Hughes? agent invites approach from Blackburn

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The Independent Online

Mark Hughes re-emerged as the favourite to become the manager of Blackburn Rovers after his representative yesterday invited the club to open negotiations with the Football Association of Wales.

Mark Hughes re-emerged as the favourite to become the manager of Blackburn Rovers after his representative yesterday invited the club to open negotiations with the Football Association of Wales.

Hughes had appeared to rule himself out of the running by saying he had "no plans" to quit as manager of Wales, but the comments of his agent Dennis Roach put him firmly back at the head of the pack of those vying to succeed Graeme Souness.

Roach said Hughes has a clause in his contract allowing him to manage in the Premiership but it remains to be seen whether he would still want to be in charge of Wales on a part-time basis.

Roach said: "Mark has a contract with Wales which he totally respects.

"However, it has always been his ambition to manage in the Premiership if the right job at the right club came along, and there is a clause in his contract which allows for that to happen.

"Mark had two great years at Ewood Park as a player so Blackburn is a club which is close to his heart, and therefore this is the kind of job that would interest him.

"The people at Blackburn would have to go through the right channels with the Welsh Football Association but if they wanted to talk to Mark then he would be very interested to listen."

Hughes has all the qualities that would make him attractive to Blackburn, whose priority is to find a manager with a proven record of being able to achieve much with few resources.

He spent two happy years at Ewood Park as a player and has built a good reputation for himself since stepping into management as coach of the Welsh national team.

He would also be a popular choice with both supporters and players at Blackburn - the veteran defender Craig Short has already made it clear he would welcome Hughes at the club. Rovers are also understood to be considering the Crystal Palace manager Iain Dowie and Wigan's Paul Jewell.

Wales narrowly missed out on making it to Euro 2004 in Portugal this summer and still have hopes of qualifying from the same group as England for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

At the moment Hughes is preparing for Wales' next World Cup qualifier against England at Old Trafford on 9 October, but if Blackburn make their move this week then he could be installed as their new manager by the weekend.

Hughes has gained respect for the way he has raised Wales' profile and, although the nation has made a stuttering start to their campaign for Germany 2006 with draws against Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland, he knows there is a long way to go.

"It's ridiculous to say the qualifying group is over because I remember as a player losing 5-1 in an opening World Cup qualifier and yet we took it to the last game in the group," said Hughes.

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