Mark Hughes

Stoke City look to Mark Hughes as new manager?

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With rumors linking Rafael Benitez and plenty of others with the vacant manager’s job at Stoke City, Mark Hughes has today emerged as one of the frontrunners for the position.

Stoke City’s directors are said to think Hughes is a “good fit” for the club and they’ve contacted him about the position, after Tony Pulis left on Wednesday. 

While Benitez is said to be very close to taking over at Napoli, according to the Serie A teams president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

So with Rafa out of the picture, would Hughes really be a “good fit” for Stoke City?

I have my doubts. Yes he is hugely respected in the game after his glittering career with Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Chelsea to name but a few.

But after failing to led Manchester City to any silverware during his time in charge and millions spent, Hughes’ managerial career has taken a downward spiral.

He had one brief season at Fulham — remember that? — in 2010-11 when they finished eighth and qualified for a Europa League spot through the Fair Play route. However he left just 11 months into the job, stating “as a young, ambitious manager I wish to move on to further my experiences.”

So no disrespect to Stoke City, are the Potters a step up from the Cottagers?

Hughes then took over at Queens Park Rangers in 2012, keeping them in the Premier League on the final day of the season. But a woeful start to the 2012-13 campaign saw Hughes sacked and he’s been out of a job since. Seemingly he is waiting for the right offer to come along.

(More: Another EPL manager goes as Tony Pulis leaves Stoke City)

He is still a promising manager, and a delightful person on a one-to-one basis. But when he has to be, he can be stubborn, ruthless and extremely difficult to work with. But aren’t all good managers like that?

Hughes brought the Welsh national team to the brink of qualification for the 2004 European Championships in Portugal and then worked wonders at Blackburn Rovers in his first job in club football. They finished in the top six on a small budget and reached the last 32 of the UEFA Cup and multiple FA Cup semifinals.

However big-name signings at Manchester City let him down, badly. And Hughes’ figure on the sideline at the Etihad Stadium was often a forlorn one towards the end.

(More: How Pulis’ removal at Stoke may affect Cameron, Shea and Edu)

What can he change at Stoke? Well, not much. But if they want to continue with their hard-nosed approach and physical style of play, Hughes is your man.

Perhaps Stoke City’s director’s don’t want to steer too far away from the style they have in place at the moment. That would mean a huge overhaul of their squad, which just isn’t economical.

Hughes deserves a second, third or even fourth chance, if you call his time at Fulham a failure, at being an EPL manager.

But I would suspect this is his last chance saloon. Are Stoke City right to take a gamble on Hughes?

WATCH: Walcott compares Wenger speech to Pacino

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What if Tony D’Amato of American football was Antoine Dumond of the world’s game?

Theo Walcott says Arsene Wenger inspired him to make that comparison after a recent pregame speech, a fiery number that convinced the Arsenal attacker how badly his manager wanted to win the Premier League.

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Speaking to Arsenal TV for a series of questions on former and current teammates — and Wenger — Walcott shared a pretty funny tidbit:

“The manager did a speech the other day. I won’t be able to do the speech because it was that good.”

“It genuinely reminded me of the film ‘Any Given Sunday’. I actually said that to him, and I was little bit embarrassed.’ You remind me of that film, that speech,’ I didn’t know if he had seen the film.

“Just showing the passion and how hard, and how long it’s been as well. He really wants it, like all of his players.”

Here’s the thing, though: Walcott doesn’t give us the answer as to whether Wenger has seen “Any Given Sunday”. And how about you, Theo, do you see yourself in Willie Beamon or Cap Rooney?

CAS rejects Serbia’s challenge to Kosovo joining UEFA

Supporters of Kosovo's national soccer team raise Kosovo flag during their international friendly soccer match at Adem Jashari Stadium in Mitrovica, Kosovo on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Kosovo host Turkey for their second friendly match of the country's national football team. Turkey won the match 6-1. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Serbian soccer federation’s appeal against Kosovo joining UEFA has been rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The court ruled that Kosovo met the standard of UEFA entry rules because it is “recognized by the majority of the United Nations member states as an `independent state.”‘

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Serbia argued that Kosovo, which joined European soccer’s governing body last May despite not being a U.N. member, should be blocked.

CAS decided that because “there is no formal recognition of countries by the U.N.,” then acceptance of Kosovo’s statehood by most countries was valid for the soccer application.

European soccer federations voted 28-24 in favor of Kosovo’s entry to UEFA after Serbia led opposition to its former province.

Serbia and its allies, including Russia, have not recognized Kosovo since the Balkan republic declared independence in 2008.

UEFA’s decision led to Kosovo joining FIFA one week later, and being fast-tracked into a 2018 World Cup qualifying group.

Still, Ukraine hosted Kosovo in neutral Poland in October, because its government also does not recognize Kosovo’s statehood.

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”