TERRY Butcher is confident his latest group of Caley Thistle starlets can have an impact in the Scottish Premier League next season.
Inverness manager Butcher has previously shown no hesitation in giving young players like Graeme Shinnie, Josh Meekings, Nick Ross and Conor Pepper the chance to shine at the top level in Scotland.
Now, he has high hopes for Matthew Cooper, who arrived last year from Aberdeen, and Ryan Christie and Liam Polworth — two players to have progressed through the youth ranks at the Highland Capital club.
Defender Cooper (18) made three first-team starts for Caley Thistle last season, while midfielders Polworth (18) and Christie (17), who both agreed new two-year deals in May, featured on the substitutes bench with the former coming on to make three appearances in the previous campaign.
With a busy pre-season schedule planned for Caley Thistle, all three are set to be given chances to impress Butcher, who believes their experience of last season will help to stand them in good stead this time around.
"You can see that Ryan, Liam and Matthew have all grown in confidence with what they did last season and are looking to push on now," he said.
"They’ve shown a real appetite and because of that they have got better as players.
"The progress they’ve made has been really good, but they know they can’t afford to sit back and relax.
"They know what’s required from them now and have shown they have the ability to deliver. There attitudes are spot on.
"It would be great to see some young boys breaking into the team and hopefully that will happen in the near future. It adds spice to things because the fans like to see young players doing well.
"We have good youngsters coming through here, but it’s a case just now of not knowing just how good they can be.
"However, it’s certainly very encouraging for the future."
It was back to the rigours of pre-season training for Caley Thistle yesterday as five of eight summer signings were put through their paces.
Harry Hooman, James Vincent, Ben Greenhalgh, Danny Williams and Marley Watkins got the opportunity to meet their new team-mates for the first time.
Curtis Allen is still on holiday, while Adam Evans and Joe Gorman are both expected to start training with the squad on Monday.
Butcher also confirmed that captain Richie Foran, Ryan Esson and Gary Warren all trained yesterday having recovered from the injuries they sustained at the end of last season.
"In the early part of pre-season, it’s all about fitness work," he said. "We won’t be doing any ball work just now.
"It’ all about trying to build up stamina and that involves plenty of running.
"The first two or three days are usually not too bad for the players. It’s next week that will be the hard week, but at least they’ll have the game against Keith next Saturday to look forward too."
Meanwhile, Butcher is playing a waiting game as he seeks to bring in a new goalkeeper as number two to first choice custodian Esson.
"I don’t know when something will happen on that front," he said. "We’ll just have to wait and see.
"We are just waiting to hear if we can the green light to progress and then we’ll take it from there.
"It’s not a young goalkeeper that we hope to bring in. It’s someone with a bit of experience."