JOHN HUGHES has no time for what-might-have-beens regarding his time in charge at Hibernian.
Not when his mother’s wise words from childhood still ring in his ears.
The Inverness Caley Thistle manager achieved a lifetime’s ambition by raising the Scottish Cup above his head last May. It is a dream that still eludes his beloved boyhood club after 114 years.
There was a time, back in 2009, when it seemed Hughes’ arrival at Easter Road from Falkirk looked a match made in heaven and potential precursor to just such a historic feat.
With trusty No.2 Brian Rice, the former Hibees defender led the Leith club into the Europa League and a fourth place finish in the SPL.
Poor results the following season quickly led to crumbling relations with fans and board, the former jeering him mercilessly and the latter wielding the axe after just 16 months in early October 2010.
Given Hibs’ experiences since, though, time and hindsight have cast the Hughes era in a far kinder light.
But asked if he could have guided his first love in football to a first Scottish Cup success, and the answer is emphatic.
The Inverness boss said: “I understand people asking if I wonder what might have been at Hibs, whether I could have lifted the Scottish Cup with them. I was actually thinking about that the other day.
“But no, if I was still at Hibs I wouldn’t have lifted the Scottish Cup. The reason I’m lifting the Scottish Cup last May is because it was fate.
“It didn’t work out at Hibs, so you move on and you’re at Inverness. You go and lift the Scottish Cup, take another team into Europe – and its fate, that’s all it is. My old Ma’ always said to me ‘what’s for you, won’t go past you’.
“No matter where I am in life, or as a footballer or a manager, I really appreciate the job I’m doing.
“It’s not a case of what might have been. It’s a case of – I don’t know – being a lucky laddie?
“I was a lucky laddie ending up at Inverness, working with some wonderful players. We just got it right – everything went for us in one season and we lifted the Scottish Cup.
“You take it in your stride.”
As past player and manager, Hughes knows better than most the burden of history that rests on Hibs’ shoulders, having never managed to capture the country’s most coveted cup trophy.
There will be no room for sentiment, clearly, as his former club again strive to turn the tide of many decades of disappointment.
Hughes said: “I know the history of Hibernian and what it would mean to the supporters to lift the Scottish Cup. It’s our job to try and make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s only a game.
“From a Hibs perspective, it is all about handling the pressure. You have to at a big club. I played at a bigger club, Celtic, and you can be the best player in the world but you have to handle the pressure, and produce that quality, then you’re no good.
“Sometimes you’re better with a lesser player and a real strong character. That’s how it is at Celtic and that’s how it is at Hibs, but that’s how it is here as well.
“That’s my standards. We’re not just up here playing at it. I’m at them every day to train like a world champion. Every game we take part in we want to win. I don’t accept mediocrity.
“It’s just a great game to be involved in. I’ve a lot of friends back at Easter Road. I look forward to the game. I want to win it.”