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Football: Yogi's my pal but I'll knock him out; SCOTTISH CUP CRUNCH...

Byline: By Chris Roberts

OLD pals Owen Coyle and John Hughes go head to head today when St Johnstone and Falkirk fight for Scottish Cup success.

But the two bosses would have been plotting their opponent's downfall from the same dugout this weekend had Coyle not been a man of honour.

He gave Dundee United boss Ian McCall his word that he would help him out and left Hughes to become the Falkirk boss on his own.

That decision quickly backfired on the McDiarmid Park boss who failed to play a single game at Tannadice before being shipped out to Airdrie.

Coyle is now plotting Saints'return to the SPL but he is relishing the chance of getting one over on his pals.

He said: "It was a difficult one because Falkirk are a passionate club and who knows what might have been?

"I made my decision and I have to say that at the time the chairman Campbell Christie was very reluctant for me to go.

"They were all very keen to see me and Yogi together but that's the way football goes at times.

"Having said that, John Hughes and Brian Rice are two of my best friends in football and I have much time for them.

We'll have a cup of tea after the game but during the 90 minutes we'll be going hammer and tongs to win."

Coyle has nothing but admiration for the job Hughes has done since his departure from the Bairns. He said: "Yogi has done an amazing job there.

"When we took over as joint-managers we were struggling but we went on to win the First Division by eight points, which was a marvellous achievement.

"I had a great job but I had already given Ian my word that I would join Dundee United. I'd like to think I am as good as my word and I did that.

"That allowed Yogi to take the job on his own right and he did brilliantly.

"Some of the players he has brought to the club are very exciting and no matter who leaves, he will keep taking them forward."

Coyle still remains close to Hughes and he said: "We speak to each other all the time. Ultimately we are all our own men but sometimes it's better to canvas opinions from others. You can't ever have enough knowledge."

Falkirk have hit a bad patch, losing three successive matches, culminating in Tuesday's CIS Cup semi-final exit to Kilmarnock.

But Coyle said: "They have had their ups and downs but the one thing about Falkirk is they play the game the way it should be played.

"They pass the ball on the ground and have some fine players. That is credit to Yogi and Brian for the way they have got them playing."

The Perth side are also licking their wounds after losing to Hibs in the other CIS Cup semi. But Coyle said: "The one thing we do have in this team is plenty of character. They showed that during the game against Hibs.

"But having said that we know it will be a very difficult task against Falkirk.

"We need to get some energy in the legs again because the semi-final was a big ask coming on the back of a top-of-the-table clash with Gretna so it was a massive week.

"But I have to say it's been a great week to be in charge of St Johnstone because those games are the ones we want to play in. We lost that game but now we have to try to get another cup run going against Falkirk."

CAPTION(S):

TALL TO PLAY FOR: Coyle and Kevin James get ready for Falkirk
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 3, 2007
Words:617
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