John Hughes last night protested against decisions that he claims have given Aberdeen an substantial advantage in the build-up to the League Cup final.
"Give them the cup," said the Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager after a weekend during which two of his players were sent off in the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter- final against Dundee United and ahead of a SPFL Premiership match against Hibernian tomorrow that causes a selection dilemma.
Greg Tansey and Marley Watkins were sent off in the 5-0 defeat on Sunday but Hughes confirmed Inverness would not be appealing against the dismissals because a failure to overturn them would mean the players missing the final.
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The players will serve an immediate ban in the game against Hibs at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium and then serve the other match in the first Scottish Cup tie of next season.
"I thought because of the laws and the politics it would be very stupid to appeal," he said of the red cards.
He was blunt about the scheduling of the game against Hibs. "Who did that? That's advantage Aberdeen. They're sitting resting up," he said.
"What happens if I pick up sendings-offs or injuries? Advantage Aberdeen. Give them the cup. There you go. Enjoy your couple of days off and go and play your golf," he added as his opponents gathered in St Andrews yesterday for the build-up to the final. "We can't even prepare for the cup yet or think about Aberdeen. We've still got Hibs to worry about."
Hughes listed a series of grievances over refereeing decisions. He pointed out that the red card against Josh Meekings in the League Cup semi-final against Hearts had been rescinded but was angry that there was no way to contest the two yellow cards that led to the dismissal of Gary Warren and the centre-back's suspension from the final.
"One of the most honest pros I've ever worked with is going to miss a national cup final," he said, insisting that the worst tackle in the semi-final was the one committed by Scott Robinson of Hearts on Billy McKay.
Hughes also claimed the worst tackle of Sunday was committed by Paul Paton of Dundee United. "We didn't even get a free-kick," he said.
Hughes, a former centre-half with Hibs and Celtic, believed Tansey and Watkins were harshly treated by referee Willie Collum on Sunday.
"Having played the game for 30 years, took plenty myself - broken legs plenty, dished it out plenty, I got up, dusted down and got on with it," he said.
"I probably know the game better than the referees, on what's a tackle and what's not a tackle; what's a free kick and what's not a free kick.
"They know the rules but I know the game - and the worst tackle in the game went unpunished."
He added: "I'm really disappointed we're talking about this in this week. We've kept a lid on it, taken our medicine as we do up here."
Hughes said he felt it was now time to speak out as he believes a series of events had gone against his club, including the scheduling of the semi-final against Hearts with a 12.15pm kick off in Edinburgh.
Hughes said he was "damned" either way as regards selection for the match against Hibs tomorrow, pointing out that a red card or injury would impact on his side's chances against Aberdeen, yet he still has to pick an XI to maintain the challenge of staying in the top six of the Premiership.