Has Mark Hughes lost his spark at Stoke City?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
A January 1 clash with Newcastle United continued the previous year's woes for Stoke City, with ever-increasing pressure mounting on Mark Hughes. After a heavily criticised decision for fielding a weakened side against Chelsea, resulting in a 5-0 drubbing, the tactic backfired as the Potters fell to a 1-0 home defeat against Newcastle two days later. They have suffered seven defeats in 10 games, and currently sit two points above the relegation zone in 16th place.
The Potters manager received the dreaded vote of confidence, often a thorn in the side for beleaguered bosses, from the Stoke board in December. The public backing from chairmen and owners has, in recent times, cursed the likes of Slaven Bilic (West Ham), Ronald Koeman (Everton), Claudio Ranieri (Leicester), and Alan Pardew (Crystal Palace), the Sack Race notes.
After just 12 days, the board have changed their support for the manager, who has been at the helm since 2013, to considering whether he should depart from the bet365 stadium. While the board of directors have not met to formally discuss Hughes' position, the BBC reports, they are weighing up the options. It is understood that Stoke chairman, Peter Coates, is reluctant to sack Hughes, but he is concerned about their slump in form.
However, the Welshman is likely to be saved by the lack of viable replacements, according to the Independent. The Potters will only consider replacing the former Fulham and Blackburn Rovers boss with a proven Premier League manager. Currently, there are few immediately available managers that would represent an upgrade on 'Sparky', with some of the possible replacements finding employment elsewhere.
The 54-year-old has maintained that he is still the right man for the job, asking reporters: "Who else is going to do it?" After being questioned on his selection tactics that back-fired, Hughes stormed out of a post-match press conference. Before losing his cool, he responded to chants from supporters demanding "Hughes Out": “It’s to be expected. I think for the last two or three weeks the agenda in the media and on lots of platforms, on social media, that’s what was going to happen. The noise only goes away if you win.
“In terms of the knowledge of the group and the progress in my time here I’m the best person to do it.”
Stoke City play Coventry City in the FA Cup third round next, taking on the Sky Blues at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday (K.O. 3pm). The Potters' next league game is against Manchester United on January 15 at Old Trafford (K.O. 8pm).