THE potential prize of a new contract is playing a part in helping to motivate Nick Ross as he bids to force his way into Caley Thistle’s starting line-up for the beginning of the season.
The versatile midfielder has been mainly used as a substitute since manager John Hughes took over at Inverness in December last year, but he is hoping to change all that when the new campaign begins next month.
After enjoying some time off in America during the close season, Ross has returned to the Highland capital determined to hit the ground running.
Hughes has already spoken of his desire to see Ross really push forward his claim for a first-team spot and the 22-year-old is certainly responding to the challenge.
After an eye-catching performance in Wednesday night’s 5-0 friendly triumph for Caley Thistle at Forres Mechanics, which included a well-taken goal, Ross is keen to show more.
With his present contract set to expire at the end of the season, the former Scotland under-21 international knows there is much to play for, although the main focus remains simply to prove to Hughes he is worthy of a starting jersey come the opening game of the new Scottish Premiership campaign away to Hamilton Accies on Saturday 9th August.
"I’ve come back just wanting to get into the team," said Ross. "That’s the most important thing for me.
"If I do get the chance, then I want to stay there and get as many games as I can.
"I’m into the last year contract, so I need to start thinking a little bit about that as well.
"I’ve been in this position before, but last time I was injured and I got offered a new contract.
"It’s a good incentive for me to get into the team and to play well.
"If there’s a contract at the end of it then great, but it’s just all about getting in the team.
"Last season it didn’t happen for me towards the end, but it would be good to get back in the team and get going again."
Meanwhile, Caley Thistle look to have cooled their interest in striker John-Christophe Ayina.
The 23-year-old Frenchman, who scored in last week’s 4-0 friendly success over Clach, did make a positive impression on Hughes during his seven-day trial with Inverness.
But according to Ayina’s UK representative, Abdul Bihi, no offer has been forthcoming from Caley Thistle for a player he claims is interesting one other Scottish Premiership club and two team’s from England’s League One.
Hughes did not completely rule out still making a move for Ayina, but with the former Racing Santander’s demands a sticking point, the Caley Jags boss now looks to be searching elsewhere to add new faces to his squad.
"We’re actually looking to bring in another one or two trialists," he said. "One has stalled on us a wee bit, but that’s fine.
"We’ve not got much money to bring loads of players in, but we can be patient.
"The French lad is still in the pipeline, but right at this moment in time we’ve not got the money to do what he’s after.
"He’s a good lad and he’s what we’re after in terms of that bit of pace over the top, but then young Calum Ferguson did that against Forres, so it gives you food for thought."
Hughes conceded that it would be unlikely he would have these trialists available for tomorrow’s friendly against Elgin City (kick-off 3pm), while some of his squad are nursing injuries following the win a Mosset Park where along with Ross, Greg Tansey, Danny Devine, Calum Ferguson and Billy Mckay, who had earlier seen a penalty saved, also scored.
Devine limped out of proceedings at Mosset Park with a twisted knee, while Ryan Christie was still suffering from a dead leg picked up in training and also had to come off. Josh Meekings sustained a cut to his eye, but Hughes, who is still without injured captain Richie Foran (knee), is remaining hopeful all three will be available for the trip to Borough Briggs.