Cooney and Black

My hat is doffed to ‘Yogi’ Hughes. He has managed to win over the sceptics and also earned many new admirers. Now the players enjoy going to their work.

John Hughes

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HERE is a tale of two football managers.

Whatever the next few months hold for Inverness Caledonian Thistle, season 2014-15 will be remembered with fondness by those few thousand hardy souls who regularly expose themselves to the biting cold that sweeps through the Tulloch Stadium.

They are third top of the Premiership, Scottish Cup quarter-finalists, with European football a distinct possibility for the first time in their 21-year history. Life surely cannot get a whole lot better for the team from the Highland capital.

The prognoses that the seeds sown by Terry Butcher would wither on the vine in the wake of his departure 15 months ago to manage Hibernian in what turned out to be an ill-fated move has proved wholly unfounded.

Indeed, it might even be argued that Butcher’s successor, John “Yogi” Hughes has surpassed the former England captain’s achievements.

True, Hughes has been able to build on a solid base and was also fortunate to lead the club to its first national cup final with the team Butcher fashioned.

In the event, ICT lost to Aberdeen in the League Cup Final in a match generally regarded as one of the most uninspiring in the history of the competition.

Not a popular choice with all ICT fans, there were some who openly speculated that Hughes would be gone within 12 months. But, in his first full season, he continues to confound his critics and, I suspect, many others in Scottish football.

Regarded as an uncompromising central defender who relied more on brute strength, bravery and commitment rather than God-given talent, Hughes has developed a style of football that is both pleasing on the eye and extremely effective.

It is difficult to speculate with any certainty what part his assistant, Russell Latapy, has played in this particular Highland revolution, but it is fair to say that Hughes has won over the sceptics and earned many new admirers.

Even the west of Scotland-based media has taken note, to the extent that Hughes was chosen as the Premiership’s manager-of-the-month for January – and why not?

ICT’s record of six wins and a draw in their seven Premiership fixtures from the turn of the year fully merited such an accolade.
The fact that they pieced together such an impressive run in the wake of three consecutive defeats also highlighted the depth of spirit Hughes has instilled in his squad.

You get the distinct impression when speaking to the players that they enjoy going to work.

They do not appear to have been affected unduly by the loss of star striker Billy McKay to Wigan, or the impending move this summer to Aberdeen of their captain, Graeme Shinnie.

What affect these unavoidable departures will have on the squad’s capacity to continue to over-achieve long-term remains to be seen as the club continues to strive to balance the books by prudent means.

But. for the time being at least. ICT fans should just enjoy the ride and see where the journey takes them. Hughes, for his part, can reflect on a job well done.

He also displays statesman-like qualities at the age of 50 when offering opinions on the current state of the Scottish game and the need for Hampden’s “blazers” to seek the views of those at football’s very heart.

One might even suggest that Hughes is a prime example of the folly of judging a book by its cover.

That said, I am happy to sit in judgment on Nigel Pearson – purely on the basis that every picture supposedly tells a story.

I have never met the Leicester City manager and I have no wish to do so. I had suspected for some time that he is a bully, from his body language and manner of speaking.

But I had not until now considered him to be any worse than many in his profession who believe they have a divine right to cross the bounds of decency in their treatment of employees, the media and society in general.

My view changed the moment I witnessed Pearson’s outrageous and utterly unacceptable behaviour in attacking Crystal Palace and Scotland player James McArthur in a touchline incident that should have cost the former his job.

Having grabbed McArthur by the throat as he lay on the ground and then held his shirt to prevent him rejoining the game after taking umbrage at the player having collided into him, Pearson accused BBC’S Match of the Day panel of making a mountain out of a molehill.

The Leicester lout added that it was all very light-hearted and reports to the contrary were totally inaccurate.

Perhaps those accused of similar criminal behaviour when causing a disturbance on city streets should bear Pearson’s explanation in mind when appearing before magistrates.

Pearson also proudly boasted to the world that he can “look after himself.” Of that I have no doubt.

I have no doubt. either, that his antics sent out entirely the wrong message to football fans, that violence is an acceptable part of the game.

Leicester City failed to deal with Pearson in a manner befitting his crime. It is my hope that the club is punished for its dereliction of duty to football as a whole and society in general with relegation back to the Championship.

 
 
PICTURE COURTESY OF: Jeff Holmes Pix

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