JOHN Hughes yesterday surveyed a glittering treble success in the SPFL monthly awards – and admitted he wished it hadn’t happened.
The Inverness Caley Thistle manager knows just how fickle the fates can be when meting out minor honours and almighty career blows in equal measure.
After all, at Hartlepool, Hughes won League One’s February manager of the month award – only to be sacked the following May.
A sparkling start by the Highlanders has them sitting pretty at the top of the Scottish Premiership table with four wins and a draw from five games and no goals conceded.
It was no surprise then that Hughes won the manager’s award for August, while midfield enforcer Ross Draper earned player of the month and new Scotland Under-21 cap Ryan Christie took the young player gong.
Hughes, these days, bears enough scars of past disappointment at clubs like Hartlepool and Hibernian to keep it all in sharp perspective.
The Caley Thistle boss said: “I’d rather there were no awards here today, honestly. I’d rather just pass under the radar, us away up here in the Highlands.
“I’ve always been taught in life that as soon as you put your head up above the parapet everyone is there to knock it off. Nine times out of ten, that’s what happens.
“But these are real grounded boys we have. At this moment in time, it’s working for us.”
Hughes added: “We’ve rode our luck a few times, for sure – especially against Celtic.
“What we’re trying to do is win as many games as we can, as quick as we can, to stay in the Premiership. Then we’ll re-set our goals.
“I keep saying to the boys lets just concentrate on the process of what we’re doing, passing with pace and purpose. The rest will take care of itself.”
In many ways, Hughes is preaching to the converted when he tells the Inverness dressing room to keep a level head.
The majority of the squad come from football’s school of hard knocks and have been dealt career blows of their own before bouncing back at Inverness.
Hughes said: “Most of these boys have come from the lower regions of English football. They’ve all had that chance to come up here and play top-flight football – and they’ve grabbed it.
“Everything that we are coaching them, they’ve taken on board – so much so we’re playing some right good football. The way I think football should be played.
“If you’re a purist, go and watch Inverness. It is not going to happen for us every week, but we’re getting results, we’ve got momentum, everyone buys into it and then the supporters play their part.
“They are patient, but they’re seeing some real good stuff and enjoying what they’re watching. When you’re getting results it all just comes together. It makes my job easy.
“Long may it continue because last time I got a manager of the month award, at Hartlepool, three months later I was out the door! I hope it’s not the kiss of death.”
A continuity of personnel with few departures and no major arrivals over the summer has helped fuel the bright start. So, too, has continuity of selection.
Hughes stressed: “I’m seeing real quality on the football pitch, but it’s my job to keep feet firmly on the ground.
“I love being an underdog and proving people wrong. That’s the spirit we have in that dressing room.
“One remarkable thing is we’ve done it without our captain – and Richie Foran is a massive character and influence in the dressing room.
“We’ve been missing him from the start of the season, but what you’ve found is one or two others have taken it on.”