LEWIS Horner’s desire and versatility are the two main attributes that have attracted John Hughes to step up his bid to sign the midfielder.
The Caley Thistle manager is hoping that his budget will stretch enough to allow him to conclude a deal for Horner before the end of the week.
The 22-year-old, who started his career under Hughes at Hibernian, has been on trial with Inverness since last week, having spent part of pre-season already at English non-league side Blyth Spartans — the club he joined in September last year
Horner started the 3-0 friendly victory over Deveronvale, before playing the final 20 minutes of the 2-1 success against English League One side Fleetwood Town last weekend.
"Hopefully we can get something done this week, but I will need to speak to the chairman," said Hughes.
"He’s fitted in really well and fits the criteria of the dressing room in that he has something to prove.
"He’s probably lost some of his confidence, but he knows when he works with me that I trust him.
"He can play in a number of positions. His fitness levels are very, very good, so hopefully we can get something tied up in the next few days."
As well as trying to add a new face to his squad, Hughes is keen to keep the current group of players at Caley Thistle together.
Graeme Shinnie, David Raven, Josh Meekings, Danny Devine, Liam Polworth, Greg Tansey, Marley Watkins, Nick Ross and Billy Mckay are all out contract at the end of the season, but Hughes insists talks have begun with a view to maintaining the core of the present first-team pool.
"Those discussions are starting now," he said. "They know that we are interested and that we are desperate to keep them.
"I feel we have players here who would benefit from staying at the club for another year at least.
"It’s inevitable that good players always move on. However, I feel another year here would be of benefit to them."
Caley Thistle complete their pre-season friendly campaign with a trip to the English West Midlands tomorrow and a game against Birmingham City.
The English Championship club, who have former Inverness attacking midfielder Andrew Shinnie amongst their ranks, are hopeful of attracting a crowd of around 15,000 for a match that Hughes believes is the perfect ending to a busy pre-season schedule that has seen his side win all of their previous eight warm-up fixtures so far.
"It’s a test that we certainly need," he said. "Can we go there and play our style football and express ourselves?
"Because we’re playing against better opposition are we going to be scared to get on the ball?
"We’re going to have to go to places like Parkhead this season, which is really daunting, as you are playing in front of 50-60,000, so it shouldn’t faze us going to Birmingham.
"I’m looking for the boys to show a great belief and mentality to go down there, get on the ball and pass it."
Josh Meekings was scheduled to return to training yesterday following a hip problem, but Ross Draper misses out once again, although Hughes is hopeful he can be back training with the rest of the squad on Monday. Richie Foran is sidelined after undergoing another operation on his knee.
Having appeared as second half substitutes against Fleetwood, Polworth, Watkins and Ross are likely to start tomorrow against Birmingham.