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Former Caley Thistle skipper Gary Warren gives lowdown on battle between friendly foes John Hughes and Brian Rice

Brian Rice (left) and John Hughes during their time at Caley Thistle.
Brian Rice (left) and John Hughes during their time at Caley Thistle.

It will be winner versus winner as John Hughes and Brian Rice go head-to-head for Premiership survival in Dingwall tomorrow.

Ex-Caley Thistle captain Gary Warren knows both men really well, having had a glittering time playing under both of them at Inverness – with a Scottish Cup win in 2015 sitting alongside a third-spot finish in the Premiership and a place in the Europa League.

Gary Warren.

Warren, who is closing in on helping Torquay United win the Conference Premier crown, will be keeping a close eye on whether Hughes will keep 10th-placed Ross County up or whether rock-bottom Hamilton, three points lower than County, and just below Kilmarnock, will get the win to put the Staggies back in danger.

Victory for County on Wednesday, along with Killie losing to St Mirren, will secure the Dingwall side’s place in the top-flight. They finish their campaign away to Motherwell on Sunday.

Seeing good friends “Yogi” Hughes and “Chipper” Rice face off in such a fascinating showdown is a huge talker ahead of tomorrow’s game and Warren knows, despite their different natures, they both get the max from their players.

He said: “Firstly, they are both very good coaches who are very good at their jobs and they love the game. They are both very intense and their passion for the game comes across.

“They have a real talent for developing players, but also for trying to take the group they are working with as far as they possibly can.

John Hughes.

“Yogi, in terms of his character, is very boisterous. To me, he’s like a loveable bear. He has an infectious character and he has a real affinity for all of his players.

“He loves to improve players and being on the training ground.

“Chipper is more laid-back in his approach, but at the same time his coaching is still intense. They both demand the very highest standards in training and in games.

“It will be interesting to see how they fare when they lock horns. They know one another really well and they will try to outwit one another on the tactical side of the game.

Hamilton manager Brian Rice.

“Hamilton are used to this situation. They have been here so often yet they always manage to get themselves out of it. That could be down to not just the club, but the character of the players they have there. They scrape out the wins when it matters.”

Warren is as baffled by anyone as to why County can defeat Celtic twice in one season and beat other higher placed teams, yet they fall too often to sides they are expected to more than match.

He said: “Ross County have had some brilliant results, against Celtic, Hibs and Aberdeen, teams at the top end of the table, yet they lose against the teams lower down.

Ross County striker Jordan White heads home the winner against Celtic in February.

“They are always capable of winning games and they have good experience within their squad who can hopefully see them over the line.

“I really hope Ross County can stay up. It is a well-run club with the people behind the scenes who are so passionate about the club. At the same time, I know Chipper well, so I’d be delighted if he could keep Hamilton up too.”

Bristol-born Warren, who moved to Inverness from Newport County in 2012, reckons the bond he has with Hughes and Rice will last forever.

He explained: “I speak to both John and Brian quite a lot. When you have such good seasons under managers and coaches like I did at Inverness, who I played well for and got on with, you always try to stay in touch.

“Winning the Scottish Cup, finishing third in the league and getting into Europe were incredible times and they would be difficult to replicate. I’d imagine we’ll keep in touch for the rest of our lives after making so many good memories at Caley Thistle.”

With so much at stake in a game such as this, how can players produce their best?

The towering centre-half admitted: “You do feel the pressure, but you have to find a way to keep calm. You still want to have that fire in your belly, but you need to be cool and keep yourself grounded.

“No matter what is going on around on, with sliding challenges going in, you have to remain calm and level headed. That’s tough, because your emotions are running high. You have to find the right balance.”

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