood up cheering, and then he sat on the ground failing to realise the seat had sprung up! In time he would choose rugby as his sport, but he may have a rare claim to fame in that he has seen more football in Uruguay than anywhere else in the world!! The highlight of the season was winning our first ever game as a club in Edinburgh, a 3-1 win at Hearts on a dreich day in the Scottish Cup. Indeed, with such a sizeable following Martin and I were stuck in our third row seats getting soaked! A first ever game in my own city, a big win, and I ended up home under the shower to warm up by 5:30!! Mid table and a cup Quarter Final was as good as the season got. The Inverness Caledonian Thistle Years No9 #ICT25 2002/03 (Games 290 to 343) A Semi-final season: By now we were a well established second tier side, and in this our 4th season in the Championship as it is now, we were starting to knock on the door of the top end. It didn't start well losing our only ever game at Berwick Rangers, 1-0 in the Challenge Cup, followed by a first ever league win in the first encounter versus St Johnstone, also 1-0, and then the obligatory fifth season on the trot August home loss to Falkirk 1-2, who then won the second in Inverness 3-4! Beating St Mirren 4-0 was a real treat, then Arbroath were despatched 5-0 before two hat tricks by Paul Ritchie and Dennis Wyness saw us run riot 6-0 at Alloa, and we'd win 5-1 there later in the campaign. It was maybe another great Scottish Cup run that took our focus away from the league, first we beat Raith 2-0, and while I was in South America for the next round, I was in my seat for a 6:30 ko on a Sunday night for the Quarter Final versus Celtic. They had a shed load of chances, Larsson et all, but we did it again, with Dennis blasting the club into a first ever Scottish Cup Semi Final. One sour note was bad tempered Martin O'Neil's refusal to shake John Robertson and Donald Park's hands, he just stormed down the tunnel!! The semi final versus Dundee at Hampden was the wrong venue in terms of the size of the crowd, but it was good to be involved in such a prestigious event. We lost 1-0 and we didn't do ourselves justice, but little did I know then we'd get a few more opportunities! Thanks James, some great memories in there. 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
  5. The excitement over Liverpool visiting Hearts tonight reminded me of the game exactly 4 years ago when they sent their finest (well, finest youth players) up for Barry Wilson's testimonial and were sent homeward with a 5-0 thrashing. I'm sure people have fond memories of that night. ICT were: Fraser (Esson 46), Proctor, Duff, Mann (McGuire 37), Djebi-Zadi, Wilson (Wagaluka 78), Cowie (Black 46, Gillespie 80), McBain (Imrie 46, Sutherland 80), Sheerin (Vigurs 33), Ritchie (McAllister 20, Rooney 60), Bingham (Wood 20, Barrowman 60) Dan Wagaluka was a nippy Ugandan winger who was on trial at the time. At Tynecastle the other day someone suggested that David Raven might have been in that Liverpool team, but a quick bit of research reveals that he had moved on to Carlisle by then. Liverpool were: Bouzanis, Kelly (Mendy 45), Darby (Scott 60), San Jose, Huth (Ayala 45), Spearing (Irwin 60), Flynn Β©, Crowther (Lindfield 45), Pacheco (Simon 45), Brouwer, Weijl (Eccleston 45) Not many of them seem have progressed to the first team, but Jay Spearing has done very well, Daniel Ayala got some games and Ronald Huth has been capped by Paraguay. I don't recognise many of the other names but I'm sure others will. Our scorers that night were : McBain (44), OG - San Jose (45), Wood (47), McAllister (59), Proctor (82).