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'We feel a lot of people didn't want us there . . .'

THE public strategy for John Hughes has been loud and constant in the League Cup final build-up.

Hughes has tried to create a siege mentality  in his squad this week. Picture: SNS
Hughes has tried to create a siege mentality in his squad this week. Picture: SNS

He has protested against the injustices of Scottish football, has railed at those he believes never wanted Inverness Caledonian Thistle in a national cup final and urged the authorities to give the trophy to Aberdeen without the need of those pesky rituals of blowing a whistle, having a game and achieving a result.

"Are we underdogs? Massively so. We'll be outnumbered four to one as far as fans go. They've got a goalscorer, a player in Adam Rooney who as soon as I knew he was up for grabs I had a sniff at him but couldn't afford him," said Hughes.

"Aberdeen are in the position where they can afford him. Good on you, well done Derek," he added of McInnes who has improved his team's firepower considerably with the acquisition of the player.

But Hughes added of the final: "We feel a lot of people didn't want us there, we're not glamorous enough to be there."

This is the very acme of the siege mentality, the nub of a campaign to energise players.

It may all combine to provide Inverness with a feeling of resentment that might drive them towards victory.

However, it is the private strategy of Hughes that will be more influential. He has to find a way to combat Aberdeen on the field. His defence has been leaky - though there was a clean sheet against Hibernian on Wednesday - and there have been no goals in three games.

This is a combination that does not lead to a triumphal march towards a cup presentation ceremony.

Hughes spoke of the lack of tactical mystery that exists in a game between Inverness and Aberdeen. "I've seen Aberdeen and I know them like the back of my hand. I'm sure Derek knows us like the back of his hand too," he said.

"I know his team and he's got two decisions to make. Does he play Tate or Anderson at centre-half? Does he play Jack in midfield or Robson?"

So how will Hughes deploy his men? With the pace of Aberdeen, he may seek to sit deep with Billy McKay at point in attack and either Richie Foran or Aaron Doran sitting in behind the Northern Irish striker.

Inverness are physically strong and could exploit set-pieces. The long ball and the flick on to McKay did not provide a dividend against Dundee United at the weekend but Hughes may persevere with it.

He talks of belief but can only travel in hope. Yet his side are not facing an Aberdeen who are emboldened by recent cup success or even approaching invincibility. Partick Thistle and Hearts have beaten Aberdeen this season. So, too, have Inverness.

If Hughes's public utterances have been mainly for the benefit of his players and those of Aberdeen, there was one message that is undoubtedly valid.

He talked of the opportunity his team has of making history, of being "legends".

He added: "There have been posters of fans from the semi-final at Easter Road. I've picked out four or five teenagers. They've got Inverness strips on - not Celtic or Rangers strips. That's the message. If we can make all these primary kids and secondary kids going to school proud of their hometown club win, lose or draw, that's what this cup final means. I dare to dream."

Reality beckons at Celtic Park.

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