Inverness manager Billy Dodds has urged his players to embrace the opportunity they have to capitalise on a potentially favourable route to the Scottish Cup final.
The cinch Championship side have a home quarter-final tie against Premiership strugglers Kilmarnock to look forward to after avoiding the big three of Rangers, Celtic and Hearts in the draw.
It has not escaped Dodds’ attention that if they are to get through their last-eight tie, they would have a one in three chance of being paired against the winner of the tie between lower-league pair Falkirk and Ayr in the semi-final.
“We’ll get a healthy crowd, it’s on TV and I want my players to embrace it because it’s a really good game to play in,” he said of Friday’s match. “It’s one of those games where you wish you could get your boots back on and get out there because it’s such a good fixture.
“This is my players’ day, hopefully, and I want them to go out there, enjoy it and see where it can take them, because it could take us to a semi-final where we might get a favourable draw.
“There’s a route to the final if you get a good draw. Look at Falkirk and Ayr, they’ll be thinking the same. If we can win this game, there are certainly opportunities for a brilliant draw in the semi-final.
“Kilmarnock will be thinking the same. They’ll be thinking ‘what an opportunity, there’s a route there to the final for us’.”
Inverness won the Scottish Cup in 2015, and Dodds has told his players to be inspired by pictures of that triumph adorning the walls inside the Caledonian Stadium.
“This club has quite a recent Scottish Cup win,” he said. “If the players want to be inspired and want to do something in their career that will be remembered, they only have to go 40 steps down the stairs and look at the walls and see what can maybe be there for them.
“That’s exactly what I want them to do. I want them to realise what an opportunity they have.”
It emerged recently that Inverness are struggling financially, but Dodds is adamant that will play no part in his pre-match team-talk.
“I cannot put my pressure on my team and my staff by saying we have to win this for financial gain,” he said. “I can’t do that. It would be lovely if we did, but that’s where I am with it in terms of helping the club.”
Inverness are fifth in the Championship after a poor ending to 2022 but their form has improved since the turn of the year. Dodds’ attributes the upturn to having most of his key players fit in recent months.
“Any company operating without their full staff would suffer, and I think that’s happened to us,” he said. “We had a horrendous injury situation but since January things have got a lot better in terms of results, and that’s because I’ve got my players back. I think it’s self-explanatory.”