Raith Rovers manager John Hughes reckons Hibs would not have had to endure three seasons in the Championship had the club backed him during his time in charge.
Hughes returns to Easter Road tomorrow evening with the aim of boosting Rovers’ survival hopes at his old stomping ground.
But the 52-year-old is still aggrieved over how his 16th month stint in the dugout came to an end in October 2010, a season after leading the club into Europe with a fourth place finish in the top-flight.
In the seasons following his departure, the Leith side finished tenth, eleventh and seventh, before losing their Premiership status under Terry Butcher in 2014 following a devastating play-off defeat to Hamilton.
Neil Lennon has guided Hibs to the title in his first season in charge but Hughes believes the club went into reverse when he departed because they did not sanction his plans for the future.
Hughes said: “I take great pride in my time as a manager at Hibs, I left that club fourth in the Premiership with Celtic and Rangers in the league and got them into Europe.
“It’s a long, long time since they’ve been there. Eight games into the new season and I was out. That’s football but I take great pride in what we achieved there and we would have kept taking it forward if we had signed the players that we should have signed.
“It kills me what’s happened to them since.
“That year I was there we played some great football. Towards the back end of the season we struggled a bit, the reason for that was that the surface wasn’t great. Derek Riordan said it in a newspaper and got fined two weeks wages, which was diabolical.
“The stand was knocked down after Christmas and that took some of the atmosphere away but we dug in and still got fourth and that European spot, which was a fantastic achievement.
“If we had signed the players that we should have signed then we would have kept moving it forward.
“That’s where I take great pride in it but I have to say, not everybody notices it.
“That’s Scottish football, that’s supporters, they don’t realise the job you actually did.
“They only look back now – finishing fourth, into Europe, it’s been a long time since that’s happened.
“Congratulations to them for winning the league, they should never have been out the Premiership.”
Hughes succeeded Gary Locke at a struggling Raith side in February and the Kirkcaldy club are just one point clear of the relegation play-zone with three games left.
And the former defender, who masterminded Inverness’ historic Scottish Cup final success two years ago, insists his team face a huge challenge in taking anything from Easter Road – regardless of what Hibs side they face.
Hughes, who will be without on loan Hibs playmaker Danny Handling and the suspended Rudi Skacel, added: “Hibs are miles in front of us, that’s why they’ve won the league. They could play a second string and there would still be a game on. They’re miles in front, you can’t get away from it.
“We’ll take that on and it just makes the fight all the better. We have to make sure we’re at it.
“I heard Neil’s interview the other day about them being good enough to be in the top six, so they’re miles in front of us and they should win it.
“I agree with him and that’s the task that’s in front of us.”