John Hughes returns to Raith Rovers with Dunfermline - 'One of the biggest disappointments in my career. It really hurt'
John Hughes will return to the scene of one of his “biggest disappointments” in football on Sunday, when Dunfermline cross Fife to first-foot Raith Rovers.
A derby match which usually would have seen the Stark’s Park stands brimming, the current restrictions mean there won’t be a particularly large welcome party for Hughes in Kirkcaldy – not that one was expected anyway with the club relegated during his tenure in 2017.
Almost five years on, Hughes still harbours the pain of that drop and is pleased to see his old club revitalised at the top end of the cinch Championship. He still holds the supporters in high regard, even if the sentiments might not be shared, given what went on before and his current role with their rivals.
“I am old school, feeling that supporters should support the local club in their community. That’s what I call real supporters. It’s easy to jump on a bus and go to watch the Old Firm and be that kind of glory-hunter. They are a well supported club and I have great respect for the job that John McGlynn has done,” Hughes said.
“I am disappointed that there is not going to be a crowd there for the derby, I think the game deserves a crowd. I have so much respect for Raith Rovers having managed there, although it was one of the biggest disappointments in my career. It really hurt when they got relegated."
It is the low point of a managerial career that includes a Scottish Cup win for Inverness and steering Falkirk to Europe. He kept Ross County in the Premiership last season and has now been tasked to do the same for Dunfermline in the second tier. The Pars are in a similar place to that which Raith found themselves in 2017, but Hughes has learned from that chastening experience.
“You have to have appreciation for your football club, the job you’re doing and have players handle the pressure when you’re up against it,” he explained. "I got the job at Raith Rovers because of their results. It was my job to go in to try and turn it around. It hurts, I am a very proud man and no matter which club I’m at, I give it my best shot.
“There were a lot of good players at Raith, I have never hidden the fact. I take full responsibility and that maybe let everyone else off the hook– but I was the manager.
"A couple of things could have been better but we were riddled with injury and the window was closed so you couldn’t get players in to help.
"Raith Rovers have got themselves in a good place, and I’m absolutely delighted for them.”
Now though, as manager of Dunfermline, it is his aim to earn derby bragging rights in Fife come Sunday afternoon.
"It is going to be difficult but every game in this league is,” added Hughes, who also led Falkirk to the league-title in 2005. “Right through the Championship– Kilmarnock drew with Morton on Wednesday and Ayr got a good win over Raith as well. Every team on their day is capable of beating each other. It is wide open and if you ask me who is going to win it, I couldn’t tell you.”