JAMES VINCENT wants critics to judge John Hughes on the hard evidence of Inverness Caledonian Thistle's performances rather than past perceptions of his managerial style.
The Inverness midfielder gave full credit for Saturday's opening-day win over Hamilton Academical to his manager, who was recently tipped by bookmakers as most at risk of the sack in the SPFL Premiership this season.
There has been scepticism from fans and pundits about Hughes' desire to instil a short, sharp- passing and possession-based gameplan at Caley Thistle, an approach he has deployed with varying degrees of success in past managerial incarnations, but Vincent felt the proof of its worth was there for all to see in a "perfect" opening-day display at New Douglas Park.
Vincent, the former Kidderminster Harriers and Stockport County playmaker, said: "We always seem to have that underdog status and are often written off but, to be honest, it doesn't affect any of the lads. We get on with the way the gaffer wants us to play football.
"He wants us to play good football and that came to the fore at the weekend against Hamilton. We played some really good stuff and scored two good goals, so it's not going to affect us. It was a perfect start to the campaign for us. I've been really impressed with how the gaffer has brought us all the way through pre-season to this point. You can't judge anyone on the past. What matters is what he is doing now."
What Hughes is doing now is plotting the downfall of Dundee. While admiring the work Paul Hartley has done in rebuilding the promoted side, he will instruct his players to set about dismantling the visitors in much the same way they did Hamilton at the weekend. "Dundee are a team who, in name and size, deserve to be playing in the Premiership," said Hughes. "That Dundee derby is vital. They had a bumper crowd of 7500 on Saturday and that tells you the size of the club. They've recruited very well . . . and we're going to have to be at our best to beat them.
"In saying that, I concentrate on what I do at my club in terms of my coaching, my training and my team. When we're playing at home on that big pitch, it's up to us to be on the front foot and take the game to them. We respect Dundee and we know their strengths and weaknesses but, especially at home, it's about us. If we get our rhythm and get going and the players show me the form they have been, Dundee will be in a right good game."
Simon Ferry, Dundee's summer capture from Portsmouth, says Hartley's men will be focused on imposing their own creative free-flowing style on Inverness, a style he hopes will be a feature of their campaign.
"I think they will be a good team, having finished in the top-six over the last couple of years," said Ferry. "Since they came up to the top league they have done really well and seem to make good signings every year. They seem to unearth a gem or two and the wee guy Christie seems to be one of them.
"John Hughes is a good manager and they got a good result at Hamilton at the weekend. They will be on a bit of a high and it will be a tough game for us, especially up there. We need to play our own game, get the ball down and pass it the way we know we can."
The former Celtic player is fast approaching full fitness following a frustrating season with Portsmouth, and the midfield playmaker insists game-time is the key thing for him now. "That's five games in a row for me now. And I didn't do that the whole of last season. It's just about getting as many minutes on the park as possible."