2015-16 was always likely to be an anticlimax for Caley Thistle fans following the greatest season in the club’s history. Whilst seventh place is hardly a dreadful finish for a club of this size, this was a campaign that always felt like a slog. Too many matches, particularly at home, followed the same pattern; lots of possession in our own half, very few chances created, and then the opposition taking advantage of a defensive blunder to score. Add in a penchant for letting late goals – fifteen conceded in the last ten minutes of matches, including nine in the ninetieth minute or later – and you can understand the frustration. Oh, and our injury list resembled the first day of the Somme at times.
And yet, we never looked in serious danger of the drop, and were very close to scraping into the top half of the table. In fact, had Ryan Christie remained in the Highlands beyond January, I’m confident Caley Thistle would have finished fourth. But that’s football.
It’s just a shame that our manager has now decided to throw his toys out of the pram…
Owain Fon Williams 7
I’m not as down on OFW as some are – whilst he’s not very commanding in his box, he’s a decent shot stopper and a perfectly adequate keeper for this level. And if he gets called up by Wales for Euro 2016, we get 90 grand. So all in all he was probably the best signing the club made last summer.
Ryan Esson and Dean Brill n/a
Neither played a single minute. Esson was on the bench for every single match. As he doubles as goalkeeping coach, he offers cheap backup. Brill missed a year with a dislocated knee; now fit again, he is a bit of a victim of circumstance as the club can’t afford both him and Fon Williams.
David Raven 6
A bit of a cause celebre for the fans, an immensely popular figure who John Hughes had never seemed quite happy with. I’d heard rumours as far back as August that the coaches felt he “had lost some pace”, though he was his usual reliable self when in the team. Certainly the back four looked a hell of a lot more solid when he was on the right hand side of it. He was out for the whole spring with plantar fasciitis and, to the consternation of the support (and, supposedly, the board), he is being let go. The fans got their own back by voting him their Player of the Year just to piss off Hughes.
Carl Tremarco 7
A testament to Yogi’s skill at coaching up players, Tremarco now actually resembles a footballer. Has learnt how to time his runs forward so much better, and is a better defender than I’ve previously given him credit for. Arguably our best player in the last few months. Still has a crazy tackle or two in him, though.
Gary Warren 7
Missed three months after breaking his ankle on opening day, but has been generally solid and has refrained from the errors that have plagued some of his colleagues. It was disappointing that he didn’t manage a goal all season.
Josh Meekings 6
Knee problems meant he only played little over half our games, and when he was available Hughes inexplicably pushed him out to right-back, even though he was the club’s best centre-half for the last two seasons. He’s always game, but he looks like what he is – a centre-half playing out of position.
Danny Devine 6
Has all the physical tools but prone to dreadful lapses of concentration which cost us more than a few goals and led to him conceding three penalties in the first three months of the season. The Irishman did pop up with a couple of goals himself in the last two games. Yogi thinks there’s a player in there somewhere, as he started all but one game. I’d much rather have a centre-back pairing of Meekings and Warren any day.
Lewis Horner 4
Every squad has someone who “knows where the bodies are buried” (see Stuart Milne’s Dundee United piece!). For us, it’s Lewis Horner. I always felt that if we were so short of players that Horner was in the XI (even more so if he was in midfield) then we really were down to the bare bones. He’s a Hughes favourite because he covers a few different positions, but he doesn’t look competent in any of them. A cheap reserve to be used only in desperate circumstances only; we had to start him 12 times this season.
James Vincent 5
Vincent was true to form this season – impressive when he played, but injured most of the time. We call him ‘Mr. Glass’ for a reason. He only managed 68 appearances in 3 years at Inverness – it’ll be interesting to see if he beats that tally at new club Dundee. His workrate and excellent anticipation make him an asset when he’s fit.
Ryan Williams 3
A January signing from Brentford – as if we didn’t already have enough midfielders. He made several short appearances off the bench where he ran about a bit. And that’s about all you can say.
Ross Draper 8
The Player’s Player of the Year, and my Player of the Year too. The behemoth midfielder – 6ft 5in and built like a house – imposed himself on plenty of games this year, chipped in with a few goals, and has proven to have an unlikely penchant for winning penalties. I don’t imagine anyone in Aberdeen would buy him a drink any time soon.
Aaron Doran 1
Played the two Europa League games and then was found to have a cracked kneecap, so he missed the entire season. It was a shame as he looked in perfect shape for the first time in a year or two. His creativity and ability to find a killer pass was dreadfully missed. Hopefully he’ll be back to his best next season.
Nat Wedderburn 4
I’d have liked Nat to succeed, I really would have. He’s so calm with the ball at his feet, and his first touch is just perfect. But unfortunately he turns about as quickly as an aircraft carrier and just isn’t mobile enough for this level. He’s just signed for Dunfermline, and I reckon he’ll do well in the Championship.
