John Hughes has suggested his willingness to take full responsibility for Raith Rovers’ chastening relegation ‘let everyone else off the hook’.
Now manager of Rovers’ fierce rivals, Dunfermline, Sunday will see Hughes return to Stark’s Park for the first time since that grim afternoon in May 2017.
The Kirkcaldy club slipped into League 1 courtesy of a penalty shootout defeat against Brechin City, with ‘Yogi’ dismissed immediately following the full-time whistle.
His reign was peppered with rumours of dressing room bust-ups, while his post-match assessments of Raith’s failing players were often candid and stern.
Hughes readily admits the experience was one of the darkest of his managerial career and still ‘hurts’, however he bears no ill-will towards Rovers ahead of a crunch derby day showdown.
“It was my job to turn the situation around,” said Hughes. “It hurts that I couldn’t do that.
“I am a very proud man and, no matter which club I’m at, I give it my best shot.
“It was one of the biggest disappointments in my career when they got relegated.
“There were good players at Raith Rovers and I will take full responsibility. That maybe let everyone else off the hook — but I was the manager.
“There were a couple of things that could have been better, but we were riddled with injuries and the transfer window was closed so you couldn’t get one or two players in to help.
“But Raith Rovers have got themselves in a good place and I’m absolutely delighted for them. They are a well supported club and I have great respect for the job that John McGlynn has done.”
Contrary to the some perceptions, Rovers were far from a lost cause when Hughes arrived in February 2017. They were in eighth spot, four points above ninth-placed Ayr United.
Hughes has previously stated that he ‘learned’ from a testing three-month spell at Stark’s Park.
Asked to expand on that, he added: “You need to have an appreciation for your football club and the job that you are doing. And you need players to handle the pressure when you are up against it.”
Stevie Lawless set for debut
The former Motherwell winger became Hughes’ first capture as Pars boss this week.
Although Lawless has been without a club since leaving Fir Park by mutual consent in October, he has been training with Premiership outfit Livingston.
“Steven Lawless will need to be in the starting eleven,” revealed Hughes. “When he came in to do his tests, his running stats were right up there.
“He has that wee ‘see you later’ ability which, to my amusement, can have a bit of fun with the defender. He has a sweet left foot and will hopefully be a big player.”
Midfielder Iain Wilson, meanwhile, returned to full training this week.