Inverness Caledonian Thistle goalkeeper Mark Ridgers tips new recruit Michael Gardyne to have a big impact
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Mark Ridgers admits he has been blown away by Michael Gardyne’s impact and energy on the Caley Thistle training ground.
On his release, the former Ross County talisman crossed the Highland derby divide this summer after a club record 444 appearances and 73 goals in three Dingwall spells.
Often a thorn in Caley Thistle flesh down the years, it seems the veteran has settled seamlessly into enemy territory.
Ridgers, who was a 15-year-old Staggie when Gardyne first arrived from Celtic in 2006, believes his signing along with ex-County striker Billy Mckay can be transformative this season.
Now entering their fifth year in the Championship, Caley Thistle under Billy Dodds are nurturing a healthy blend of youth and experience complemented by the arrival of Reece McAlear (19), Tom Walsh (24) and Manny Duku (28).
“In four seasons I’ve been here, we’ve had quite a young squad,” Ridgers stressed.
“The new manager has identified a need – and that’s experience. We probably also need to add another experienced defender.
“Wee Midge came into training and, straight away he’s demanding standards. With his experience and what he’s achieved in his career, we see the value already – and it bounces off the younger lads who realise they need to put in the extra graft as well.
“Michael is definitely not shy and he’s been brilliant about the place already. I remember him arriving on loan in my first year as a full-timer at Ross County.
“I’ve spoken to him over the years and he’s had a fantastic career. Having him and Billy, who have both won this league before, gives the place a massive lift.”
Last season, that know-how seemed in short supply at times as 12 draws in 27 games left Caley Thistle three points short of the play-offs. The team picked up just three league wins from 13 home matches, drawing eight.
“It is going to be massive for us, having that experience and know-how in the likes of Billy and Midge,” Ridgers added.
“With the amount of draws we had last year, there was a naivety.
“If you’re one or two nil up, you want boys who can show the rest how to see the game out. Draws last season really shot us in the foot.”
Ridgers is dismissive of promotion talk before a ball has been kicked.
“For me, let’s focus on the first five or six games of the season. If you start talking about the play-offs or trying to get promoted, you can get lost a little bit,” he said.
“Last year, we had all those games in hand, but ended up winning very few. It cost us, ultimately. It is all about creating a different mindset and the people we are bringing in the door can, hopefully, help change that.”