If my memory serves me right (and it may not), this is the third time Caley Thistle have tried such a venture, and my understanding is that it has been a mild success each time. Compared to a corresponding fixture from last season, about 800 more folk pitched up; this may not sound impressive, but that's a 30% increase.
Most of those punters won't come along to more than a handful of games each year, if that. I heard plenty of anecdotes about folk attending an ICT game for the first time; certainly, I saw a chap who I used to work with several years ago who I don't recall being a football fan at all.
The obvious aim of Pay What You Can is to get people to come along, and entertain them sufficiently that they might come back more often, paying the full whack to get in. The powers that be must have been dreaming of a thriller that finished 4-3, with penalties, red cards and plenty of action and controversy.
It was not a day for John Hughes and Alan Archibald to give a mutual team-talk along the lines of "let's both crowd the midfield, and play a lone striker who won't get any support from his teammates".
My dad's post-match comments were telling; "I remember a Hearts-Clyde game in the seventies that might have been even worse than this." (being a pedant, I looked this up - this was in 1974)
Inverness vs Partick Thistle was without doubt one of the poorest football matches I have ever attended. Anyone who paid even a quid to get in was cheated. It wasn't terrible because of the pitch, or the weather, or the quality of the players; it was terrible because of the gameplans of the two managers. One of my work colleagues missed the game because of a severe ear infection. I suspect that was less painful than watching this game.
I'll award Alan Archibald a Mulligan here. His side had conceded four in the first half against Dundee the previous week; most managers, in the circumstances, would look to keep things tight and grind out a result. I don't remember Partick created a single chance in the game. Caley Thistle managed three clear cut opportunities (Miles Storey's long ranger that Tomas Cerny saved well doesn't count, because it was so far out that it doesn't count as a half chance). Inverness dominated possession, and yet managed to look like scoring only three times.
The pattern was depressingly familiar to season ticket holders. I've actually designed a flowchart which describes Caley Thistle's tactics for most games this season:
Now, I know what most of you are thinking: it's only a year since they finished third in the league and won the cup, and he's already moaning. Fair enough. 2015-16 was never going to live up to that even in the best of circumstances. As it is, the squad lost four of its best players in the last twelve months - Graeme Shinnie, Billy Mckay, Ryan Christie and Marley Watkins - all of whom were integral to attacking play. That sort of quality cannot be easily replaced at any club with such a modest budget.
That said, the attempts to replace them have been pretty laughable, with the exception of Miles Storey. Hughes suggested that Dani Lopez would get into double figures, but the Spaniard managed a single goal (in a game where we were being gubbed), got injured and then spat at a St. Johnstone youngster in a reserve game before returning to Spain in January. Our meandering build-up play was actually still too fast for Lopez, who moved like a wheelie-bin in a stiff breeze but didn't have as impressive a first touch.
Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo is a box of tricks...tricks which never come off. He's like a magician who keeps expecting to find a rabbit in his hat, even though the hat has been empty every previous time he's reached inside it. Another attacker, Jordan Roberts, arrived from Aldershot in the summer to some fanfare but developed a chronic groin problem before the start of the league season. Now ostensibly fit, he's made the bench for the last month...and barely come off it. Against Thistle, he wasn't even sent out to warm up.
Roberts is just one of multiple crocked players this season. Inverness were fortunate last year to keep the majority of the squad fit for long periods; this year has been the exact opposite. They've lost Aaron Doran to a cracked kneecap, Josh Meekings for two lengthy absences with knee injuries, Christie to a knee problem before he moved to Celtic, Ross Draper to an ankle problem. James Vincent, the cup final hero, always misses plenty of games with various knocks. Dean Brill hasn't played since dislocating his kneecap nine months ago. Gary Warren, hard-as-nails as he is, tried to walk off a broken ankle on opening day against Motherwell. Even he couldn't manage that.
In fact, given that things have been so bad that even Lewis Horner has started a few matches, the current sixth place in the league is quite an achievement. But my goodness it has been grim viewing.
Hughes has spoken of bringing in some new faces to provide 'magic' before the end of the transfer window. Well, time is running out there. If he doesn't we'll probably grind out enough points to stay up with a little bit to spare, but it's not going to be much fun for the home support. For whatever reason, the three men and a dog who traipse down the A9 to away games get far more for their buck - 18 scored and 20 conceded in 11 league away games this season, against just 12 scored and 12 conceded in 12 home games. Maybe we should hire a hypnotist to convince the players (or maybe the manager!) that every game is an away game?
This Saturday, it's Hearts at home. On live telly. Hopefully the Jambos will provide a bit of entertainment, or there is a real risk that thousands of viewers will develop an irrepressible urge to gouge their own eyes out rather than watch this tedium. Or, alternatively, they might change the channel, which I suppose would also work.
Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.