Inverness manager Terry Butcher is not concerned about his players’ lack of Highland derby experience ahead of tonight’s historic match with Ross County.
With goalkeeper Ryan Esson out for up to four weeks with a hip injury, only Richie Foran and Nick Ross have experience of playing in the fixture before tonight’s first SPL meeting between the teams.
The bulk of the County team met Inverness in the First Division three seasons ago, while they boast four former Caley Thistle players in Michael Fraser, Grant Munro, Ross Tokely and Iain Vigurs.
County manager Derek Adams believes such experience and knowledge is a major plus for his side, as they head to Inverness, but Butcher disagrees.
Former Rangers captain Butcher said: “I have played in derbies before and still been sent off. It doesn’t make a difference if you know the Highland derby or have played in it before – it’s about how you adapt on the night.
“Some of our players have played in derby matches down south, some bigger and some smaller. If they haven’t, it’s all about getting on with the game and not the occasion.
“Yes, there will be a bit more physicality, a bit more noise, a bit more tension and the atmosphere will be brilliant.
“But once the players get on the pitch it’s about how they react to each other and how they adapt and play.
“Our players are confident, we are on a four-match unbeaten run. It’s not quite 40, like Ross County’s brilliant run was, but it’s still four precious games to us.”
Butcher experienced the fixture as a manager in 2009-10, when honours were even over five games, and he is relishing the renewal of rivalries at a higher level.
“Highland football and both clubs have been doing particularly well for the last few seasons,” he said.
“The first Highland derby in the SPL is a special occasion. Everyone wants to be there, which is brilliant.
“The interest in both clubs has been fantastic. Having two Highland teams in the SPL might have infuriated a few but it has certainly inspired a few people around here, which is brilliant.”