JOHN Hughes last night hailed Josh Meekings’ cup final reprieve as a victory for commonsense – then asked the football authorities to deliver another massive one in Caley Thistle’s favour.
The Inverness manager was overjoyed to see one of his two red-carded semi-finalists restored for the 16 March League Cup final against Aberdeen. Hughes praised referee John Beaton for his honesty in helping deliver the verdict.
The ex-Hibernian and Celtic man declared: “We were hopeful it would be overturned – and I’m absolutely thrilled it has been.
“I’m pleased for Josh, obviously, and it is a terrific boost to the team to have him available for such a massive occasion.
“I went to speak to the referee after the semi-final match and he very kindly let me speak to him. I put one or two of my viewpoints over and he gave his view in return. I did ask if he would consider supporting us if it went to appeal and he obviously has been very honest in hindsight about what happened.
“All credit to John Beaton. It’s just wonderful news that Josh Meekings will be available to play in the League Cup final, our first major cup as a club.
“Josh got sent off for violent conduct but I knew it hadn’t been anywhere near the worst tackle in the match. It was a deliberate trip on the Hearts player but there was no violence. He was never going to hurt him. In my younger days, when I was more of a firebrand, I’d have probably have had more to say about Josh’s red card after the game. But I just think that you need to put trust in the authorities and respect these people, even if it goes against you.”
Hughes had also only just learned of a fresh outcry among Inverness supporters over the League Cup final scheduling.
There was anger at the semi-final’s timing and venue, with a 12.45pm kick-off at Easter Road posing severe travel problems for a section of the Highlanders’ support. On the face of it, a 2.30pm kick off in Glasgow looks much more favourable.
But the Sunday television billing means the first scheduled train from Inverness arrives in Glasgow just 25 minutes before kick-off time.
Hughes is now urging the football authorities, clubs and other bodies to knock heads together to come up with a solution, such as putting on a football express earlier in the day.
He said: “There’s no football and no clubs without supporters. I’ve just got wind of the cup final problem for our fans, in terms of timing and the trains, so I’m a wee bit raw on it. I’m just hopeful that everyone concerned, be it Inverness Caley Thistle FC, Highland Council, the SFA, the SPFL, the BBC, Aberdeen, ScotRail, can all get together on this. We have to do all we can to make it a special day for the supporters.”