RETURNING Caley Thistle boss John Robertson wants the remaining youth players at the club to force their way into his plans.
The Caley Jags shelved their Development League squad as part of relegation cut-backs but the remaining players, with a year left on their youth contracts, will be challenged to step up.
Keir Smith, Andrew Macrae, Alasdair Stark, Liam MacDonald, Stephen Foster and Ryan McRitchie will have the opportunity to test themselves.
Robertson also highlighted the club’s talented under-17s setup, with Aidan Wilson, Kieran Chalmers, Mitchell Foy and Max Ewan all featuring for Dunan Shearer’s under-20s side last season.
“We have seven youth players in our squad who will be given every opportunity as well,” said Robertson. “One of the key successes of the past has been having a small core of home-based players. In an ideal scenario, we can look forward to that in the future as well. There’s always that aspect where you dig up people like the Shinnie brothers, Ryan Christie and Nick Ross – hugely influential in the local persona.
“We want the long-term aspect. People look at Inverness in the Highlands as an isolated place and it can be in the football world. But you know what? I think that’s an advantage for the local kids and community.
“We have the first look at them and the first go at them. We have got a hugely-talented under 17s squad and I’m hopeful one or two of those lads can force their way in.
“If they’re good enough they’re in, it’s as simple as that.”
Robertson was best known for leading Caley Thistle to promotion from the old First Division in 2004. Since then, he had managerial roles at Hearts, Ross County and Livingston, with his most recent appointment being at East Fife, which ended in 2012. He was Heats club ambassador and in the commercial department until this week.
“The challenge is the same (as 2004) in that we’re in the Championship and we want to get to the Premiership,” he said. “That was the aim then and the aim now. There are so many parallels in players who have similar attitudes, similar styles – and hopefully we can get similar results.”
Robertson did not apply for the job, insisting last week he had not planned on returning to management.
A call from Hearts COO Scot Gardiner last week informed him of Inverness’s interest and he came north to speak to the club.
“There will be people in certain areas saying he’s not managed for a few years. But I’ve had several opportunities to manage that I’ve turned down,” said Robertson.
“After East Fife I took a wee break from the game which suited me, and then I had the wonderful opportunity to go back to Hearts post-administration.
“The projects they wanted me to do were huge, both on and off the pitch. There were lots of things I learned off the pitch about the social media, and commercial aspects of it.
“I think that makes you a more rounded manager because you realise what happens in a football club.
“As a coach and a player you just turn up, you train and go to games. You don’t understand the complexities and the little things that can stop a match going ahead on a Saturday, and just how hard people work off the pitch to make the club run and work.
“There was always something deep in the back of my mind, that there may well be another opportunity, but it had to be something that excited me and something special to drag me away from Hearts.”
Players will be asked to return to pre-season training a week ahead of schedule, meaning they could be back in next week. Robertson does not think he will have his squad in place by the start of the League Cup.