Winger loan deal blocked

MATCH winner Nick Ross almost followed follow fellow youngsters Graeme Shinnie, Gavin Morrison and Shane Sutherland out on loan, it emerged yesterday.

The 18-year-old instantly endeared himself to Inverness supporters with the winning goal against Morton on Saturday to keep the Highland Capital club very much in the Division One title chase.

But it could have been different if he had been allowed to join Shinnie, Morrison and Sutherland in agreeing loan deals in January.

Both midfielder Morrison (20) and forward Sutherland (19) signed on at Division Three side Elgin for the remainder of the season, while defender Shinnie (18) joined Highland League club Forres Mechanics until the end of the season.

But with Dougie Imrie and Andrew Barrowman also departing in the January transfer window, Butcher opted to hang on to Ross rather than allowing him to gain first-team football elsewhere even though there were chances for him to do so.

Despite not having featured for Caley Thistle since the 3-2 home defeat by Partick Thistle last September, Ross was given the opportunity to impress against Morton and while chances to show off his talents on the wing were stifled by the visitors strong defence, he turned out to be the match winner.

"There were a lot of clubs who wanted to take him on loan, but I couldn't let him go because of the size of the squad," Butcher said.

"He's been in the 18-man squad nearly all season, but he was on the bench against Queen of the South and I just had a gut feeling for him to play against Morton.

"I could have put Robert (Eagle) or Roy (McBain) out on the left and the ironic thing is that if I hadn't switched him and Jonny Hayes then he wouldn't have scored the winner. However, it's great that he did and nice to see a player coming through from the youth team and doing well."

The goal was the culmination of a good week for Ross as both he and Shinnie extended their current contracts with Caley Thistle until the end of next season.

Butcher has also been pleased with the reports he has had on both Morrison and Sutherland and could also offer the pair deals as he looks to bring through talent from the club's youth programme.

"I've been very pleased with all the young players," he added. "They are learning all the time and are continually improving as players.

"If you take Nick Ross for example, he's going to be a very good player. All he needs is that belief, but that will come the more he plays.

"However, it's great that the others have been able to gain regular first-team football elsewhere and that will only benefit them in the future."

Veteran Caley Thistle defender Stuart Golabek is, like Butcher, impressed by the young talent coming through at a club that has been criticised in the past for ?not doing enough to nurture its homegrown talent.

With finances at all Scottish clubs becoming increasingly restricted, however, Golabek knows the importance of a team like Inverness producing their own players.

"It is still early days, but we do have a good bunch of young boys and they've just got to learn good habits from the more senior players," he said.

"You've seen that even though it was a big game against Morton, the manager was prepared to throw a young player like Nick Ross in and it shows that if they get an opportunity they've got to do their best to grasp it.

"For any club, it's important they try to produce and bring through their own young players.

"You've got to think about the long-term future of the club and it's a good time for them to come through just now because we have a good number of experienced players already here at Caley Thistle.

"There's no doubt that if they get the chance then they've got to do all they can to take it, but it's certainly very encouraging to see them getting a chance."

Meanwhile, Butcher will appear in front of the Scottish Football Association's appeals board this morning as he contests the two-game dugout ban he received for being sent to the stand during Caley Thistle's 1-1 draw at Queen of the South last December.

In a stormy encounter, both Richie Foran and Russell Duncan were red carded for Inverness, while Queens defender David Lilley was also given his marching orders.

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