ROSS Draper admits it would be brilliant for the Highlands to get the derby back permanently.
The midfield powerhouse spent six years on the Caley Thistle side of the fence, going toe-to-toe with Ross County prior to Inverness's relegation last season.
Now, after a summer switch to the other side of the Kessock Bridge, Draper hopes the Caley Jags' recent resurgence results in them earning a place back in the top flight.
The two sides face each other tonight in, what's being billed as, a friendly Highland derby. All of the £5 entry fees are going to Maggie's Highlands, a charity strongly-backed by the Staggies.
After so long in the blue of Inverness, Draper inevitably has close friends in the other camp. He keeps a lookout for their results and hopes to see them back in Dingwall on a competitive basis next season.
“It’s brilliant for the Highlands. I keep an eye on their scores, speak to a few players. It’s good they have a settled side now and are keeping clean sheets,” said Draper.
“From what I’ve seen, they’re looking good going forward. Hopefully it’s a decent game and we can see some goals.
“We want to see both clubs right up there at the top end of Scottish football. It wasn’t nice what happened last year. I hated being involved in it. I was relegated down south with Macclesfield and it hurts. To go through it last year was a horrible feeling.
“To see the club get back up would be terrific and I know the players through there in Inverness are doing all they can. Results recently have been good for them after a rocky start. There’s a lot of new players, a new manager – it’s going to take time.
“After all those clean sheets, it’s clear they can kick on – maybe targeting the play-offs. But you never know. There’s nobody running away with the Championship, so why not?
“It would be great for the city and the Highlands to get the derby back on a competitive basis next year.”
It is possible that Draper may start tonight at the Global Energy Stadium, with manager Owen Coyle promising to start those players who were on the bench for the Motherwell game and involve some of the starters too.
That means another ex-Caley Jag, Billy Mckay, will start up front, alongside Alex Schalk and Thomas Mikkelsen.
For Caley Thistle, Aaron Doran, Zack Elbouzedi and Collin Seedorf are likely to get game-time to build up match-fitness, while Gary Warren, Charlie Trafford and Alex Cooper, who have been kept out of the team by the performances of the current starting 11, are also possible inclusions.
“It’s a good game to be involved in. We obviously haven’t had a Highland derby this season and the players miss it. It’s good for players needing game-time and good for the fans as well,” said Draper.
“Last year’s friendly was behind closed doors, so it is good to let fans in to see what both teams are about – and raise some valuable cash for charity It’s a brilliant idea for a great cause I know the club wholeheartedly supports.”
Both sides hope for a bumper crowd to send as much money Maggie's way as possible.
The 7pm kick-off should allow plenty of supporters from both sides to make the game, although Draper admitted he has not given too much thought to his reception from Caley Thistle fans.
“If I’m honest, I’ve not thought about it. I enjoyed my time there – it was six brilliant years,” he said.
“I had a lot of highlights, far more than lows. Hopefully the crowd are good towards myself and Billy and at the end of the day it’s a charity match.”