Monday 21st January 2013
It’s been two months since the demise of Mark Hughes as Queens Park Rangers boss, and there has been no reliable rumours yet of a return to football. One might have thought that Southampton may have come in for the former Saints player once he was a free man particularly as it was at a time when the South Coast side were bottom of the Premiership, and pressure was on Nigel Adkins to turn their fortunes around or else.
I don’t think it would have been a right and just decision, which has been somewhat proved by the good form that Adkins and his men had shown up until his inexplicable sacking by despicable Saints chairman, Nicola Cortese, last Friday.
Obviously, the debacle at Loftus Road was an embarrassing blow for Hughes especially with the money he had spent. But virtually all managers have a black mark on their CV, so he shouldn’t be so harshly judged I feel. He has had more positive reigns than negative ones.
His first managerial role came with Wales, who he very nearly guided to Euro 2004. Only a defeat over two play-off matches to Russia stopped them. It would have been only the second major tournament that they had reached after the 1958 World Cup, and was their best qualifying campaign since the road to USA ’94 where they also lost in the play-offs.
In his first club role with Blackburn Rovers, he took over a side that was fighting relegation. He kept them up and finished in sixth place the next season. He also reached two FA Cup semi-finals during his time there. I’m sure Blackburn fans now would sell their houses, live on the streets and eat Venky’s chicken out of garbage cans for the rest of their lives if they knew it would recreate those days again.
He left to join Manchester City where he was responsible for the signings of many players who featured in City’s championship winning side last season including Vincent Kompany – a man who is now a club legend with supporters. This was not a successful spell for him and ended with dismissal by City’s then new Arabian owners, but who knows where he and the Blues would have ended up together had he stayed on longer than the one and a half seasons he was given.
Next up were Fulham who he guided to their second highest league placing in their history thus far. But having left an established top-flight club after one season only to join a newly promoted one in QPR the following campaign will anyone trust him again? After being at Man City it seems he won’t accept a club that hasn’t got heavy financial backing (otherwise known as ‘lack of ambition’).
This was one of the reasons why he left Fulham. According to reports he does not want to manage a side below the Premiership. It seems that, because it is all he has known as a manager, he won’t accept anything less. Good relationships with players do not seem to be his strong point. There appears to have been a lack of communication between him and a large number of players in his squads as was evidenced at QPR with Robert Green who he brought in on a free as his number one goalkeeper only to purchase Julio Cesar just over a month later thus sidelining Green.
The former England keeper has since spoke about this and how Hughes wasn’t completely straight with him. Alex Ferguson has said that out of all the players he has managed Hughes would have been the last one he thought would have gone into the management game. Has the Welshman’s supposed quiet, solitary nature impacting negatively on his reputation as a manager?
In terms of potential clubs, who is there? Aston Villa, who it was rumoured he left the Fulham job in 2011, would fit the bill should Randy Lerner and co feel that Paul Lambert is surplus to requirements. That would be harsh in my opinion, but they are a club that I bet Hughes would jump at the chance to manage providing he gets support in the transfer market. The former Rovers boss is a man that has a proven track record with ‘average’ clubs in the Premiership.
Villa have been an average team for a good number of years now, but in history and stature, they are better than that and if we were to base clubs on those two premises, then they would arguably be the biggest one he has managed so far. Although, to be fair, most of their FA Cup and League Championship wins came before the 1930s bar two in each. But could Hughes transform their fortunes? I can see him heading to Sunderland should talk be true that Martin O’Neill is highly unsettled.
Could a return to Chelsea be on the cards? There’ll be a vacancy at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season (when is there not a vacancy there?), so is Hughes holding out for that most poisoned of chalices? After the fiasco at fellow west Londoners, QPR, and Roman Abamovich’s tendency to not appoint British managers, it would seem foolish of him, because it’s unlikely that he’d be considered especially as the Russian has been eager to sign the Pep Guardiola’s and Jurgen Klopp’s of this world. But if they contine to turn down his advances then Hughes may very well be called upon for the role.
Who knows, Southampton may eventually come calling if they are relegated at the end of the season. But who in their right mind would work under Nicola Cortese? And would Hughes even consider joining a club in the second tier of English football despite there being some illustrious names down there? He will probably run out of options in the Premiership, so he may very well have to if he wants to get back into the game.
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