Stoke City appoint Mark Hughes: Tony Pulis legacy brings danger as well as safety
The former QPR and Manchester City manager succeeds his fellow Welshman at the Britannia
Thursday 30 May 2013
What might be the final top-flight test of Mark Hughes’ managerial career could also be the hardest. Having been dismissed from two jobs and walked out of one other in the last four years, a failure at Stoke City could see the end of him at Premier League level, possibly forcing him out, to look for work in foreign or international management instead.
But Hughes, just as competitive and ambitious a coach as he was a player, has taken on a task without comparison in recent years. There are not many clubs like Stoke and not many managers like Tony Pulis, who in a seven-year second tenure at the Britannia Stadium dragged the club into the Premier League and kept them there, with a brand of football that made no compromises to anyone else’s notions of how the game ought to be played.
That uniqueness was its weakness as well as its strength. Pulis leaves behind a very deep impression and Hughes will have to fight and fight, destroy as well as create, to impose himself.
The problem is that, with the exception of Blackburn Rovers, Hughes has often struggled to build a team with identity. At Blackburn his side played fast, assertive, physical football – leading them to finishes of sixth and seventh. With the addition of some wingers and midfielders, that must be his model at Stoke.
But at Manchester City he struggled to create a team to convince the owners that he was the man for the job. He stabilised the mess he inherited in 2008 but when the money came in he could never quite balance the team in a fairly reckless 4-2-4 system, and the results were not good enough.
At Queen’s Park Rangers, again, he made too many changes for his own good, and his messy set of individuals nearly went down in 2012 and did, under Harry Redknapp, last season. Up the road at Fulham the opposite was true, as he merely stuck with Roy Hodgson’s blueprint for a year before walking out, a move he now regrets.
While big-money mistakes have been made at City and Rangers, as he appeared almost enchanted by the CVs of some players only joining for money, he clearly has an eye for talent. His recruitment of Roque Santa Cruz and Christopher Samba at Blackburn, Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany at pre-takeover City and Mousa Dembélé at Fulham are all testament to that.
This summer he will have money to spend and there is an obvious need for players who can run with the ball, pass it or even do both.
But the culture at Stoke is deeply ingrained and the man who has struggled to contain the chaos in the past now has a very different job to do. If City and Rangers were too much in flux, Stoke risks the opposite problem after years of stolid stability. There is a basis here, but Hughes will have to fight desperately hard to meld it into something else – something exciting – without destroying the safe foundations.
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food