Former Raith Rovers star blasts John Hughes over 2017 tenure

Former Raith Rovers player Bobby Barr has criticised John Hughes for his part in getting the Stark's Park side relegated to League One at the tail end of the 2016/17 season.

John Hughes failed to save the club from relegation. Picture: SNS
John Hughes failed to save the club from relegation. Picture: SNS

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Raith Rovers' poor quality gives John Hughes '˜hardest challenge'

The 29-year-old opened up on the experience in a frank interview with the Pele Podcast, revealing some details behind the lack of unity which existed between the former Raith boss and his first-team squad.

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Hughes was recruited in February 2017 after a disastrous run of results saw the former management duo of Gary Locke and Darren Jackson sacked by the club’s board.

Hughes, who led Inverness Caledonian Thistle to third place and Scottish Cup glory in 2015, was viewed as something of a coup for the second-tier side, but he failed to turn around their ailing fortunes and a play-off semi-final defeat to Brechin City sealed their fate.

Barr, who was released by Raith following the club’s failed attempt to return to the Championship, had a sinking feeling about the hiring from the start. The winger had previously endured a frosty relationship with Hughes from their time together at Livingston in 2012.

“I couldn’t have been more gutted when he came in, if I’m being honest. I know what kind of guy he is,” said the winger.

“I could have went to the board and said ‘look, I don’t want to work for him’ but I wanted to help the club.

“It was the usual: he comes in laughing with his banter and jokes. I went up to speak to him and asked if everything was going to be all right [after what happened at Livingston]. He’s like, “aye, aye, it’ll be fine”.

“I start the first game against Hibs, played up front. I’ve never been a striker in my life, but I was running about, did all right.

“We went down to Queen of the South, played up front again, did all right. Then that was me. Hooked. I never got much of a look in after that.”

While results remained much the same - Hughes had a win percentage marginally better than Locke against Championship opposition - things soon soured behind the scenes, according to Barr.

“He turned a good dressing room into a bad one,” he stated.

“He was going about asking boys if they liked me - ‘what do you think of this Bobby Barr then?’ As if they wouldn’t tell me! We ended up having a barney about it. He said it never happened but the boys told me.

“We were in a group chat and in the dressing room just saying ‘look, let’s do it for ourselves’. But then sometimes he wouldn’t set us up in the best way to get us to win.

“To be fair to Yogi, his training is good. It’s sharp, it’s at a tempo, boxes, possession, it is good. But then it got to the stage where I think he’d had enough. We just came in, had a warm-up, had an 8 v 8 and that was it. He wouldn’t say anything to us. Obviously the fans don’t see that.

“He was in charge for 15 games and we won four.”

Ahead of the final game, Hughes told the media that the kit man would be doing the team talk because he’d worked on the railways prior to his job at Stark’s Park and would have to return there if they went down. It was painted as a rallying cry to players who had been accused of seemingly unconcerned by the plight of the club by their manager.

“Never happened,” insisted Barr. “Also, look what happened. We got relegated and Simon was still there as the kit man. See things like that? Honest to god, a lot of s***e.

“[After relegation] a couple of boys called him out [for his attitude]. But obviously it didn’t get us anywhere. He came into try and save us from relegation, but ultimately we weren’t good enough to stay up.”

Barr also spoke out on the unusual situation which greeted Raith Rovers when they went to face Ayr United three games into Hughes’ stewardship.

With all of their senior goalkeepers injured, Raith asked for the SPFL to call off the game. The league, however, refused. They stated that the Kirkcaldy side had been given enough time and could have recruited a free agent to fill in. Barr backed up the governing body’s version of events.

“It was a shambles,” said Barr. “A professional football team that can’t get a goalkeeper. We could have got a goalkeeper, I know we could have. But for whatever reason, the publicity of having a go at the SPFL or whatever, they didn’t.

“Stevo [Ryan Stevenson] turns up. I don’t know why it was him. But anyway, he turns up and he’s not got any goalie gloves with him. And nobody else has any. Ryan Hardie had to go into the boot of his motor and give him a pair of Cammy Bell’s.

“Stevo, to be fair to him, made a couple of cracking saves, but we conceded from a corner which a goalkeeper would have caught.”