THE first time John Hughes properly spoke to the media after leaving Inverness a year ago was in February when he did a promotion for William Hill before his old team faced Celtic in the Scottish Cup.

He was on good form that day. At least to the written press. It only later we found out that he had been less than courteous to a female broadcast journalist but he does have a reputation for being rude at times so it didn’t come as a huge surprise.

Anyway, he happened to leave Hampden at the same time as me and we chatted, as you do, during the short walk to our cars. Not everything is on the record but suffice to say given what we spoke about, I was stunned to learn within a few hours that he was back in Scottish football as manager of Raith Rovers.

At the time, a pal of mine who happens to be a lifelong Rovers fan predicted that “he is going to take us down.” I thought he was talking utter mince but once again I was proved to be wrong.

Rewind a few months before that and during an interview with the agent Raymond Sparkes, a man I have a lot of time for, he banged on about his client big Yogi and why it was scandal he wasn’t involved football given what he did at Falkirk, a Scottish Cup Final, and Inverness, a Scottish Cup win and third in the league.

I nodded my head in agreement. In my dealings with Hughes I always found him decent and interesting – even if he wasn’t as funny as he thought he was – and his record at managerial record was overall good if a bit up and down.

I was telling this to a former player of Hughes, someone I felt had got with him, and by the end of the conversation I had it rammed into my head that the guy I had so much time for shouldn’t be allowed anywhere close to a football club.

“And you can quote me on that,” he said. But I’m not allowed swear words so you’ll have to believe me.

Hughes is not universally popular, let’s put it that way. Indeed, returning to Scotland in 2015 after a five year exile, I was taken aback by the strong negative feelings towards someone who to my mind was quite rightly voted manager of the year.

That wasn’t my impression of him at all and I felt Raith Rovers had done well to get in an experienced manager when it became clear Gary Locke, nice guy that he is, wasn’t the man to take forward a club who were in the play-offs last season and yet by February were eighth in the Championship, four points clear of second bottom; not great but hardly disastrous.

On Saturday, Kirkcaldy’s finest lost to Brechin City on penalties and slipped into the third tier of Scottish football. The ramifications will be huge. They are staying full-time but that won’t go on for long if they can’t win promotion.

My Raith supporting mate does concede his club was in a bad state before Hughes arrived but much of the blame has to go on the now departed manager. It’s hard to mount much of a counter argument.

Hughes managed to sap all the energy and confidence from a dressing room full of honest if not the most talented lads. His most memorable rant came after a 5-0 defeat at St Mirren. There are the lowlights.

“I look at society, compared to when I was growing up. I was working class, had to work for everything I got, it made my humble and those were my building blocks for football and for life.

“I don’t think society’s like that now. I don’t think they care. When I mention the real Raith Rovers guys, the guys in there will think ‘I’ll probably get another club’.

“What they don’t realise if I’ll get a phone call from the manager trying to sign them and I won’t put my name to any of these guys. No chance. You might not be the best player in the world but it comes down to honesty and integrity, nothing false, stand up and be counted.”

Put yourself in the players’ shoes. They will be on a basic few hundred quid a week and will give their all, no professional goes out to play badly, and their manager has essentially called them cheats.

Hughes had lost the dressing room by then but after that there was no going back for him. Raith were doomed from that day one.

Those journalists who cover all the Raith games say the players felt belittled and patronised by Hughes.

There has even been a suggestion that a fight almost broke out on Saturday when some players told Hughes he had to take some responsibility for the relegation.

They’ll look in the mirror and that won’t tell any lies. If they’re honest they’ll come into training and say ‘I’m at it’” was one of his lines. Maybe it’s time for Hughes himself to do just that because his reputation is in tatters.