Liam Polworth was on John Hughes’ wish list for Ross County after the Premiership club secured their top-flight status earlier this month.
The 26-year-old midfielder, who has just been freed by Motherwell, was a Scottish Cup winner under Hughes in 2015 at his home-town club Caley Thistle.
First-team chances were few and far between for the ex-Scotland under-21 flair player under Graham Alexander at Fir Park and he was confirmed as one of the 16 squad members freed last week.
Polworth, who had a good spell after joining Well from Inverness in 2019, last played for the club in February and Hughes planned to hand him a Highland return.
Hughes replaced Stuart Kettlewell at the Dingwall club in December with the club four points adrift at the foot of the Premiership.
Despite losing two key men in striker Ross Stewart to Sunderland and defender Josh Reid to Coventry City in January, Hughes steered the side up to 10th place in the table, with a hat-trick of victories in their last three fixtures ensuring they finished above Kilmarnock and Hamilton.
Accies went down automatically, while Killie plunged out of the top-flight for the first time in 28 years by losing 4-2 in the play-off final against Dundee.
Former Falkirk and Hibs manager Hughes had identified several key men to make an impact at Victoria Park.
Scotland under-21 cap was on Hughes’ radar
The 56-year-old had also pinpointed a raid for Torquay United left-sided centre-half Kyle Cameron, 24, who played in the National League side’s 0-0 draw at Altrincham at the weekend.
Former Newcastle United youth Cameron, who can also slot in at left-back, has this term made 24 appearances for The Gulls, who are in the promotion play-offs.
He had a six-month loan spell at Queen of the South in 2018 and has represented Scotland at under-17, under-19 and under-21 level.
Austrian’s switch dashed by red-tape error
Meanwhile, in the January window, a paperwork blunder at the club was understood to have prevented a move for overseas players.
Hughes had Austrian midfielder David Cancola over on trial, but red-tape relating to Brexit meant the County manager was unable to bolster his pool.
The 24-year-old, whose last club was Slovan Liberec in the Czech Republic, looked keen for a switch to the north of Scotland and Hughes might have tried to resurrect the move during the off-season.
At the time, Hughes said of Cancola: “David has played in the Europa League before and is at a good age.
“He can look after the ball and he was right up to speed in the hard running we did the other day. Hopefully we he keeps doing well and we can get something done.”
In the winter window Hughes brought in Jordan White, Jason Naismith, Tony Andreau, Mohamed Maouche as well as goalkeeper Joe Hilton on loan from Blackburn and Leo Hjelde on loan from Celtic.