Inverness CT: Terry Butcher's league leaders in sparkling form

 

They were a couple of painful points away from their European dream coming true last season and a penalty shootout short of the League Cup Final.

And you did wonder - well I did anyway - how bargain basement budget Inverness Caley Thistle could possibly eclipse that amazing achievement.

Then I watched Terry Butcher's team turn on the style last Saturday, giving Motherwell a mauling (the 2-0 scoreline didn't tell the story) and grabbing the outright lead in the Scottish Premiership.

The new league doesn't lie and, while Inverness will sooner or later be elbowed out of top spot, they again seem set for a high finish and maybe a trip to Hampden.

Inverness boss Terry Butcher

Terry Butcher has guided Inverness to the top of the Premiership table

I watched them lose four goals to Celtic in the Highland capital almost exactly a year ago when the damage done might easily have stretched towards double figures.

For Butcher to build a team from that collection of players looked at the time like Mission Impossible. However, the gaffer stuck by them and eight of those who played that day are now the cornerstone of the Caley Thistle success story.

In the first few weeks of the Scottish season I haven't seen a better central defensive partnership than Gary Warren and Josh Meekings.

Left-back Graeme Shinnie will soon be attracting the transfer interest previously aroused by big brother Andy.

The gap left by the elder Shinnie looks like it's been effectively filled by new arrival James Vincent and rhyming midfielders Richie Foran and Aaron Doran, at opposite ends of the age scale, are other key components in this impressive Inverness side.

And big Tel must be counting the days until the transfer window closes when he hopes top scorer Billy McKay will still be with the club.

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I'm really surprised that, up until now, Caley Thistle haven't been presented with an offer they can't refuse for one of the most improved players in Scottish football.

McKay has followed up his 27 goals last season with one in each of his team's three wins this time around and looks sharp.

I hope he stays, I love watching him play.

But, at least if he's tempted away, there would be a transfer fee involved unlike other Inverness VIP departures Shinnie, Adam Rooney and Jonny Hayes.

Butcher doesn't want it to come to that. For the first time in his four-and-a-half years in the Highlands, despite a whole team of summer signings, he's reaping the rewards of season-to-season continuity.

The core of his team is unchanged and Inverness will continue to punch above their weight.