When Mark Hughes joined Stoke City on the 30th of May 2013. Within days a vehicle appeared outside the then Brittania stadium with a ‘Hughes out’ banner. Many fans ridiculed the perpetrator but now Stoke fans have had to genuinely consider their views on Hughes’ position.
In his first three seasons with the club, Hughes guided Stoke to three consecutive 9th place finishes. The club has evolved from Tony Pulis’ defensive and physical style of play, to a more dynamic and attacking approach.
The quality of player has also dramatically improved. Under Tony Pulis the club used to rely heavily on the inconsistent Kenwyne Jones for goals. But now under Hughes the team revolves around Marko Arnautovic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Joe Allen.
This term things haven’t been as successful for the Welshman. The team started poorly with their first league win not coming until mid-October. But Hughes to his credit turned things around and got the club as high as 9th again. But in their last 11 games, Stoke have only won two games and now with one game to play sit in 14th.
The team also went out of both cups very early. They exited the league cup way back in September following a terrible performance at home to Hull. A similar story in the FA cup, Stoke went out in the third round after being outplayed at home by Championship side Wolves.
Stoke fans didn’t know what to expect going into this season, but a 14th place finish and no cup run is certainly a disappointment.
The standard of football has also been poor this year. The team have often relied on the height of now 36-year-old Peter Crouch. Whilst many fans love Crouch and his achievement of 100 Premier League goals, many feel having him in the team is a step backwards.
Another huge disappointment of this season has been the management of record signing Gianelli Imbula. The player arrived with great promise in January of 2016 but has barely featured this season. Many fans believe there must have been a fall out with Hughes and the player and believe a ‘better’ manager would know how to use a talent like Imbula.
The last home game of this season will be remembered not for the pathetic display and 4-1 loss to old rivals Arsenal, but the ‘lap of honour’. When the 4th goal went in most of the home support simply left the stadium. When it actually came to the lap of honour there can’t have been many more than 5000 supporters left in the stadium. The majority of fans clearly want some kind of change going forward, but should that be a managerial one?
If Stoke are to part company with Hughes this summer, what realistic options do they have to take the club further than Hughes can?
A hopeful few have been calling for the currently available Roberto Mancini. The Italian of course has replaced Hughes before in his Manchester City days and won the title with the club. Since then Mancini has managed Galatasary and Inter Milan with varying degrees of success. But would he consider Stoke a realistic prospect considering the calibre of club he has previously managed?
Other currently unemployed candidates include Alan Pardew, Stefano Pioli and Claudio Ranieri. Stoke fans have also shown an interest in Marco Silva now his Hull side have been relegated, although Watford are believed to be the front runners for his services.
Hull showed great signs of improvement under the Portuguese manager but couldn’t quite avoid the drop. But some wonder whether he genuinely is a better man for the job than the experienced Hughes.
It is currently looking like Peter Coates will stick with his manager for another year, so what should fans expect next season? Well this depends very much on how willing the owner is to spend on players this summer and the squad Hughes has going into next term. Most fans will be likely to expect a good cup run and a top half finish. Without that again next year, Hughes would be very likely to be shown the door.
Where do you stand on Mark Hughes? Should he stay or should he go? If he goes, who should replace him? Leave us a comment.