John Hughes has admitted Scott Allan is a player Ross County were “sniffing about”.
Hughes’ Staggies will come up against the midfielder in tonight’s Scottish Cup Highland derby.
And the former Caley Thistle gaffer has warned Premiership County will have to “nullify” the Hibs loanee – who is at the second-tier Caley Jags to get game time as he continues his comeback following a diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – if they are to be in the hat for the fourth round draw.
Of the 29-year-old playmaker, who Hughes watched make his Inverness debut in their 1-0 win over Arbroath, he said: “Although I don’t know him personally, I know a lot of people who do and – believe it or not – we were sniffing about him, so it’s good for Inverness.
“We couldn’t do anything because the window closed, but it’s one we’ll keep our eye on.
“I’m glad he’s come up to get football time. Like I say, I know people who know him really well and they say he’s a smashing boy.
“You just wish him all the best. He got on the pitch last week and just looks like he’s enjoying his football again.”
Hughes also hinted he could try to lure Allan to Dingwall, should County be successful in securing Premiership survival.
He added: “I’m really delighted for him and he’s a player I’ve always admired, kept my eye on and I’ll maybe see him more over the rest of the season. It might be one, if we can keep our football in the SPL, you never know.
“The reason I’m saying that is he’s the kind of footballer I like, one who looks after the ball, sees that pass and all that stuff.
“But he’ll be playing against us on Friday night, I expect him to start and we’re going to have to be very aware of his talent and make sure we try and nullify that.”
In terms of his own squad, Hughes will be without long-term absentees Connor Randall, Tom Grivosti and Callum Morris, as well as the suspended Carl Tremarco, for this evening’s clash – the first Highland derby since a 2-1 Staggies win in 2019 in their Championship title-winning season.
County haven’t played since their 1-0 loss to St Johnstone on March 20, while an on-form Inverness have beaten Buckie Thistle – in the cup – and the Red Lichties in the interim.
Despite having had time on training pitch with his squad, Hughes would’ve preferred to have been building up winning momentum like their Highland rivals.
He said: “I’d rather play. We were a wee bit disappointed we had that free week. We want to keep playing games.
“We want to keep turning it over.
“We’ve got good numbers in the squad in terms of competition for places.
“All credit to Inverness, they weren’t far away when I seen them just getting pipped by Morton and Queen of the South, losing by the odd goal.
“They weren’t far away and they’ve sorted it out. I seen them against Arbroath on Saturday and they’re sticking together, they’re a good side, with a bit of everything in there – good legs, good speed, good physical presence, good experience. So there’s not much between the two teams.
“And they’ve got nothing to lose. They’re playing with a mindset of no expectation on them, because we’re the SPL club. We need to handle that pressure and go out and deal with it.”
In his time with Inverness, Hughes was never on the losing side at the Global Energy Stadium and hopes to maintain this stellar record as County boss, insisting – despite famously leading Caley Jags to the cup in 2015 – he is “firmly a Staggies man now”.
However, he did take the time to praise the job Inverness’ interim coaching team, Neil McCann and Billy Dodds, have been doing in the absence of manager John Robertson – who is taking time away due to a family bereavement – and assistant Scott Kellacher, who is off due to long-term illness.
Hughes said: “It will be the challenge of taking on Neil McCann and Billy Dodds.
“They have done a good job and turned it around, but I would also like to wish John Robertson and Scott Kellacher a speedy recovery. Another two great football guys.
“I am really looking forward to it.
“They are fighting for the play-off and we are fighting to stay in the league and they will see it as a right chance.
“They will see a chance there and a lot of it is mental stuff.
“If you have faith in what you are doing on the pitch then that is where you do your talking. That is what I am looking for.”