From heroes to zeroes in two years.
It requires a special level of incompetence to relegate a club with a squad containing as much quality as this, but the table doesn’t lie – Caley Thistle were the worst team in the Scottish Premiership in 2016/17. And that’s saying something given that the bottom half of the table has never quite been so weak.
Goodness knows what the future holds, but let’s dwell on our dreadful recent past for a little longer by rating each player’s season. Most of the numbers I used were on the left hand side of the keyboard…
Owain Fon Williams – 4
A caveat first; OFW spent most of the season nursing a back injury so bad that he probably spent most games leaning on a post for support whilst massaging his lumbar area with one hand. But that doesn’t quite justify an impressive array of individual errors which cost us several goals. His positioning at free-kicks is just abysmal. He did have the odd match where he looked like Gigi Buffon (Celtic in August, for example), but his most positive contribution of the last year is the cash he brought us by going to Euro 2016 with Wales. I wish he was as good a keeper as he is a painter, and that he spent less time with a paintbrush and more time using his hands to practice catching crosses.
Ryan Esson – 2
It’s bad enough having a first choice keeper who has a chronic injury, but when your backup has one too then you’re dangerously close to ending up like Raith Rovers. Esson finally stepped in for a derby at Ross County at April…and managed to screw up a passback and gift them the opening goal that sparked a rout. Given that he doubles as goalie coach, he’s a cheap number two, but you get what you pay for.
Cammy Mackay – 1
Played one game against Hearts and was responsible for one of the goals conceded. Went on loan to Elgin afterward and we weren’t allowed to call him back, which is a shame because he would have got a game.
David Raven – 6
Now 32, it’s obvious that Raven is declining, but not quickly enough that he is a liability. Injuries limited him badly in the first half of the season, but spent a lot of the run-in ably filling in at left-back. Raven never stood out, but nor did he ever let anyone down, which made him a relative rarity in the defence this season.
Carl Tremarco – 8
Player of the Year, undisputedly. Tremarco was solid in defence and, depressingly, often our best attacking outlet – he was top scorer until the last game of the season. Once other teams figured out that he was our only out-ball, we were screwed and started hoofing it aimlessly up the park instead. Missed the run-in with a knee injury.
Kevin McNaughton – 3
Coasted through the League Cup games against lower league opposition, but struggled as a makeshift centre-back in one-and-a-bit league games until wrecking his Achilles 20 minutes into the second match. He got back for the end of the season, where he looked like he was strolling through games until it turned out that ‘stroll’ was about as fast as he can move these days; at 34, he no longer has the pace he once had and he’s really vulnerable to quick wide men. I suspect he didn’t come on a cheap wage.
Gary Warren – 4
Has gone backwards at an alarming rate. Whilst it’s not a surprise that he’s become slower physically, it’s worrying how his mind has become more sluggish too, as he started losing individual battles far too easily and often got caught well out of position. Getting sent off after the final whistle (as he was against St. Johnstone) is unacceptable for a club captain. It doesn’t reflect well on him that Meekings, Laing and McCart were all superior centre-backs this season.
Josh Meekings – 4
Lost another half-season to a gammy knee, which is an increasing worry for the Englishman. Easily our best central defender in recent years, he was really badly missed. Given his injury problems, it’ll be interesting to see what options he has now his contract is up.
Brad McKay – 4
Since he wasn’t good enough for Hearts or St Johnstone, I didn’t have much hope for McKay, but he initially impressed in a right-back role before teams started twigging that he couldn’t deal with a tricky winger. His nadir was getting tormented by Killie’s Jordan Jones, so much so that Foran swapped his full-backs (Kilmarnock of course just switched their wide men so Jones could embarrass McKay some more) and then hooked McKay at half-time. A few weeks later in the return game Jones ripped him to shreds again, since Foran never learned anything. Maybe McKay will be alright in the Championship – if he gets played in his natural centre-half position. Maybe.
