Inverness United Remembered

Happy memories for many Inverness young footballers was their summer international travels with a youth team called Inverness United run by a dedicated group of coaches and volunteers with a flair for fund raising. Between 1987 and 2011 more than 500 teenagers benefited from the experience of taking part in major tournaments abroad – beginning in Canada and moving on to the USA, Holland, Denmark, Germany and Italy. They played more than 200 games and scored 500 goals along the way.

Caley FC had taken teams abroad from 1980 but Inverness United were established in 1987 to involve a wider group of young players in the town as well as from Nairn and the Spey Valley.

Their first two trips – 1987 and 1991 - were to Toronto, Ontario, to take part in the prestigious Robbie International Soccer Tournament, which had been established in 1967 as a fund-raiser for Cystic Fibrosis.

By 1991, the cost of organising the trip had risen to £32,000, which prompted the organising committee to consider European international competitions to contain the costs.

Parents/guardians were asked to make a contribution and players were set individual fund-raising targets while group fund-raising involved attracting sponsorship and organising race nights, dinners and a major five-a-side tournament at Inverness Ice Rink.  While abroad, the coaches and volunteers worked flat out to ensure the boys were fed, housed, ferried to games and enjoyed visits to various large shopping malls and leisure attractions.

Gordon Ledingham was invited to join the organising committee in 1996 and he was to become their chairman.

He said: “These were great experiences for the young players, not only to travel abroad but to compete in elite international tournaments.   They provided lifetime memories for many of the players, who knew not to step out of line as they were ambassadors for their city.  Make no mistake, we were there to win and we returned on a number of occasions with our age group trophy.  We won tournaments in Limsfjord, Denmark in 1997 and 1999 and the Holland Cup in 1998 when former Clach manager Jordan MacDonald scored the winning goal.”

The coaches were John Beaton, Jackie Sutherland, Gary Davidson, Geordo Thomson, Terry Curtis and Dougie Mackenzie and committee members included Bob Hendry, Drew Logie, Fred Driver, John Douglas, Brian Mackay, Alex Howie and Kevin Nicol.


While United organised their last trip in 2011,  Clachnacuddin and teams representing the Inverness Street League have continued the fine tradition of taking part in international tournaments on the continent.

Gordon Ledingham was joined by John Douglas at a recent meeting of the ICT Football Memories Group to tell their story.

Gordon concluded the session by reading an email from a player who benefited from being part of Inverness United.

Matty MacInnes who now lives in Shanghai, China, said: “I’ve been living abroad for 16 years now and it is largely thanks to Inverness United that I was exposed to international travel and sport in different countries. Inverness United created opportunities for boys to travel to other countries and to experience how football can transcend languages and cultures.

“I am forever grateful for the work the many coaches and volunteers put into providing such experiences.  I have memories of playing in Holland, Denmark and the United States that will remain with me forever.

“I don’t remember all the scores from the games but I learned lifelong lessons about being a good team-mate and a good person that have shaped who I am today.”

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