The late Hunter S Thompson, while lamenting the end of the 1960s drug scene, once said: ‘you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.’
If Thompson were to stand on top of the Kessock Bridge today and look towards the Caledonian Stadium, he might utter the same sentiment about Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Much like the enigmatic writer’s planned suicide in 2005, ICT’s demise has been sadly predictable this year. Just short of blowing their brains out, the club has been relegated from the premiership, their chairman has resigned (from two positions) and their manager has done nothing but accuse his players of treachery.
Just two years have passed since ICT were riding the crest of their own cup-winning wave. That joyous day in 2015, parading the Scottish Cup in the Hampden sun, is now just a distant memory.
Under Richie Foran this season, Inverness have been limp, lacklustre and have at times looked completely lost – a far cry from Yogi Hughes’ courageous side that had the audacity to take on Europe. There can be no qualms about the team’s relegation this year.
Kenny Cameron’s resignation as both chairman and chief executive just days after the club’s relegation perhaps raises more long term questions. Under his stewardship, the club enjoyed its most prosperous era and his resignation is another sign that the halcyon days have been and gone in Inverness.
But there’s no need for panic.
The success of 2015 was as good as it will ever get for the club. Their relegation this season will probably be viewed as a desperate failure, but only in the context of that golden year.
Caley Thistle have punched well above their weight in recent years, fooling everyone into believing that they’re a mainstay top-six club.
Their squad mainly comprises English non-league dwellers, their budget is not of Sheikh proportions and their average home attendance is less than 4000 in the premiership – dipping as low as 2,400 at times. Four championship sides have had superior average attendances this year, and that’s without four visits from the old firm.
The reality is, ICT should not have achieved what they have in the last few seasons.
Football works in cycles and so looking at the bigger picture, Caley’s departure from the premiership is no surprise. There was no doubt that their fling with the upper echelons of Scottish football was always going to be fleeting.
Compare the national furore over that famous cup win against Celtic in 2003 to the relatively subdued reaction to their Scottish Cup win two years ago – Caley didn’t really go that ballistic and neither did the national press.
Scottish football has lost perspective when it comes to the plucky little Highland club and their brazen battle with the football elite. Expectations have soared beyond reason and people have forgotten that this is a club that’s only existed for 23 years and in one of the least populous catchment areas in Scottish football.
This is the end of a remarkable era of Highland prominence in Scottish football and that fact shouldn’t be lost in the muckle of relegation rehab.
Yes, this is a tough time for Caley Thistle and there’s a lot of rethinking and rebuilding to do. But far from feeling crest-fallen, the club should look back at their wake and admire the epic wave they’ve been riding.
To return to Hunter S Thompson again: ‘it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.’