Jamie McCart – 6
After a difficult debut at left-back, McCart looked really decent in central defence, as his composure in possession was really quite something. Shoehorning Warren back into the team at the Celtic loanee’s expense was the wrong decision. McCart certainly has a future at Premiership level, though I can’t see him making the grade at Parkhead.
Louis Laing – 4
A player clearly signed just because we needed a defender, he was available and Foran had heard of him. The manager didn’t seem to question why Motherwell, who had the worst goals-against record in the league at that point, still didn’t want him. Looks the part…right up until he loses concentration, which is often. Not our worst centre-back, which is saying something. Had one particularly dreadful day against St Johnstone where he was played in midfield and looked totally lost.
Lewis Horner – 1
Backup to the backups, Horner didn’t play much even before picking up a knee injury. On one rare outing, he managed to stupidly get sent off for an injury-time professional foul at Dens Park when we were getting beat anyway. Betting offences – including betting against ICT once – should make it very, very unlikely that he gets a new contract.
Jason Brown – 1
Made his debut as a sub in the League Cup against Arbroath, then went on loan to them for a bit, then came back because he wasn’t good enough to get a regular game for them, then went on loan to Cove Rangers. Nil to suggest he has a future at the club.
Cammy Gilchrist – 1
Made a token sub appearance on a day when we had pretty much no fit defenders. Probably not going to be kept on after this summer.
Liam Polworth – 5
Drives supporters barmy with the way he berates himself after making a mistake – and his poor body language often gives them reason to get on his back even though Polly actually works his socks off. Looked great when played in an advanced role in midfield – so of course Foran spent most of the time sticking him out on the wing where his confidence gradually drained away. He would be a great player if we could give him an intramuscular injection of belief every few weeks.
Ross Draper – 5
Easily Draper’s poorest campaign for us, not least because Foran kept playing him up front or as second striker and asking him to win headers, even though a) he’s hopeless at that and b) the midfield was crying out for him in his usual defensive role. On the rare occasions that he played in his best position he flourished and so did the players around him. And then the following week Foran would move him further forward again.
Greg Tansey – 7
Tansey came in for a fair bit of criticism from supporters – his impending move to Aberdeen was often used to accuse him of not giving his all – but I’m not having it. Too rarely was he given a platform to showcase his passing abilities, often because he was trying desperately to cover for the defensive weaknesses of Iain Vigurs alongside him. He was a million times more effective on the occasions he had Draper backing him up. This wasn’t his best season but, like many others, it wasn’t really his fault.
Aaron Doran – 3
Having missed all of last season, the skillful Irishman was back on the treatment table for most of this campaign after needing an operation on his other knee. Before that he didn’t look anywhere near the player he used to be. Hopefully it was just because he didn’t have a proper preseason. It would be a dreadful shame if Doran’s career fell away, but given his injury issues that’s got to be a real concern now.
Iain Vigurs – 3
To be fair, Vigurs really is not a defensive midfielder, and playing him there every week was negligent. But the guy could have at least tried to track back: the number of goals scored by a late-arriving midfielder who Vigurs had been marking a few seconds earlier was astounding. Given his insistence on committing stupid fouls, I’m amazed he only got 11 yellow cards. He looked really good in the League Cup in an advanced role… so of course Foran never played him there again.
Jake Mulraney – 4
I swear there’s a player here. The guy’s pace is breathtaking, though his final product was lousy and he was often more interested in winning free-kicks than actually getting past players – I’ve never seen a player more skilled at kicking an opponent’s leg on the way past. Never really got a run in the team, though he deserved more games than the likes of King and Cole. Foran hinted after the final game of the season that he was one of the “bad apples” that had wrecked dressing room harmony, but if a kid like Mulraney can do that then it says something about Foran’s man-management skills.
Billy King – 3
Dribble into a crowd of players, lose the ball, fall over. Rinse and repeat. Had the occasional impressive appearance as an impact sub, and scored a beauty against Celtic, but King never showed why Hearts used to rate him and why Rangers took him on loan last year. Dundee United have signed him, but I don’t know why.
