Published: 23/04/2010 00:00 - Updated: 25/11/2011 11:15

We are the champions!

The Caley Thistle squad celebrate clinching promotion to the SPL.
The Caley Thistle squad celebrate clinching promotion to the SPL.

CALEY Thistle manager Terry Butcher has been busy preparing to strengthen his squad for Scottish Premier League football next season - despite only being crowned champions on Wednesday night.

Nearest challengers Dundee lost 1-0 away to Raith Rovers which put the Inverness side into an unassailable position.

The celebrations can start in earnest and while Butcher will enjoy them as well, he already has one eye focused on bolstering his first-team to cope with the rigours of Scotland's top flight.

"We need a bigger squad because for a start we have to put seven players on the bench for matches in the SPL, instead of five," he said.

"You can't get player loans as you can in the Scottish Football League, so you basically have to go with the squad you've got.

"We'll see what happens, but we know we want to bring in players with quality and experience. We have identified the positions we want to strengthen and have already made some progress on that front."

Bringing in new faces is only one part of the challenge for Butcher as Caley Thistle now ready themselves for an SPL return after only a season out of the top division.

With only three senior players under contract for next season, he also has the task of offering the majority of the current squad new contracts.

Butcher is expecting to have a bigger budget over the summer, but he hopes the fact that the team spirit and progress achieved this season will be enough to convince players like Ryan Esson, Ross Tokely, Lee Cox, Eric Odhiambo, Richie Foran and Jonny Hayes to remain in the Highland Capital.

"We need to have a look at the budgets and see what they are because, quite rightly, a number of our players have attracted some interest," he said.

"All of the players are currently playing the best football of their careers and they are part of something special here.

"If we can keep this group together, add a few new players, then we stand a much better chance in the SPL.

"Take a look at the likes of Hamilton and St Johnstone and that is what they've done. Teams which have that unity that has taken them through Division One seem to continue it into the SPL, which is great, and let's hope that is the case for us."

Thoughts might already be turning to next season and SPL football, but Butcher is also finding time to enjoy what he believes is the pinnacle so far of his managerial career.

He concedes to having faced a nervous wait on Wednesday, but once Raith's triumph over Dundee was confirmed, the relief was immense for the Caley Thistle boss.

Since then, Butcher has been asked would he not rather have won it on the pitch, but his response was as emphatic as the manner in which his side claimed the prize of promotion from Division One.

"For me, it's the best-ever," he stated. "As a player 20 years ago, I won the title with Rangers, but this is the first trophy I have ever won as a manager. I've been to semi-finals, finals and got Motherwell into the top six, but this is the best-ever feeling.

"People have said to me would you not have enjoyed it more had you won it on the pitch, but I don't care. You're more concerned about getting over the finishing line and now that we have, it's just an incredible feeling.

"I must have looked at Sky Sports News for fours hours last night. It kept going round in a loop and every time the table came up with Inverness and the 'c' next to us for champions, I would let out a big cheer."

Butcher's delight is in stark contrast to events almost 12 months ago when Caley Thistle suffered relegation from the SPL.

As a result of their demotion, the club had to make hard financial decisions that resulted in some staff either having to take pay cuts, or worse, lose their job.

Butcher knows the sacrifices everyone at Caley Thistle had to make for the good of the club and insisted the championship success was for them also.

"Because of what happened last season, good people lost their jobs, so this championship is very much for them as well," he said.

sports@inverness-courier.co.uk

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