Spark out in Stoke: Hughes has finally gone

Such is The Premier League merry-go-round that no sooner had a pair of ‘solid football men’ (media speak for uninspiring and limited) reappeared at Everton and West Brom another departed in Stoke.

Mark Hughes’ sacking at the Britannia Stadium ultimately felt like a mercy killing. It was understandable after Tony Pulis’ hoof-ball had secured Stoke’s place amongst the Premier League’s middle tier, that Stoke wanted their team to evolve into something more pleasing on the eye and playing for European qualification: but it’s puzzling why they thought Hughes was the man to deliver it.

Hughes’ club management career showed early promise at Blackburn where he kept the financially constrained club in the top half of the Premier League. He then moved up to the newly rich Manchester City where he failed to deliver either a trophy or Champions League football. After being sacked by City he moved on to Fulham where he swiftly bailed out in the (incorrect) belief that Aston Villa would come calling. He then failed dismally at QPR before taking charge of Stoke in 2013.

Hughes again showed some early promise with The Potters adapting surprisingly quickly to the new boss. In 2015 he made the clubs biggest ever signing in Xherdan Shaqiri, the Swiss playmaker has enjoyed a fitful time at the Britannia, then followed a string of Barcelona reserves giving Stoke the most Champions League winners in England but Hughes seemed unable to blend them into a team.

Results gradually declined and so too the clubs ambition with Darren Fletcher their biggest signing of 2017. Hughes leaves a team that’s an awkward mix of big names (Jack Butland and Shaqiri), a handful of veterans and some lightweight playmakers, good luck to the next man in.

Stoke not only need to avoid the drop but provide some evidence the club is heading in the more stylish direction Hughes was supposed to take them. Bringing back Tony Pulis on a short term basis may help them achieve their first objective with the hope of bringing in a more progressive manager once Premier League survival is secured.

As for Hughes this is surely it for the Premier League unless he secures promotion for a Championship side, Hughes was a great player but remains at best an average manager who’s spent all the residual credit from his playing career in the management game.

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