Larnell Cole – 2
Fulham actually once paid a million quid for this guy, who also played in the same Man United youth team as Paul Pogba. No, I’m not joking. It didn’t help that Cole was always punted out to the wing, where he really didn’t belong. When he was in his favoured central role he tended to just watch the ball being booted over his head. But his contribution was minimal apart from a great goal against Hamilton, and he shouldn’t have played for us again after he got sent off for dissent against St Johnstone before the split. Rumoured to be another of those “bad apples”, which makes it bizarre that his loan deal was extended at the end of January and that he kept getting so many opportunities to play.
Scott Boden – 2
Started the season like a house on fire, with goals aplenty in the League Cup. Scored against Ross County in the second league game too… then was punted to the bench for pretty much the rest of the season. A poor man’s Billy Mckay, Boden suffered after the manager quickly ditched his initial plan to keep the ball on the deck and ended up in the roles of ‘the striker you bring on when you’re losing with two minutes left’ and, on the rare occasions that we were actually winning, ‘the guy you bring on in injury-time to break up play and waste a few seconds’.
Alex Fisher – 6
Fisher disappeared from the first team between January and the start of April despite being fit (there’s a rumour that Foran accused him of spending the winter break looking for a club down south for next season). Reinstated out of the blue when we got desperate, he scored six in our last six games and finished our top scorer. The decision to ostracize the Englishman may well have been what sent us down.
Lonsana Doumbouya – 5
Ungainly as hell, but the lanky Guinea striker scored six goals in his short spell at the club. His header against Aberdeen was particularly delightful. His form dipped from December onwards, possibly because he was looking to get away (he moved to Austria on deadline day), and possibly because he was fed up of having to hold the ball up for half an hour until support from midfield actually arrived. But we’ll always have that moment against Celtic when he literally backed Erik Sviatchenko fifteen yards up the touchline while the ball was bouncing.
Billy Mckay – 5
His return on loan was a big psychological boost, and no-one could doubt Billy’s attitude. However no thought had been put into how to make the most of his abilities, so he spent most of his time trying desperately to win long balls against defenders twice his size. He did better playing off Alex Fisher in the last few games, but he badly needed some decent service. If we could somehow convince him to stay, he’d rip the Championship apart. Can’t see it, though.
Henri Anier – 2
Fifteen appearances. Zero goals. Foran clearly signed him in January because he had heard of him and he was available, not because we had any idea of how to use him. Played in four different positions on his debut, where he committed more fouls than he had touches of the ball (a recurring theme). The manager did his best to big him up, claiming he’d been awesome for Estonia during the April international break when he’d actually played just one minute as a substitute.
Dean Ebbe – 1
Signed in January from Irish amateurs Bluebell United, who apparently are not a made-up team. He made a handful of sub appearances, none of which gave the impression that he belongs at this level. But I imagine he was cheap, at least.
Ali Sutherland – 1
Some brief sub appearances before we let him leave in January to join Elgin.
Richie Foran – 0
Chopped and changed players and tactics with very little explanation or logic.
Never seemed to prepare for an opponent, or try to compensate for his team’s own weaknesses
Seemed to see some players as undroppable, however badly they played, whilst benching others for weeks after one mediocre performance
Signed loads of duds
Kept criticizing himself in post-match interviews in an almost passive-aggressive manner, like he was hoping someone would pat him on the back and go “no Richie, you’re not the most useless football manager in the history of the world, you’re doing grand”
Talked about how signing a ball-winning midfielder was his priority in January, then signed a ton of strikers instead
That hobo beard
And, of course, he managed to relegate a club (and a large part of the squad) who finished third and won the cup in 2015
Apart from that, Richie Foran had an okay first season in management, I suppose.
Written by Lawrie Spence (Narey’s Toepoker)