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Inverness out to finish what they started

Thursday 24 January 2013 9.20 CET
Inverness manager Terry Butcher

Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC have been the undoubted surprise package in this season's Scottish Premier League. Only formed in 1994, the Highlanders are riding high in second position in the top flight.

Managed by former England captain Terry Butcher, Inverness also have the added success of a place in the Scottish League Cup semi-finals, where they face Heart of Midlothian FC on Saturday. Their belief is such that a maiden final at Hampden Park appears a distinct possibility.

"The confidence of the boys is immense, the camaraderie and spirit is great, so bring it on," said Butcher, who will have been in charge at the Caledonian Stadium for four years this weekend. "It would be a nice way to celebrate four years here and it's a great game to look forward to. It's a good challenge and we know what's at the end of it. It would be a major first – a sensational first – for us at Caley Thistle. It would be my greatest achievement as a manager."

It marks quite a turnaround from this time last season, when Butcher's side were relegation candidates. However, the form of key players such as striker Billy McKay – who has 20 goals in all competitions this term – and playmaker Andrew Shinnie – the first Caley Thistle man to be capped by Scotland earlier in the campaign – means this Inverness team are on course for their best top-flight finish.

The feel-good factor around the club was supplemented by Butcher's decision to spurn the advances of English second-tier outfit Barnsley FC earlier this month. "This is the best season of my managerial career, but it's only halfway through and I want to finish off in style and continue the good work we've started," added the 54-year-old.

With their manager renewing his commitment to the cause, players like McKay are convinced this is shaping up to be a historic campaign. Even European football for the first time is within reach. "It's a huge motivation to do well this season," said the Northern Ireland squad member. "The players were delighted when the manager turned down Barnsley because we wanted to keep everyone together. We're second in the league, in a cup semi-final and still in the Scottish Cup. This could be a historic season."

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