5 things you can learn from former Celtic centre back John ‘Yogi’ Hughes

A little bit of a fairytale built on a foundation of hard work, honesty and endeavour.

It’s simple. He’s been where you want to go and he’s done what you want to do.

I am sitting here kicking myself whilst I write this.

Every meeting I come away from I take notes about what I learned, send a message to the person I met and think about what was said and how I can help someone like you with those learnings.

After I met John Hughes yesterday it was different.

I walked back up to the house and was that buzzing of his energy and passion for all things life and football that I was thinking about building a new training plan for myself. ha.


He also messaged me after it before I got the chance to message him. The first guy I have met in football who has done that.

It’s been an age since I met someone and came away completely buzzed. I love that! I can only imagine how his players felt getting that enthusiasm pumped into them every day.

So now I don’t have any notes and I’m trying to use my memory to write this blog.

Not great, but I’m going to have a bash anyway as you can take so much from our conversation.

At 54 years of age he still trains every day and eats like an athlete. Talk about standards and practice what you preach eh?

From starting out in junior football at Newtongrange Star he went on to play for Celtic and his boyhood heroes Hibs.

It reminds me a little of Hib’s centre half Darren McGregor’s story.

A little bit of a fairytale built on a foundation of hard work, honesty and endeavour.

After retiring at the age of 41 (if my maths and Wikipedia are correct) he went on to manage Falkirk, Hibs and lead Inverness to their only ever Scottish Cup success and subsequently European football the year after.

You get the drift, he’s been there done it and got the t-shirt.

It’s simple. He’s been where you want to go and he’s done what you want to do.

Speaking with guys like ‘Yogi’ can only help me help my clients and guys like yourself.

I’m not sure whether he remembers or not but I was first given the big man’s contact details a couple of years ago by a mutual friend, local comedian Scott Glynn.

I left a voicemail back then but to no avail.

Although I failed to get in front of him 2 years ago, I decided last week I was going to try again.

But why?

Over the past 7 days I have heard 2 of his ex-players (at different clubs) bang on about how John is the best they have worked with and one even went as far as to say it was a regret of his not to have been coached by John for longer.

As soon as I heard that, it was back to the phone, dropped him a text and 24 hours later I placed my ego at the front door of a cafe, sat down and just listened.

Confidence, preparation, mindset of a player, a manager, tactics, building relationships and golf, you name it, it was covered.

I could speak for hours and write for pages about what I learned but I’ll summarise it below in 5 points:

1. Train the brain –

John spoke about the importance of the way that he felt and how those feelings drove his performances as a player. To back those comments up as a manager he got his clubs to invest in a psychologist to help his players with things such as removing the shackles from a performance and remaining confident even when something goes wrong. Looking at the way that John sets his team out to play the game with the ball on the deck mentally you’d need a big set of balls to show for the ball again and again even when things aren’t going to plan.

How much time do you spend working on the mental side of your game?

2. Confidence and belief –

Know where you get your confidence and belief from.

JH confidence came from thorough preparation and knowing that he had done more than his opponent in order to be ready for the game. John was ready to go to battle, was the striker?

Where do you get your confidence and belief from? Can you control that source?

3. Invest in yourself –

I always say you only get out of the game what you put into it. A masseur, a Thai therapist and a sprint coach were just some of the specialists John had around him to ensure he was ready for a match day. Is it any wonder he played the game into his 40’s?

Investing in yourself costs money but performing well week in week out with one move you can write off all the investments you ever made in yourself.

You’ll get a better return from investing in a specialist than investing in a pair of trainers!

Do you invest in yourself away from your club?
If so in what form? Time, money or emotion?

4. Practice, practice, practice –

Going through a sticky patch in his golf form currently ‘Yogi’ said that he never has any issues with his chipping. Why? He practices it in the garden every day!

As a player what are you struggling with that you are currently not working on? Your confidence, weaker foot or maybe even injury/recovery?

5. What you are doing at your club isn’t enough –

You can see his comments on this in articles where he speaks about when he managed a young Scott Arfield at Falkirk.

Daily Record: John Hughes/Scott Arfield

In short he told Scott that what he was getting at Falkirk wasn’t enough, he needed to make more use of his time and do more away from the club.

*A big shout for someone who was the manager of the club at that time.

Soon enough his phone was ringing with guys saying they had seen Scott Arfield out running the streets himself in the pissing rain.

After a few seasons in the English Premiership Arfield is now at Glasgow Rangers. It’s amazing what can happen when you combine talent, desire and hardwork isn’t it?

What extra work are you doing away from your club?

Take a little bit time to think about it.

Who is someone you can contact who has been where you want to go and done what you want to do?

Pick up your phone and message that person. A message is easier than a call! ha.

What’s the worst thing that will happen if you do?

They will be like tumbleweed and not get back or they will simply reply “No”.

On the other hand, they might just reply and say “not a problem, when and where?”

Success leaves clues and I got loads of clues yesterday. I have given you those clues we now need to go and apply them.

Iv little doubt that soon enough John Hughes will have a role working with full time players on a daily basis once again.

I always say better people make better players.

I can only guess that better people make better managers.

After my experience in meeting ‘Yogi’ it’s little wonder that so many of his former players call him the best they ever worked with.

You’ll get a better return from investing in a specialist than investing in a pair of trainers!

By John Johnstone 18th April 2019