Stoke City: Is Mark Hughes appointment a recipe for success or failure?
By Thomas Atzenhoffer
One of the most in and out managers of the last few years in the English Premier League is Mark Hughes. The former forward was most well known in his club years for his time with Manchester United.
However, he is most well known in the managerial world of the English Premier League for high hopes and disappointing results due to his last several debacles.
He began his managerial career as the custodian of his former Welsh National team and looked to be off to a promising career by nearly leading his nation to the 2004 UEFA European Championship with a hugely impressive victory over Italy, but a heart breaking defeat at the hands of Russia in the qualification playoffs saw his side forced to sit the Euro’s out.
Hughes moved on to his first Premier League appointment with Blackburn Rovers. His leadership talents continued to shine at Ewood Park as his first season in charge saw the club finish fifth and qualify for European football. He would lead them to three FA Cup semi-finals and into the round of 32 in the then UEFA Cup and never did his side finish out of the top ten.
In 2008 he was offered a chance to take the step to Manchester City. At the time the club were in crisis over club owner Thaksin Shinawatra and he would hit the transfer capital jackpot when Abu Dhabi United investment group took over the club and injected major funds into Hughes transfer bank account.
However, a year’s worth of bank breaking over spending and massive wage packages only saw City struggling under Hughes. They finished tenth in 2008-09 and then were on course for another massively underachieving season in 2009-10 when he was sacked in December of 2009.
From there Fulham came to call and despite a tough first half he led them to an eighth place finish and a fair play spot in the UEFA Europa League only to see Hughes resign over the summer and alienate Fulham owner Mohamed Al-Fayed who believed he had “rescued,” the manager from obscurity after his sacking by Manchester City.
With Hughes on the move again, it took little time to see him move across town to another London club high on investment and low on results, Queens Park Rangers in the winter of 2012 as the replacement for Neil Warnock.
After managing to save the club from relegation he once again set about buying up as many players as he could in the attempt to mold the club to his fashion, but once again he would have less than a year in the hot seat for a club and managed to see them have a horrendous start to the 2012-13 season.
Now Hughes will face another challenge and perhaps one more suited to his strengths. When he was the manager of the Welsh national team he learned how to get the most out of the players he could call upon. There was no way to have more than what the nation had to call on, and he led them to new heights.
The same was true with Blackburn Rovers, although he did make a good amount of transfer purchases; he had to do so on a budget and was never allowed to get out of hand.
Manchester City saw him spend more money than he needed to on players that were not worth the major wages he was giving them and his plans backfired. At Fulham once again he was on a budget and he managed to bring his team together and have a strong finish, yet despite have found the winning formula at Craven Cottage he resigned.
Life at Queens Park Rangers saw Hughes back in the position to be spoiled for transfer funds and again he botched it.
His appointment at Stoke City sees him once again have to buckle down and be a solid manager that works on a budget. The same way he had to run Blackburn and Fulham, using limited resources to get results.
Hughes has always had a knack for making more out of a little than making a lot out of excess.
His appointment with the Potters sees a solid core squad that needs a few tweaks but is ready for a push into the top half rather easily. Hughes first necessity is to tie up the key players in the squad that could be threatening to leave, primarily goalkeeper Asmir Begovic who is already rumored to be on his way to Liverpool.
Outside of that he needs to strengthen his attacking options and sure up the week spots in the midfield and defense, but overall a major shake-up is not necessary but three to five of the right signings could do wonders for the club and their hopes for the future.
On a budget, Hughes has always made smart signings that almost always worked out and that is what he will have to do at Stoke. He has a fan base and stadium that can give a home pitch advantage as good as any of the big parks in the league as the Britannia can be a cauldron of noise for the opposition to face.
If Hughes can play to the strengths of Stoke while implementing a more varied attacking style for the club he should have no problem steering them back into the top half and pushing for the top eight in the coming seasons.
That is, if he decides to stay put and do the job right.