Ross County boss John Hughes says it would be a “dream come true” to win the Scottish Cup with another Highland side.
The Premiership Staggies begin their cup bid in the third round tomorrow evening with a derby against second-tier Caley Thistle.
Between 2013 and 2016, Hughes was the gaffer at the Caledonian Stadium, leading Caley Jags to their first national trophy success in 2015.
Hughes, who thinks the Hampden success was likely the highlight of his life in football as a player and boss, believes anyone who doubts his County side’s chances this season need only reflect on Inverness’ unlikely run to cup glory.
He said: “It was right up there, but when I look way back at my time at Falkirk and there was the Scottish Cup final there as well, where, although Rangers beat us 1-0, I felt we were a fantastic football team on the day.
“(There was also) the League Cup final the year before with Inverness when Aberdeen beat us on penalties.
“But that (cup win) is probably it because you’re picking up silverware.
“Great times, good memories, but it’s in the past. I’m not one who sits back, I always look forward every minute of every day and think: ‘what can I do to make it better?’ The demands you’re putting on players, what you’re after from players…
“It’s great, I love it and I really am enjoying it. The club have given me that opportunity to get back into football, in a place I enjoy up here in the Highlands – I love that quiet lifestyle, that solitude, where there’s plenty thinking time and it’s all just football 24/7. Great facilities, great environment, great community club.
“If I could win the Scottish Cup… You never know, nobody would’ve in their wildest imagination have thought Inverness could’ve won the cup back in 2015. It just shows you you’ve got a chance.
“But we have to take care of Inverness, and that’s going to be a real challenge, a Highland derby.”
County go into the Dingwall clash having been fighting for their lives in the Premiership. Caley Thistle, meanwhile, have rattled off four consecutive wins and are back to looking like Championship promotion contenders under interim boss Neil McCann.
Hughes thinks the challenge of beating Inverness will “stretch” his Staggies, and victory could not only spark a cup run, but also benefit them in the league post-split.
He said: “I’m just delighted it is Inverness. It’s the game we need to really stretch us to the max. We’re going to have to be at it to win the game. I’m wanting stretched to the max, that’s what the game will be and I think that’ll set us up good for the end of the season.”
Hughes, who says he doesn’t subscribe to the view the cup is a distraction from securing league survival, added: “We see it as every opportunity to win a football game and that gives you confidence.
“The history of the Scottish Cup is there and we will go out giving it everything we have got, hoping it gives us that momentum and confidence going into the final two months of the season.
“There is still competition for places.
“We know how difficult it will be, because there isn’t too much between the teams. I think Inverness have found their feet and got a few wins.
“The pressure is on us being the SPL club and Inverness have nothing to lose.
“To be fair we have been playing under that pressure since I came to the club, in that relegation battle, and they have had some great victories.
“Hopefully, that will be the case on Friday.”