Stoke transformation makes case for Hughes being Britain’s best
After Sir Alex Ferguson carved himself the title of ‘most successful British manager of all time’ in a sustained period of brilliance at Manchester United, all other bosses to have battled against the Scot in the Premier League era, or followed since, pale in comparison.
However there is still a very healthy crop of top-flight bosses flying the Union Jack, with nine in all pitting their wits against the likes of Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.
In top-tier terms, some are greener than grass compared to Ferguson, such as Tim Sherwood, Garry Monk, Eddie Howe and Alex Neil, though all have impressed for different reasons early in their managerial careers.
Then there is an inbetweener like Brendan Rodgers. The Northern Irishman’s sophisticated brand of football at Swansea auditioned him for the Liverpool hotseat, though his title near miss at Anfield has been labelled as a fortune of circumstances by his harshest critics.
Among the David Brent-esque techno babble, there is clearly a very competent coach, but if his latest, expensive Reds incarnation fail to produce again, his stint in the highest echelons could be consigned to history.
After Rodgers this leaves an interesting crop of experienced campaigners who could easily claim to be the best of British, though jobless Sam Allardyce is excluded, perhaps unfairly, from the list.
On the verge of adding another fancy name to his ranks at Stoke in the form of Xherdan Shaqiri if reports ring true, it’s Mark Hughes who is presenting a very strong case to be at the pinnacle of this group right now.
Alan Pardew and fellow countryman Tony Pulis, both have individual managerial awards to make their claims ahead of the Welshman, while Steve McClaren is the only one with a foreign league title and a major domestic cup on his CV.
It’s all a matter of opinion and all the above have blemishes at various clubs on their resumes, as does Hughes, but Sparky may finally be getting the recognition he’s been starved of thanks to his work at Stoke.
Pulis gets definite credit for laying the rock-solid foundations at the Britannia, but Hughes has undoubtedly brought the club on, not only by achieving the Potters’ best ever Premier League points haul last season, but by altering their identity.
Stoke are much easier on the eye in a style sense, playing expansively last season at times, while Hughes has managed to attract the flair players such as Bojan, Ibrahim Afellay and now quite probably Shaqiri.
Although the Potters lost to a moment of Philippe Coutinho magic on day one, they are still strong 7/5 shots to place in the top half come May and even shorter, at 11/10, to finish above Midlands rivals Aston Villa, Leicester and West Brom.
Hughes has been a prickly customer at times in the past, failed at QPR and was deemed unworthy of ushering in Manchester City’s moneyed era.
However, he’s transforming Stoke into a fashionable Premier League destination which seems to transcend everything and everyone else at present.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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