Thursday, September 02, 2010

John Hughes Going Nowhere, Yet

What do John Hughes and William Hague have in common? Not, admittedly, all that much.

But yesterday the Hibs manager and the Foreign Secretary were both subjected to a frenzy of speculation and rumour that, it seems, was entirely unfounded.

The big gossip in Scottish football seemed to surface about 6.30pm when a radio station apparently reported that John Hughes had left Hibs.

My phone started vibrating like mad, Tweets appeared, emails were sent.

By coincidence I arrived at Easter Road’s 1875 function suite at around 7.05pm yesterday evening.

And who was already in position ready to take place in a quiz organised by Hibs’ sponsors. Why, surely it was the newly walked-out Mr John Hughes. As bold as brass and most definitely sitting in the stadium rather than storming out of it.

“A lot of rubbish” was his standard response to the inevitable questions regarding the reports.

And, this is an admission that pains me, his team beat mine. Although he did appear to have roped in a couple of ringers. (The players team led at the halfway stage before fading badly: a quiz based metaphor for Hibs' normal pattern during a league season.)

So it was a nonsense that appears to have been a case of somebody failing to get an interview and putting two and two together.

That’s football and it’s hardly on a par with the intrusive gossip that Mr Hague and his family have had to cope with.

But the rumour interested me less than the reaction to it.

The fans I was with gave no sign of being upset at the thought of a Yogi-less Hibs. More than one ruminated that they “hoped” it was true.

The Easter Road support have slipped away from John Hughes. Fans can point to six home defeats on the bounce and last week’s loss to St Mirren as being symptomatic of a wider malaise that has shrouded the team since around January of this year.

The reality is that Hughes’ form in those months has not been good enough.

Knee-jerk reactions are, of course, what fans do best. And an Easter Road board that craves financial stability will have no desire to be fishing around for yet another new manager in the near future.

But even there we can maybe see some fault-lines developing. Alan Gow didn’t impress many supporters during his spell with Hibs last season. But the manager is a big fan.

With Anthony Stokes lost on deadline day and Gow still available Hughes might have hoped to bring him in. For whatever reasons that didn’t happen and Gow has signed for Motherwell.

If Hughes feels the frostiness from the terraces is being matched by a reluctance from the board might he begin to consider his own position?

Last night somebody joined up a loose series of dots and came up with a pattern that fitted Hughes’ departure.

That was wrong.

But that so many fans were happy to believe it, that there were clues appearing that suggested it might be true, could just mean that Hughes and Hibs are now entering the last days of their relationship.

Hughes wasn’t going anywhere last night. Don’t be tempted to bet big on him still being around for the annual quiz next year though.