Former Manchester United team-mates Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce in war of words over 'indefensible' tackle

Stoke manager takes issue after Hull City boss defends Maynor Figueroa challenge

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The Independent Football

Stoke boss Mark Hughes has accused his Hull counterpart Steve Bruce of trying to "defend the indefensible" over Maynor Figueroa's tackle on Stephen Ireland, who is facing two to three weeks out as a result of the challenge.

The incident in Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash between the two clubs at the Britannia Stadium, which prompted no action from the officials at the time, left Potters midfielder Ireland with a huge gash in his calf that required "12 to 15 stitches".

Hughes claimed post-match that the tackle could have finished Ireland's career, said Tigers defender Figueroa should have been shown a straight red card, and was strongly critical of the game's referee Neil Swarbrick and his assistants.

Bruce subsequently hit back on Monday, suggesting that at the point the challenge was made, Ireland should not have been on the pitch as he should have been sent off himself for earlier making "the worst challenge on the pitch" on David Meyler.

The Hull manager also suggested the Figueroa incident had not even warranted a free-kick, adding: "He kicked the ball and followed through and unfortunately has caught his (Ireland's) leg."

But Hughes said on Tuesday: "I think Steve has fallen into the trap of trying to defend the indefensible.

"I think everyone has seen the two challenges and I didn't think there was any comparison whatsoever.

"I don't think Steve did himself too much credit in terms of his observations of the events of the day."

Figueroa will not be facing any retrospective action from the Football Association over the matter after Swarbrick's match report said he had seen the incident at the time.

And Hughes added: "It is very easy to try to defend your players and most managers do it - I'm probably guilty of it as well sometimes.

"But on this occasion, it wasn't as if the lad was going to be suspended - which is another debate as well - so why didn't Steve just come out and say it was a terrible tackle and that it shouldn't have happened? To try to defend it I think was incorrect.

"I just thought Steve didn't need to do that. He needed to come out and say it like it was."

Regarding Ireland's condition, Hughes - whose side host Everton on Wednesday night - said: "As you would imagine, he is unavailable. It is likely to be two to three weeks.

"He had to have internal stitches as well as external ones so, as a consequence of that, it is going to be a little longer than with a straightforward gash."