Celtic will be wary of Ross County.
Less than a month ago, the Highlanders came to Celtic Park and secured progression the Betfred Cup (BBC). It was a shock result, even in the context of Celtic’s awful run of form.
Still, that win wasn’t enough for Stuart Kettlewell. Ross County have just changed managers, with ex-Celt John Hughes taking the reins in Dingwall. Previously manager of Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Livingston and Raith Rovers, he’s had a mixed record in coaching.
Hughes has a history of shocking his former club, as my esteemed colleague David Walton pointed out. However, will the mythical “new manager bounce” play a part in Celtic Park tomorrow night? We had a look at Hughes’ managerial debuts through the years.
Early on: ex-Celtic man Hughes as Falkirk player/coach
A Celtic player between 1995 and 1997, Hughes took to coaching while winding down his playing days. At Falkirk, he was only halfway through his first season as player in FK2 before being appointed manager.
His stewardship led to an immediate upturn in form for the Bairns. Appointed on January 31st, 2003, Falkirk subsequently drew 1-1 with St. Johnstone before picking up a 4-3 win against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, then a 3-1 win over St. Mirren (Football UK).
His spell with the Bairns was his longest tenure in management, lasting until the end of the 08/09 season.
Hibs, Livi and Hartlepool
Taking over at Hibs in 2009, Hughes let the Leith faithful to the Europa League. His first games for the Hibees were successful, beating St. Mirren and his alma mater, Falkirk, before Celtic took care of business in a 1-0 win at Easter Road.
He left Hibs by mutual consent at the start of the following season. After a two-year wait for another job, Yogi’s stock was lower than he’d have liked with he took over at Livingston. Still, his first result was emphatic; a 4-0 win (BBC) over future club Raith Rovers impressed the Livi faithful.
Granted, he lost the next three. For the purposes of what we’re doing here, though, there’s clear evidence that Yogi Hughes likes a debut. Hartlepool, however, was a tougher gig.
Taking on a team who’d been on an awful, awful run (BBC), Yogi couldn’t secure victory for Hartlepool until he was a month into the job, beating Sheffield United 3-2 to stem the tide. Not long after, in January and February 2013, Hughes’ side went on a 7 match unbeaten run, with 5 victories.
Caley and Raith Rovers
Yogi likes taking jobs in the winter, and so it proved with Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Unfortunately, Yogi could only manage a goalless draw on his debut, but Thistle managed an impressive away win at Hearts in the next match, before embarking on a 5-game winless run.
After Caley, Raith Rovers came calling, but it wasn’t a fruitful relationship. Lasting only 92 days (BBC), Hughes couldn’t prevent the Kirkcaldy side from sliding down to League One. He couldn’t muster a win in his first 3 games at Raith; funnily enough his first game as manager in Fife came against Hibernian (BBC).
As he takes his new role at Ross County, Yogi Hughes can look back on his first games at new clubs with a mixture of regret and optimism. Earlier in his career, he was successful from the off with Hibs and Falkirk, but he’s seen diminishing returns ever since.
Regardless, this is another massive game for Celtic. They’ll be hoping their ex-player doesn’t prove there’s some life in the ‘new manager bounce’ theory.