Monday, December 19, 2011

SPL Advent: Inverness

Day seven of the SPL advent. A trip to the frozen north to see how Inverness are coping this SPL season.

I find Terry Butcher something of an engima. In the past I've - not altogether seriously but not completely in jest - derided him as a bit of an incompetent.

The sort of chap that the Scottish managerial merry-go-round should really jettison for the greater good of the game.

But there he is, ensconced in the Highlands. He brought Inverness back to the SPL and he kept them there.

He likes to foster something of a bunker mentality: "Everybody hates us, cause we're so far away."

Fair enough. It's Scotland not China, but anyone who rails against Scottish football's central belt smugness probably deserves at least a nod of encouragement.

It also seems to foster a certain esprit de corps. They keep plodding along, occasionally producing a performance that make people sit up and take notice.

Only this weekend they were being praised to the rafters, or at the very least profusely patronised, for their bravery in losing at Ibrox.

And there's the rub. Bravery's not to be sniffed at but it doesn't help Inverness move up the table.

At the moment they're just a point off Hibs and Dunfermline at the bottom with Aberdeen's tally of seven points from three games beginning to cast the terrible trio adrift.

This is, of course, Inverness' second season in the SPL. It's a cliche that such seasons are always difficult. Maybe it's true.

Certainly it wasn't much of a prediction to say that they might find life a bit harder this time around.

Not only has the stunning away record that sustained both their promotion and excellent start to last season fizzled out but they had also lost some key players.

A season spent embracing the SPL's key themes - transition and inconsistency - always looked likely.

So it's proved.

Only four games won. More worrying still, 12 games lost. That's more than any other team and a couple more than both Hibs and Dunfermline.

As if to underline the contrast to last season they've lost seven games away from home, conceding 23 goals in the process.

At the moment they seem incapable of building any momentum. Only once have they managed to avoid defeat in the game immediately following a win.

They've taken six points from both St Mirren and Kilmarnock but have yet to beat either of the teams below them.

The goals of Adam Rooney are much missed and - as was predicted - a ready made replacement has not been found.

Although they finished in the bottom six last season must be considered a success. To beat that points total this year Inverness will need to win 13 games in the second half of the season.

It seems unlikely that they're going to manage that. So already we can say that this season has been one of regression?

Perhaps.

But there comes a stage when escaping relegation by a point is just as satisfying as finishing 27 points from last place.

Here's to the hope in the future he brings


Yer man, Gregory Tade?

Let's be charitable and say that his signing as a replacement for Adam Rooney intrigued us.

A wee stat though: Tade's scored six goals this season. And Inverness haven't lost when he's scored.

If they keep that up and he finds his touch more often they'll be heading for Europe next season.

Credit also to Andrew Shinnie for his seven goals so far. Keeping those two in the goals would be the sort of gift that goes a long way to keeping Inverness in the SPL.

Terry Butcher wants nothing more than a penalty or two at Ibrox right now.

But a couple of back-to-back wins - Aberdeen style - would probably bring more satisfaction in the long term.

The Scottish Football Blog blogathon took place in November in aid of Alzheimer Scotland and the Homeless World Cup. You can still donate to help two great causes.