AS you might expect, considering he led his Inverness Caledonian Thistle team to Scottish Cup glory, John Hughes is a paid-up member of the Graeme Shinnie fan club.

This is not, judging by some rather anti-social comments made about the Aberdeen skipper’s “lack of quality after that mistimed tackle at Celtic Park on the final day of the season, apparently a society which Scott Brown wants any part of.

Or does he? Just perhaps, says Hughes, the Celtic captain is in fact paying the Scotland new boy the ultimate compliment by biting back in this manner, recognising the threat he presents and laying down a marker for next season.

“Scott Brown will be rubbing his hands and he’ll respect someone getting stuck in about him,” said Hughes, speaking as he tutored the B licence coaching course at Oriam this week. “As Shinnie said that’s part and parcel of football, you give it out and take it. That’s what football’s all about.

“I think it is a sign of respect - just as Shinnie will respect Scott, he’s a very respectful boy but he’s a winner. If you’re going to get intimidated or be a shrinking violet then you’re better not putting the strip on.

“Graeme is different class - everything you want at your football club,” said Hughes, speaking as he conducts the B licence coaching course at Oriam this week. “He is first on the training pitch and last off it, he’s fit as a fiddle and always wants to do extra. He is very conscientious and he plays for the team.

“I’ve been banging the drum for Shinnie for a long time,” he added. “It’s just unfortunate he’s in an era where we have a couple of good left-backs in the team, in terms of Robertson and Tierney.

“Going from Inverness and going to Aberdeen, he’s played left-midfield although I’ve always seen him as a left-back because he bombs on and plays like a winger, he’s like an extra attacker.

“He’s adapted his game and when I said to him I needed a left-midfielder it was never a problem for him. He’s one of the good guys in football and deserved everything he gets.

“For what he did for me at Inverness and then go to Aberdeen and within four or five-months, taking the captain’s armband, it just shows you want Derek [McInnes] sees in him. He’s quality.”

As it happens, Shinnie isn’t the only one of big Yogi’s former mainstays who might find himself going toe-to-toe with Brown next season. Scott Arfield, who developed under Hughes at Falkirk, is freshly returned from a stint in English football at Burnley to be the first part of Steven Gerrard’s Rangers revolution. Who knows what Gerrard has in store for him, but Hughes feels Arfield still has the energy to go box-to-box and will also back himself to be the ‘Scotty Brown of Rangers’.

“The reason we’re mentioning Broony is because Celtic are the best and he is the best midfielder going about, no question,” said Hughes. “And he is getting better as the seasons are going by. He won the Player of the Year awards and you look at Old Firm games, where the scrutiny is on, he is man of the match.

“As a young player Broony was box to box, really high energy. Now he has adapted he can come off, start the play and drop between the centre-halves. He can still bomb on now and again and he is still on the high press. As a Scottish supporter I’m intrigued at what happens when Arfield and Shinnie go toe-to-toe with him. Because he is the man. He is the best midfielder and I love everything about Broony.

“He stands up to it, he takes it, he gets stuck in and it’s great for the game. I’ve always been brought since believing that if you win those midfield battles nine times out of ten you win the game. Some things don’t change so I will be really intrigued to see what happens with all these players.

“I only played a part in his development but I think he is a homebird. He fell off the bike a couple of times at Huddersfield but he went again and ended up in the English Premier League. To see him there and scoring goals I thought ‘good on you’. I always kept in touch and tried to give him advice on what to do and how to do it. I spoke to him a wee bit at length and he said he just felt he had been on the bench a bit too often. He will not let Stevie Gerrard down – that’s for sure.

“At times he might not have the best of games but in terms of effort, giving you everything he’s got there’s no question. I think he has learnt enough down the road to come back up and probably be the Scotty Brown of Rangers. But I think he has enough in his legs to go box-to-box. I don’t think he is ready for that sitting-off role. I think he will be more up and down, getting in there. I’m intrigued to see exactly what Rangers are going to do.”