John Robertson feels the pressure and expectation surrounding Caley Thistle’s ambitions has only risen, despite budgets shrinking year on year.
The Inverness manager has steadily improved the club’s Championship standing in the three seasons since inheriting a relegated squad requiring drastic emergency surgery.
With heavy losses and financial instability shaking the club’s foundations, big earners had to be removed from the wage bill in summer 2017.
Greg Tansey joined Aberdeen, Alex Fisher went to Motherwell and Ross Draper joined Ross County in a summer of culling that also saw Henri Anier, Louis Laing, Josh Meekings and Scott Boden pack their bags.
Even in the face of seven-figure cuts to team spending though, the former Hearts striker has managed to fashion a competitive side and earn fifth, third and then second place finishes.
Hopes were high for the Premiership play-offs before last season was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since then, fresh and unforeseen financial challenges in lockdown have rendered Robertson’s knack of finding gems in football’s bargain buckets every bit as crucial.
Approaching next month’s big kick-off on a shortened, 27-game Championship season, little has changed for Robbo.
“From day one coming in here, the long-term part of the job was to get the club down to a sustainable level,” he said.
“We have done that. We got over £1 million off the wages originally.
“We have lost £900,000, £800,000 and then £700,000 a year, but we are hopeful this year the losses will be lower and getting very close towards breaking even.
“But while we still need to cut costs and become a self-sufficient club, there’s a need to continue to compete at the top of the league.
“We want to get back up to the Premiership, but we have had to do that from a stringent plan to make sure the club only spent what it could afford.
“For too many years we have lost too much money.
“If it wasn’t for board members and chairmen, we would have struggled.
“We continue to work at that. Just because we are getting the losses lower and lower, it doesn’t mean to say that the pressure isn’t still on to keep competing. That’s my job.”
Robertson lost an entire back four last season – Shaun Rooney, Coll Donaldson, Jamie McCart and Carl Tremarco – but added: “We have brought in young Robbie Deas who I think has got a fantastic future.
“We have got young Cameron Harper, while we have added experience in Danny Devine who has been here before.
“We possibly still need one more full back in there to help compete for places.
“We have a strong midfield now, and we are still hoping to add another striker to that as well.
“We feel we have recruited well, and kept a very strong squad in the first place.”
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