Sparky Hughes to light up the Potters

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Stoke is known as a hot-bed of darts and the Big Cheeses at the Brittania Stadium could hit the bullseye with the appointment of Manchester United legend Mark Hughes.

The odds for Sparky to replace Tony Pulis in the Stoke City hot-seat have plummeted to 11/8 after heavy speculation linking the ex-Wales boss to the vacancy.

Although the Potters faithful still harbour hopes for Roberto Martinez (10/1) and his attractive style of play, doubts remain over his availabilty, and time is of the essence.

The club have claimed there’s no rush but with the players due back for pre-season training, almost before the severed animal heads have been removed from their lockers, and crucial squad decisions to be made on goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and wantaway midfielder Steven Nzonzi, a swift appointment is crucial.

Whether Hughes remains the answer to Stoke’s desire to change their style of play remains to be seen however. The OBE holder will deserve a knighthood if he can get these long ball specialists to string five passes together.

Once heralded as the next big thing, the unemployed manager’s career has stalled somewhat, after disastrous spells at Fulham and QPR as his man management and record in the transfer market has come into question.

But others will point to his work at Blackburn, who he guided into the UEFA Cup after finishing sixth in the league and into three consecutive FA Cup semi-finals.

Stoke aren’t going to become Barcelona overnight and their requirements for a firm hand and a strong presence to ensure their continued Premier League survival could give the silver haired former sharp-shooter the nod.

All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date

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