John Hughes castigated his Raith Rovers players in a post-match rant that was the talk of Scottish football.
But the 52-year-old insisted this week that his players ARE good enough to save the Kirkcaldy club from relegation to League One.
Rovers relinquished their Championship fate in a humiliating 5-0 defeat at St Mirren on Saturday and will now need to beat Ayr on Saturday – and rely on Saints losing at Hibs – to avoid the prospect of the relegation play-offs.
After the St Mirren match, Hughes ripped into his players on the club’s own TV channel, accusing them of lacking character and desire, even questioning their ability.
The interview was widely shared by national media outlets and Hughes hopes his words spark a reaction this Saturday.
“I don’t mind getting beat in the proper manner, but that wasn’t the manner of Raith Rovers on Saturday,” he told the Press. “We got out-worked, out-desired, out-played, out-spirited. It was a real hard watch.
“I had a chance myself to move to another club six weeks ago. But no – I’m committed here. I nailed my colours to the mast and that’s my loyalty. When you’re putting all that together you’re expecting plenty back.
“Everything I said in the dressing room after the game, and publicly, was heartfelt and was putting across the lesson that football owes you nothing.
“Maybe it’s my way to get a reaction - and that’s why I’m a manager. You use reverse pyschology, any tool you can.
“What I’m trying to do is give them an injection, now I need the biggest reaction I’ve ever had.”
Hughes was encouraged by his players’ initial response in training on Monday.
“I told them to keep their head down and train, and it was probably the best training session I’ve seen since I came to the club,” he said. “There was a real ‘let’s get on with it’ mentality - and it should’ve been like that since the start of the season. I’m not asking for wonder goals or triple stepovers. I’m just asking them to be honest.”
Raith should be safe from automatic relegation with Ayr requiring a five-goal victory at Stark’s Park to leapfrog the Kirkcaldy men and send them down.
To avoid a play-off, Rovers need events at Easter Road to go in their favour, but Hughes has told his players to simply focus on beating Ian McCall’s men.
“Let’s go and take care of business and give the fans something to cheer,” he said.
“We’ve seen it in glimpses against Dundee United and Morton, so let’s go and put on a performance that is fitting for our supporters.”
When asked if his players are good enough to beat the drop, Hughes replied: “100 per cent - they shouldn’t be where they are.”
Hughes confirmed there will be changes to the side with Iain Davidson back in contention after illness and Ross Matthews returning to the squad after suspension.
“I’ll pick the right ones – and it might not go down to talent,” Hughes added. “It will come down to character and looking them in the eye to see who wants to play.”
If Raith fail to escape ninth place, the first leg of the play-offs will take place on Wednesday night away from home against the club that finishes fourth in League One, likely to be either Brechin, Airdrie or East Fife.