IT was the quickest dressing-down in the history of manager-reporter relations.
“We’ll fall out, I guarantee it,” declared John Hughes, “But we’ll sort it out and pick each other back up. Then we’ll fall out again. But we’ll be okay.”
The message had been absorbed – I don’t hold grudges, but don’t dare try to cross me.
His players will be delivered that same stern warning when he meets them for the first time today.
It will be sounded with far greater gusto and intended with far greater extreme.
For a man who had arrived with little fanfare and many querying his actual identity, it was an impressive first outing in his new role.
And, for those who wondered, his identity is definite.
This is a guy who knows what he stands for and knows what he wants from others.
With it, though, rides passion and humour.
He once streaked on live television, although defends his masculinity by insisting it was a winter’s day.
He’s a man’s man who is very much one of the boys.
The players should like him.
But Hughes isn’t here to perform in the comedy club, he’s here to win football matches.
And that is his lifeblood – football.
You quickly learn that this isn’t a job, an occupation or, indeed, means to a living.
Football is his existence – ask his wife at home in Scotland.
If there’s a ball being kicked in the North-East over the coming months, don’t be surprised to see him on the touchline, be it Teesside, Tyneside or Trimdon.
He is a grizzly centre-half who has evolved into a student of the game, retaining his snarl for special occasions – meeting reporters and the like.
It is easy to see why he would have impressed at interview.
But, in his words, “talk is cheap”.
Results are the currency in which all football managers ultimately trade.
Hughes knows that.
As of yet, he is relatively unaware of the tools he is about to inherit, save for knowledge of the shocking numbers which have them nine points from safety and 16 without a win.
Motivation alone won’t be enough with this lot, Neale Cooper discovered that.
Hughes, from within the depths of a mind which for ever consumes his profession, will have to devise a plan, a blueprint for improvement.
For that, in the short term at least, can be his sole target.
It has to get better, his arrival has to trigger an upturn of some sort.
For now, even a draw would be progress.
Beyond that, he is talking in terms of “years”, of “rebuilding” the football club.
Ambition, then, is evidently another facet of his powerful persona.
He is a man with a plan and a head full of ideas on how to exact it.
Hughes knows what he wants and no-one is going to stand in his way.