JONNY Hayes lost count of the number of times he was on the receiving end of a rollicking from Richie Foran when he was at Inverness Caledonian Thistle but they are still good friends.
The pair will be on opposing sides in this afternoon’s League Cup final, with Hayes now looking to help Aberdeen to victory. But he is aware that the opportunity to lift the cup will be a huge incentive for his former captain and fellow Irishman, whose ferocious leadership credentials he has experienced first-hand.
Still friends with many of the Inverness players, Hayes laughs when reminded of one particular flare-up, during a Scottish Cup tie in 2012, when he and Foran were both booked after they had to be separated by the referee.
“Yeah, there were a few [bust-ups] in training as well,” he confesses. “Richie’s a good lad. When I was there he was Terry Butcher’s voice on the pitch. He’s a good captain, he leads by example, and I think in that game he was just trying to fire us up because we weren’t playing too well. But there was nothing in it to be honest. We’re really good friends off the park and I think a few people read a bit too much into it. It was a regular occurrence on the training ground if one of us wasn’t playing well or there was a late tackle. There was definitely comeuppance from the other one.”
Aberdeen are favourites at Celtic Park today but Hayes insists no one should underestimate a side being driven on by Foran.
“I don’t really know [current Inverness Caley Thistle manager] John Hughes too well but I know what Richie will be demanding from his players,” Hayes says. “It’s a big game for them, they’re an established Premiership side now, they’ve done really well the last few years and it’s going to be an even game.”
The Aberdeen attacker credits Inverness with helping kickstart his career when, as a 19-year-old, he was unable to get a game at Leicester. Having been out on loan “here, there and everywhere”, he was considering a possible move to America when his dad, John, and Butcher intervened and advised him to give the Scottish side a try instead.
“I had three good years at Inverness but I felt I wanted a fresh challenge when Aberdeen came calling. I’ve still got a lot of friends there. When I left there were a few Irish lads I was quite close with. Whenever I’m back up the road I try to meet them for a coffee, but I think friendships will be firmly put aside at the weekend. You can tell there’s no love lost between us whenever we play.
“They finished a lot higher [in the league] than us last year but we’re a little bit higher than them this year, although they’ve got a couple of games in hand. I think people are maybe taking Inverness a little bit too lightly. We know how hard we’re going to have to work to beat them if we want to win that cup. They beat us at Pittodrie last time and we know we’re going to have to raise our game from there.”