Mark Hughes

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“A new impulse” – Hughes, Hojbjerg hope to ride Saints momentum

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It’s safe to say this is a season neither Mark Hughes nor Southampton had planned when it began this summer.

Saints are plodding along near the bottom of the table for most of the campaign while Hughes was fired from his post as Stoke City boss as his club found a similar level of underachievement.

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Now both have a chance to stay in the Premier League together, and took a decent step in establishing some positive momentum with a 2-0 FA Cup win over Wigan Athletic on Sunday.

“I think I speak on everyone’s behalf when I say it has been positive,” said Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. “It is a new impulse, new energy, good vibes, a fresh start. He worked a lot on intensity and discipline, and the desire to go the extra yards as individuals and as a team.

“We have some really good players and maybe this is the perfect fit, nothing is perfect in this world but it’s a good start, let me just say that.”

As for Hughes, his hiring comes straight out of the relegation scrap playbook. And it comes as no surprise he’s following it to a T when it comes to post-match talk.

He’s starting with the fans.

“We thank each and every one of them,” Hughes said, “Because it’s clearly not been an easy period for anybody with allegiances to Southampton FC.

“I like to think this was a reflection of what this group can do for them – we just need their support from now until the end of the season.

“If we get that, which I’m sure we will on the evidence of today, and everybody’s in it together, we will be fine.”

It is absurdly early in Hughes stint to make judgments, but Sunday’s win is a positive start. Next up is a critical tilt at West Ham on March 31, and a win will push Saints ahead of their hosts.

Southampton confirms “Saint” Hughes as new manager

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Using the hopeful hashtag #SaintHughes, Southampton confirmed reports that Mark Hughes will be its new manager.

The ex-Stoke City and Manchester City boss will take the reigns for the final eight matches as the Saints attempt to avoid dropping into the Bottom Three.

Saints are just a point above the drop zone and have had loads of trouble scoring goals this season. A lifeless 3-0 walloping at the hands of Newcastle United was the final straw for Mauricio Pellegrino.

[ MORE: Barca-Chelsea recap | Quarterfinal field set ]

Hughes was fired by Stoke City this season after four-and-a-half years, and the Potters have not recovered from a poor start. Now Hughes could be the man who helps condemn his former club in the manager’s chair of his new one.

He can experiment with his lineup on Saturday at Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup quarterfinals en route to a massive run-in in which Southampton faces West Ham, Arsenal, Swansea City, Chelsea, Bournemouth, Leicester City, Everton and Manchester City.

The Welsh national team legend who starred as a forward at Manchester United and Chelsea has also managed Fulham, Queens Park Rangers, Blackburn Rovers, and Wales.

Southampton close in on Mark Hughes

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Southampton is set to turn to an experienced Premier League manager to save them from sleepwalking into relegation.

Pro Soccer Talk understand that Mark Hughes is the overwhelming favorite to take charge of Saints after they fired Argentine coach Mauricio Pellegrino on Monday following a 3-0 defeat at Newcastle where he accused his players of “giving up” during a dreadful display.

It is believed Southampton aren’t set to appoint Hughes imminently, while other candidates such as former Hull City and Watford manager Marco Silva, plus ex-West Ham boss Slaven Bilic, aren’t currently in the running.

Current Southampton assistant coach and former goalkeeper Kelvin Davis took training on Tuesday after Pellegrino’s departure following just one win in their last 17 Premier League games.

Information obtained by Pro Soccer Talk from a source close to the situation revealed that Southampton aim to have their new manager in charge before this weekend. They play at third-tier Wigan Athletic on Sunday in the FA Cup quarterfinal for a place at Wembley in the last four of the competition.

Premier League survival is the main aim but whoever takes over could well be just 180 minutes from leading Saints to a major cup final. The main aim will be turning around the displays of a group of players who many feel have had too much of a say in how the club is run during the short reigns of Claude Puel and Pellegrino over the past 18 months.

Hughes, 54, has been out of work since being fired by Stoke City in January but it is hoped the former Southampton striker (Hughes scored twice in 52 Premier League appearances in a deeper midfield role for Saints from 1998-00) can galvanize a talented squad and pull them through in the final eight games of the season. Hughes has never been relegated as a Premier League manager and with his former club Stoke also in the PL relegation battle with Saints, it may be a way to show his former employers what they’re missing.

Saints are currently one place and one point above the relegation zone and realistically need three more wins (they only managed five in 30 games this season under Pellegrino) to stay out of the bottom three.

After spending the past five seasons at Stoke, Hughes led the Potters to three-straight ninth place finishes before a 13th place finish last season and then a poor start to the current campaign which cost him his job.

While some may question Saints hiring a manager from the merry-go-round with Hughes having a mixed bag of results managing Blackburn, Manchester City, Fulham, QPR and Stoke over the years, it may well spark their under-performing squad into life. Hughes is well known to be a “players’ coach” and could inspire a complete shakeup at St Mary’s in the final months of the season.

With Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman, Claude Puel and Pellegrino the last four managers at Southampton, hiring an experienced, British PL boss will be a big shift in direction from Saints. At this point they will do whatever they can to secure their Premier League status.

Hughes will have his work cut out to do that with Saints still to play Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton and Man City in their final eight games of the season, while five of the eight games are away from home.

Official: Mark Hughes out as Stoke manager

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Stoke City have fired manager Mark Hughes after four and a half years in the job.

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Hughes’ fate as Stoke City manager was sealed by the Potters’ shocking 2-1 defeat to League Two side Coventry City in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday, which followed a poor run of Premier League results — seven losses in their last 10 games — and having dropped into the relegation zone, currently 18th place with 20 points after 22 games.

[ MORE: FA Cup roundup — Man City down Burnley; Chelsea draw Norwich ]

“We would like to thank Mark for all he has achieved for the Club over the last four and a half years, notably in guiding us to three successive ninth places finishes in the Premier League, and we wish him every success for the future,” read the club statement.

Stoke will begin their search for a new manager immediately and expect “to appoint a new manager as soon as possible.”

Reports: Stoke board assessing Hughes’ position

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After losing seven of 10 games and sinking to within two points of the relegation zone, it was inevitable: members of the Stoke City board are said to be given consideration to firing manager Mark Hughes, according to multiple reports from the UK.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City, Spurs in action on Tuesday (TV, stream info) ]

Monday’s 1-0 home defeat to fellow relegation battlers Newcastle United, which culminated in stadium-wide chants of, “Hughes out,” could very well be his final game in charge of the club.

Speaking after the loss to Newcastle, Hughes was hugely defiant and insisted he was the right — and only — man for the job:

“Who else is going to do it? In terms of the knowledge of the group and the progress in my time here, I’m the best person to do it.”

“Everybody talks about the changes we made but Rafa Benitez made six changes, what’s the difference. I don’t see why my decisions are questioned. I am brave enough to take it on the chin.”

If Hughes is to go, Stoke would be wise to make the decision sooner rather than later, thus affording his replacement an opportunity to make one or two signings during the now-open January transfer window.

If Hughes remains the right man in the big picture, then he’s still the right man now, even after losing seven out of 10. However, nothing could further damage Stoke’s season than keeping Hughes in charge based on one or two decent results in the coming weeks, only for the team to tank again shortly there after before making a change after Jan. 31. This would be a rare instance where a swift decision is hugely preferred to a labored, wait-and-see saga.