Greg Tansey 6
Outstanding last season, Tansey looked like he was back to his best around Christmas, but it’s probably no coincidence that his form took a sharp nosedive after the Deadline Day move to Aberdeen that didn’t happen. It’ll be interesting to see if the Dons come back in for him. I always feel he’d be more influential playing higher up the pitch, rather than taking the ball off his centre-backs all the time.
Danny Williams 6
A victim of his versatility; he played multiple positions this season including (bizarrely) centre forward, and never got a long run of games in any of them. It’s sad to see him leave for Dundee, but I imagine they’ll use him in the same way. He’d be better off in the long run if he was used exclusively at left-back or left-wing.
Liam Polworth 8
A revelation. A year ago, it was a shock that he had been given a new contract; several goals and assists and an under-21 call-up later, there’s relief that he’s been signed for another three years. Polworth only got his chance because of injuries, and got the run in the team he’s always needed to build up his confidence. He could yet get better.
Liam Hughes 3
The same shape as Ross Draper but didn’t show as much ability. It didn’t help that the former Cambridge midfielder was inexplicably pressed into service up front for most of his appearances after arriving in January. It didn’t work (apart from one afternoon in Dingwall where we won 3-0) and it’s no surprise that he’s been let go.
Iain Vigurs 6
Vigurs drives me round the bend. He can drift disinterestedly through matches and I lost count of the number of pointless yellow cards he got for petulant fouls and backchat. And then, in the same games, he can produce a piece of magic with his delicious left foot that results in a goal. If he stays (he’s been offered a new deal) I’d like to see him in a more advanced role ala his first season in the top flight with Ross County.
Richie Foran 2
Time to retire or join Brora Rangers, I think [ed – or become next manager]. After missing more than a year with a knee problem, Foran, 36 this summer, made sporadic appearances off the bench, mostly limping around the final third for 15 minutes whilst we unsuccessfully chased an equalizer. Remarkably, he complained recently that he would ask for the last year of his contract to be cancelled if he wasn’t going to play more, as he still felt he could play at Premiership level. Given that he’s one of the highest earners at the club, I reckon I could cope with that.
Jordan Roberts 6
Signed from Aldershot last summer, Roberts impressed in pre-season but picked up a groin injury that sidelined him until January. He looks rather languid, but has clever feet and scored a couple of cracking goals. Hughes had surprisingly little confidence in him though and it’s unclear if he’ll get a new deal.
Alex Fisher 1
Signed in January as our Big Man Up Front…and chipped a bone in his ankle during his second game, sidelining him for the season. He’s been given a six month prove-it deal.
Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo 5
The poor man’s Tino Asprilla, in that no-one (including his teammates or even him) knows what he’ll do next, but unfortunately he isn’t anywhere as good as the famous Colombian. Another one held back by injuries; his outstanding performance in the hole at Firhill in April showed what he is capable of. Unclear whether he will stay.
Ali Sutherland 1
Young forward who made a few cameos off the bench when we were so desperate that we’d bring on anyone who had a pair of boots. Spent the second half of the season on loan at Brora Rangers.
Miles Storey 8
Signing him on loan from Swindon saved our season, to be honest. He can be streaky in front of goal, but that’s to be expected from a guy who’s only 22. His movement and work-rate was first class, and he didn’t moan even when our manager foolishly moved him to the wing. I’m gutted he’s moving to Aberdeen.
Why did Celtic recall him in January when he wasn’t going to get a game? Frankly amazing for most of the first half of the season, and his performance and goal against Aberdeen in September was just glorious.
One of the worst signings we’ve ever made. The Spanish striker’s touch was ok, but he was slower than a week in jail. He got injured early in his ICT career, and when he got fit he decided to spit on a St. Johnstone youth player during a reserve game. This classy individual left us in January.
The young Charlton loanee’s main – nay, only – contribution was to get a Hearts player sent off for punching him.
John Hughes is offski. Given that he will have known for months about his playing budget, his recent whinging appears very much like he was manufacturing his exit. He’s not really been a happy camper since ICT denied him the chance to speak to Dundee United about replacing Jackie McNamara (you’d think he’d be grateful for dodging a bullet there!). The last few weeks have seen an embarrassing tit-for-tat via the press where he moans about a lack of money and the chairman points out that no previous manager has ever had as big a budget. The board actually found some extra cash for Yogi in January, which he wasted on Ryan Williams, Liam Hughes and Alex Fisher. So one can understand their prudence.
A year on from the greatest season in the club’s history, the fans’ patience is also wearing remarkably thin. Yes, a seventh place finish is okay really, but at home the football has been dull as ditchwater. Everyone’s bored to tears with all this sideways and backwards passing. His team selections have often been weird – Meekings at right-back? Danny Williams up front? – and his signings often mediocre at best.
This just confirms what everyone suspected about Hughes’ abilities for years – he’s a wonderful coach but he’s terrible at recruiting. Unfortunately at this level recruitment is critical.
So ta ra John, thanks for all the amazing memories (and they really were amazing), and good luck for the future. But remember that no manager has ever left Inverness Caledonian Thistle and succeeded elsewhere. Just saying, like.
Written by Lawrie Spence from Nareystoepoker