John Hughes has been out of the dugout since 2017 – but the new Ross County manager says getting back to it at Celtic Park will be like riding a bike.
The Staggies sacked former boss Stuart Kettlewell on Saturday after a poor run of form, leaving the Dingwall club four points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership. Hughes has been brought in until the end of the season ahead of tonight’s game against Celtic.
He’s been out the game for a while now but the former Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager forecasts no problems getting back to it: “I’m delighted to be back. I am looking forward to the challenge but I’m under no illusions how hard it’s going to be.
“The last time I was up here I cycled in and out to Inverness. I was on a bike on Monday, you know I never fell off? It’s like riding a bike, football is something I’ve did since I was a kid.
“It’s nothing new to me and I am just looking forward to it. Even with all the years out, you probably bring more experience to the job. You are more calculated and I have to bring that, I have to be that guy.”
Ross County’s last match against Celtic was one they achieved a tremendous 2-0 victory in during a League Cup last 16 tie. It displayed the potential of this current Staggies squad and what Hughes has at his disposal.
Ahead of the trip to Celtic, who have just completed the quadruple treble, Hughes reckons the fine margins have to happen for County: “It’s small things that could turn things around.
“Even just a performance which sets the benchmark. I can then jump in and say to the players, ‘We’re not coming below that’. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed we can get that wee bit of luck that kick-starts us. I’m trying to find faults so I can then spray the gold dust on the guys.
“But that’s not the case. I’ve found nothing and that’s all down to Stuart’s level of attention. I’m asking, ‘Can we try this?’ – but it’s been done. I am seeing I have got good guys at this club, good people.
“I have got maybe one to two rascals, but I have not got any bad apples in the dressing room. They all want the same thing and that gives us a chance. I think Celtic will have had a lift from winning the cup.
“I don’t know about Neil’s team. With them going into extra-time he might have to rest one or two but we have to take inspiration from the last time we went there and got a fantastic result. If you can do it once you can do it twice.”
One player Hughes wants to keep is star striker Ross Stewart, who is out of contract at the end of the season. He says he hopes to keep him until the summer: “Can we afford to lose a player like Ross given the position we’re in?
“Right at this moment in time, no. I have to be honest and say that but sometimes the business side takes over. I’m just in the door. I’d be delighted to keep him but I don’t even know if there’s been a bid put in, it’s all just speculation.
“If that happens, I’ll have to sit down with the chairman and weigh up the pros and cons. But one thing the chairman has said to me is, ‘We don’t have to sell’. We’re leaning more towards him still being here until the summer.”
NTOF now offers a YouTube channel featuring exclusive interviews, post-match discussion, in-depth debate, and much more – LIKE and SUBSCRIBE and don’t miss any of our videos.