Hughes finds Cottage is haven of calm

After his bitter departure from Madchester City the Fulham manager is building anew

A year ago, Mark Hughes was left cursing Fulham for twice undermining his prospects as the manager of Manchester City, a position from which he would be removed within a few weeks. Twelve months on, he is sitting happily in The Rookery at the London club's training ground in Motspur Park, extolling the virtues of an organisation based, he says, on stable business practice and solid values. In football terms, it may be considered a step down; in human ones, being forced out of the Manchester madhouse looks in retrospect to have done no harm at all.

Last September, Fulham under Roy Hodgson sent a reserve team to Eastlands for a Carling Cup tie and after taking the lead, were only beaten in extra time by a City side costing £150m. The following month they went back for a League game, gave the home side a two-goal start and still came away with a point.

It was not difficult to imagine the looks being exchanged in the directors' box. That game proved to be the third of seven successive League draws. Chelsea were beaten shortly afterwards but Hughes still found himself and his loyal coaching staff sacked the week before Christmas.

"That was the first time I'd been out of work ever, so it was difficult to take," he said after taking a training session ahead of City's visit today. "Initially there's a sense of relief that you're out of the madness for a little while and you close the door on it and move on. You look at your own performance, review yourself and say: 'Could I have done anything better?' Under the circumstances, I don't feel I could have."

The circumstances he is alluding to concerned – and still do – a hierarchy in a hurry, moving, he believes, too fast for their own good. Even then, the target he had agreed was a place in the top six, which was where City sat on the day he was sacked, after beating Sunderland 4-3.

Did it hurt? "Absolutely," he says "Professional pride comes into it. The overriding feeling was disappointment, because we had an opportunity and not only for myself. People forget that it wasn't just myself that was sacked, it was five close colleagues and it doesn't just affect them, it affects their wives, families, everyone.

"So when a change is made, you feel for them as well because I brought them into it and you feel it's your own fault. I brought people to the club as well that I had to leave behind and that was difficult for them. They've had to get their heads down and be professional. I think it has made me tougher. What's the old adage? 'You're not a proper manager until you get sacked.' I wouldn't advocate it, mind."

He was always going to be in demand and had Martin O'Neill left Aston Villa a little earlier in the summer, a job with the Midlands' biggest club would have been on the cards. Instead, he signed up with one of the least fashionable ones in London, down the road from where he once scored for Chelsea in that familiar, robust style. Not only has it proved a quieter environment, but a sounder one than when he left a similar sort of set-up at Blackburn for Madchester.

"I'm very fortunate that in terms of the structure in place and the people in place, Fulham are in a far better position than Man City were when I walked through the door. That's credit to what's been put in place here and that's why I feel really comfortable here, because I got bogged down to a certain degree in trying to address areas of the football operation which just weren't up to standard."

He has gone on record expressing astonishment at the poor state of City's Carrington training ground and the lax regime. "It just smacked of mediocrity at that time. There's a different feeling here of what it takes to be successful in the Premier League, everybody's pushing in the right direction and I've been really impressed with what I've found."

A small irony, of course, is that after Mohamed Al Fayed took over in 1997, Fulham became the big spenders of the lower divisions and faced the same accusations of attempting to buy success that are thrown at City. Hughes believes, reasonably enough, that the two clubs have very different housekeeping philosophies: "It's all about degrees, I'd suggest. We've got a business model that is sustainable. Is Manchester City's sustainable? I don't know that it is. The future is something that nobody can foretell and football changes on an hourly basis. Things can change very, very quickly as I found when I was there.

"We want to be an established top 10 Premier League club. That's an achievement for Fulham Football Club because we haven't got huge facilities which mean we can generate a lot of money on a match day and during the week. We have a very good owner who has ploughed a lot of money into the club and it's a testament to him and his vision that we are where we are at this moment.

"What we've got to do now is protect what we've got and ensure that in the future we are the best that we can be. That's what we are trying to do every single day we come into the club, everyone here. We are trying to make Fulham better for the next day. That's a great atmosphere to work in."

It will be a rare atmosphere if they take three points this afternoon.

Fulham v Manchester City is on Sky Sports 1, kick-off 4pm

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried