JOHN HUGHES has thrown his hat into the ring to become the next Scotland manager.
The out-of-work former Falkirk, Hibs and Inverness Caley Thistle boss has lodged his application with the Scottish FA as the Hampden hierarchy, who have been linked with a possible approach to Walter Smith, seek a replacement for Gordon Strachan.
Hughes is eager for a chance to carry on what he sees as being the good work of Strachan, who was sacked in October after failing to take the nation to this summer’s World Cup finals.
With 15 years behind him in club management, the patriotic 53-year-old is a tutor on the SFA’s own coaching courses and his skills on the training ground are highly regarded within Hampden, where performance director Malky Mackay is a former Celtic team-mate.
With Michael O’Neill turning down Stewart Regan’s advances last month, the SFA have been forced back to the drawing board and Hughes feels his CV stands up to scrutiny compared to others already mentioned in connection with the vacant post.
He has experience of leading clubs into European football and his no-nonsense but thoughtful approach has earned him past success at club level against previous Scotland managers, such as Strachan, Smith, Craig Brown, Alex McLeish and Craig Levein.
The former Celtic, Hibs and Falkirk defender moved into management in 2003 with Falkirk, where he won promotion to the Premier League before maintaining the club’s place in the top-flight against the odds.
He also led the Bairns to the 2009 Scottish Cup final, where they were narrowly defeated by Rangers but qualified for Europe for the first time in the club’s history.
He then moved on to Hibs and led his boyhood heroes to Europa League qualification in his first campaign in charge, before finding more success at Inverness Caley Thistle after shorter stints with Livingston and Hartlepool.
During his reign with the Highlanders, they reached their first major cup final, losing on penalties to Aberdeen in the 2014 League Cup final, and then lifted their first top silverware when they won the 2015 Scottish Cup final against old club Falkirk.
Hughes also led Caley Thistle to third that season to take the club into Europe for the first time ever and won both the PFA Scotland and football writers’ manager of the year accolades.
He left the club a year later and suffered an ill-fated return to the dugout last season with Raith Rovers, who he was unable to prevent sliding into League One during his three months at the helm.
With the likes of Scot Gemmill, Gary Caldwell, Steve Clarke and Neil Lennon having been linked with the post, Hughes is now keen to be granted the opportunity to plead his own case with the SFA decision-makers.