In the race to the summit of Scottish football, one team has run faster than the rest. Since its controversial birth in the summer of 1994, Inverness Caledonian Thistle has jumped every hurdle in its path.
From winning the Third Division in 1996 to promotion to the Premier League in 2003 and a top six finish last season, nothing seems impossible for the Caley Jags.
This year (2014), Caley Thistle will celebrate 20 years since its creation and admittance to the senior leagues of Scottish football. Like a young Mark Zuckerberg, Inverness has gone beyond all expectations for a club who in Scottish football terms is still an infant.
The League Cup final might not be the pinnacle of Scottish football, but if the Caley Jags can overcome the odds in front of 40,000 trophy hungry Aberdonians to lift aloft that silver cup, they will have cemented their place in the minds of many in Scottish football that Inverness is here and here for good as one of the country’s elite. This is the moment that Inverness arrives.
When Aberdeen last won the League Cup back in 1995, Inverness were still languishing in the bottom tier. They didn’t even play a game in Scotland that season in the League cup as ICT were knocked out by Berwick Rangers in the first round.
That 1995 ICT side still mainly consisted of players who had made a name for themselves in the Highland League and who had joined the side from its two parent clubs, Caledonian and Inverness Thistle.
Since then legends have being born from the likes of Charlie Christie, Ross Tokely, Dennis Wyness, Jim Calder, Bobby Mann, Richard Hastings, Stuart Golabeck, Roy McBain, Russell Duncan, Iain Black, Mark Brown, John Rankin, Grant Munro and even three of the players Inverness will expect to face at Celtic Park on Sunday in Adam Rooney, Johnny Hayes and Barry Robson.
However Sunday offers the chance for a whole new set of players to write their names forever in the history books and minds of the ICT faithful.
If Inverness are to win, they will need to play to the best of their ability. A counter-attacking approach in my mind sounds best. Flood the midfield so the Don’s main playmaker, Willo Flood can’t influence the play and hope that Billy McKay can do what his nickname suggests and ‘score when he wants’.
A man marking approach at the back should hopefully cancel out the attacking threat of Rooney, McGinn and Hayes, while Doran and whoever between Watkins, Williams or Ross accompanies him on the wings should hopefully have the pace and determination to find a killer ball for McKay.
Sunday is sure to be a spectacular occasion, if anything it will show the media in the central belt that there is football north of Stirling castle.
It might even makes those in the Highlands who still adorn the shirts of the gruesome twosome or worse, some foreign outfit who they can only support from the comfort of a DFS (insert season here) sofa that there is a team in Inverness that deserves their support.
One thing though is for certain. The highlanders are coming.