Hughes on verge of Fulham appointment

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The Independent Football

Mark Hughes is poised for a return to management in the Barclays Premier League with Fulham.

Fulham stopped short of confirming that Hughes was their choice earlier today, but they are now close to announcing his arrival as successor to Roy Hodgson.

Hughes, 46, who was sacked by Manchester City last December, is believed to have reached an agreement on a two-year contract with the west London club.

Bookmakers installed Hughes as firm favourite to land the job after Fulham lost out in their bid to prise Martin Jol away from Ajax.

The appointment of Hughes will almost certainly be followed by a change of backroom staff at Craven Cottage.

First-team coach Ray Lewington, currently caretaker manager following Hodgson's departure to Liverpool, has been linked with a move to Merseyside. However, Lewington has been assured of a place at Fulham and is likely to remain with the club.

Goalkeeping coach Mike Kelly may well leave for Liverpool though, with Hughes expected to bring in his own regular backroom staff which includes assistant Mark Bowen, Kevin Hitchcock and Eddie Niedzwiecki.

Hughes began his managerial career with Wales in 1999 and the former Manchester United and Chelsea striker was close to guiding his country into Euro 2004 but they lost out in a play-off to Russia.

Blackburn appointed Hughes in 2004 and he led Rovers to an FA Cup semi-final and UEFA Cup qualification.

Four years later he joined Manchester City but despite pushing the club into the top six, the aspirations changed when the Abu Dhabi United Group took charge.

The takeover made City the richest club in the world but even though Hughes spent heavily on players, the progress was not enough to guarantee him a job. He was sacked in December last year and replaced by Roberto Mancini.

Hughes is likely to be given around £15million to spend on players by chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed and he will link up again with chief executive Alistair Mackintosh, with whom he worked closely during his time at Manchester City.

Among the players being linked with a move to Fulham is Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy.

Hughes took Welshman Bellamy to both Blackburn and City and, although wages may present a problem for the Cottagers, it is understood Bellamy is a genuine target.

The move to appoint Hughes has been carefully planned by Fulham, with Al-Fayed refusing to panic after Ajax rejected the move for Jol.

Hughes will also need to consider a deal for Steve Sidwell from Aston Villa, as well as persuade goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer to stay at the club if Arsenal decide to step up their interesting in the Australian.

There is also the possibility that left-back Paul Konchesky will be wanted by Hodgson at Liverpool.

Hughes, who was always on the club's shortlist, pipped former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson to the post.