Football Expert & Columnist
Andy Walker says Inverness can challenge for second until end of season
Andy Walker says bold tactics from Terry Butcher have seen Inverness emerge as real contenders.
Last Updated: 01/04/13 12:44pm
How wrong we were.
On Friday night, Butcher's new-look side entertain Steve Lomas' St Johnstone at the Tulloch Stadium in front of the Sky cameras having already amassed an impressive 50 points this season.
Tucked in behind Motherwell, Caley Thistle have every chance of catching Stuart McCall's men and finishing runners-up to Celtic.
I have to say their consistency has taken me completely by surprise.
After opening the new campaign with three draws, I watched them lose 4-2 at home to Celtic and when they shipped another four goals in their next league match at Motherwell, the likelihood was another scrap to avoid relegation.
Kenny Gillet, Johnny Hayes, Ross Tokely and Gregory Tade had all been regular first-choice picks but Butcher chose to change things around by bringing in players who needed a fresh challenge.
Gary Warren and Daniel Devine are just two of Butcher's new recruits and their influence has meant that they're a much stronger defensive unit.
Warren was plying his trade at Newport County before Butcher offered him the chance to shine in the SPL and he's become one of their leaders.
20-year-old Devine initially joined up til the end of the season in January but the former Preston, Fleetwood and Wrexham player has recently penned a new two-year deal.
The truth is that by changing the make up of his squad and having success with a new group of players, Butcher has now reached the stage when he can trust his men to challenge Motherwell all the way to the end of the season.
Andrew Shinnie and top scorer Billy Mackay have also been rewarded with international recognition from Scotland and Northern Ireland, a sign to all the players in the dressing room that if performances are consistently high in the SPL, you can get your rewards.
My own view is that Richie Foran has been the most consistent of the lot. Whether as a frontman or as someone playing much deeper, Foran has all the experience to make the rest of them tick.
Qualifying for European football would be a magnificent achievement for everyone in Inverness and naturally, Butcher's success hasn't gone unnoticed.
The Caley boss turned down the offer of a return to management in England when Barnsley came calling in January following the sacking of Keith Hill.
Lengthy discussions took place when the board gave the Yorkshire club permission to speak to the former England captain.
Doncaster Rovers were also keen to lure him back south but Butcher's lifestyle and the happiness he gets from living and working in the Highlands meant he stayed on in the hope of ending a memorable season with their highest place ever.
It won't be easy against St Johnstone though. A win for Steve Lomas and his men will mean they too will fancy their chances of finishing the season on a high.