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Out of the spotlight but still ahead of the pack

THE resurgence of Aberdeen and Dundee United this season has been well-remarked upon, most likely by those desperate to see a loosening of the stranglehold the Old Firm - or at least one half of it - have had on the SPFL Premiership.

Nick Ross is happy that all the attention is bestowed on Dundee United and Aberdeen. Picture: SNS
Nick Ross is happy that all the attention is bestowed on Dundee United and Aberdeen. Picture: SNS

Yet it is Inverness Caledonian Thistle who are currently within closest reach of Celtic's coattails, three points ahead of both "resurgent" clubs, and with a game tucked safely away in hand. Perhaps the loss of former manager Terry Butcher to the siren song of the capital, or the Highland club's relatively small supporter base, are enough to put off the wannabe soothsayers who have sifted through their gravy and entrails to declare who will end up where come judgment day in May.

Nick Ross, the young Inverness midfielder, is happy for it to stay that way. He would not trade all the praise of all the pundits in the world for his side's lofty place near the top-flight summit. "I've noticed nobody mentions us," he said. "When we do well, there doesn't seem to be the same level of praise or spotlight, but that suits the lads just fine.

"We don't fear any of the teams and are comfortable taking on anyone. Even when we went down to face Celtic, we came away disappointed with a draw. We have shown we can keep winning games when we are not playing well. We'll just go about our jobs quietly as it has worked well for us so far."

Ross, a local lad, is looking forward to testing himself against his club's northern rivals. With Aberdeen likely to bring in excess of 1000 fans with them, he is expecting a noisy cauldron of a match.

"Their fans will travel in good numbers and it might be a different type of game," he said. "The supporters have that bit of rivalry between them but, for us, it's just another game. We don't dislike them or anything like that. We just want to get the win for our fans."

Ross has welcomed the signals coming from the new coaching team that seem to indicate Butcher's propensity to give youth a chance is likely to continue. "The new manager [John Hughes] has said he is big on bringing through the best young players from the youths," Ross said. "I'm delighted with that. That's certainly what the fans want to see.

"The important thing is the young local guys here are certainly good enough to make the step up."

Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, had praise reserved for Hughes as well. "He brings know­ledge and real personality to the job," he said. "He is a winner and he is a good fit at Inverness. He won't need to change too much but I am sure he will want to implement some little things here and there."

And McInnes admitted that if his side could somehow hoist themselves to a better-placed finish than their Highland rivals, they will have had a successful campaign.

"There's a lot right about this Inverness team," he said. "As Yogi said this week, they have got talented players and a great work ethic.

"It's a proper squad. I said before the last game against them at our place if we finish above them we will have had a very good season. I stand by that sentiment and I fully expect them to be in the running for the slots behind Celtic again. We had a tough game against them earlier in the season that I thought we just shaded.

"We played well but just when it looked like we had ran out of ideas we managed to come up with a goal that won us the game. There was very little between the sides and we know we are going to have to stand up to Inverness again this time. No matter what happens, it won't derail either of us but there's three points at stake and we want to get them."

But if those points stay in the Highlands, then the SPFL augurs may well be forced to recast their tea leaves and shuffle their star charts.

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