Chalmers credits Robertson with career renaissance
Joe Chalmers admits he owes John Robertson everything for his career revival and Premiership return.
But the former Celtic and Motherwell man still knew he had to turn his back on the Hearts legend in the summer.
Chalmers hit rock bottom at Motherwell before his Fir Park release two years ago, a setback that had him contemplating life outside football.
Robertson, though, offered a fresh start at Inverness and rebuilt the former Scotland youth and under 21 international’s confidence, converting him from left-back into a central playmaker role.
From shaky beginnings in the Highlands, Chalmers hit outstanding form after the positional switch before grabbing the chance of a freedom-of-contract move to Caley Thistle’s great rivals Ross County.
It was a step across the derby divide that dismayed Inverness fans but Chalmers, speaking at County’s Dutch training base yesterday, insisted he did it with Robertson’s blessing.
Opening up on the toughest decision of his career, the 25-year-old admitted: “I don’t really use social media, so I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to talk about what happened.
“I’ve been keen just to get the chance to say a big thanks to John Robertson. Robbo especially, and Scott Kellacher and Brian Rice at Inverness, were all massive for me in getting my career back on track.
“When I went in there on trial, it was a really difficult period for me personally.
“As much as I enjoyed my two years at Motherwell, when I look back now I was struggling with my fitness and not playing many games.
“It was a tough two years, but I know now how much stronger and confident I am. My body is holding up well to all the football after hardly missing a league game over the two years at Inverness.
“The Championship has been good for my form, confidence and experience because it is such a tough league. A combination of all those things has me so much better-prepared now for the Premiership.
“But I’ve everything to thank Robbo and his coaches for. They just built me up, believed in me and helped me massively.
“It was just the most enjoyable two years I’ve had playing. It was a really difficult decision to leave, but in the end you have to take the right step for your career.
“It just felt right going to Ross County, with me and my girlfriend being so settled in the Highlands and with a wee one on the way. The lure of Premiership football settled me on it."
Chalmers, though, admits it was no easy decision to walk away from a club where he became a highly-influential first pick.
He stressed: "Because my time at Inverness was so enjoyable and I got on so well with everybody there, it was really difficult.
“We had conversations with Robbo about what would happen and he obviously had Caley Thistle’s best interests at heart, but when I did finally explain my decision to the manager, he was brilliant to me.
“He feels I always gave everything to him and Caley Thistle and can walk away with head held high. I’d say he trusted me. He wished me all the best.
“Even though he wanted to do the best by Inverness and keep me, he understood the opportunity and attraction of playing Premiership football. I was grateful for how he was with me.
“There’s still a disappointment that, in the two years at Inverness, we never quite got over the line in terms of promotion.
“But I put a lot of work into getting back to the Premiership and a lot of it is obviously down to myself as well.
“I’ve worked hard and I always try to do everything right. I wanted that to get there through promotion with Inverness, but I’ve moved on now.”
Chalmers, now, is raring to go at Ross County. The Dingwall club’s Dutch pre-season tour has eased the settling in process.
He added: “I’m buzzing now. The fixtures coming out makes it that wee bit more exciting.
“You immediately look at some of the big games coming up this season, but first of all I’m looking forward to getting the BetFred Cup started.
“To get the competitive edge of those games again will be good. Hopefully we can have a good crack at that and it will set us up nicely for when the league starts.
“A good start in the League Cup can build confidence for the league campaign.
“For a new player like me, it means the competitive action comes early and you can find your feet with new partnerships and that kind of stuff.
“A pre-season trip like this is good for somebody new, bedding themselves in and trying to get used to the managers and the teamwork. I’m looking forward to it.”