0 I beat cancer and now I'm off to Europe with Inverness:

caley groundsmenFor 43 years, he has been a fixture of the Inverness game - groundsman, kitman, confidante and curmudgeon, seven days a week, thick and thin.

But the day Caley and Thistle merged? The night they played their first ever senior game and left the comfort of the Highland League behind? The moment it became JUST about the football?

A little bit of him died inside. He mourned a camaraderie and kinship he thought they'd never find 'down south'. The game was never just about the game in this part of the world.

But he stuck it out. Endured through the agony of birth, the growing pains of adolescence, the tumult of the teenage years.

Now? Twenty-one years to the day since the Scottish League announced they were expanding from 38 teams to 40 and a club was born? The man who has seen it all couldn't feel more alive about his club's coming of age.

At 69, he's still going strong - and with his Cup Final suit in the wardrobe and his passport waiting for its first ever European football stamp, who can blame him? They're days he thought he'd never see, and after surviving cancer, he's more appreciative than ever that he stuck around to witness them.

"I feel proud of how the north has come through," he said. "Scottish football should represent the whole country and before Ross County and us came along, it didn't.

"I was always a Caley man, I started doing the ground and the kit in 1972 after I'd done my milk round.

"And I remember we were down at Stenhousemuir for a game, sitting in their old wooden stand. The Steedmans were right in front of me, one of them was the League's president, and I heard them saying: 'Hell will freeze over before Caley are in this league - there's no way we're going up that A9.'

"Now look at us, eh? But at the time I didn't think I'd see past the first few games. The Highland League had a social side, you went away, had your dinner, drank with the committee and the players and you weren't leaving places like Huntly until nine at night.

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