Mark Hughes has been confirmed as the new Fulham manager and will already be setting his sights on bringing fresh faces to Craven Cottage as well as retaining old ones.
The former Blackburn Rovers and Wales gaffer has been out of football since being sacked as Manchester City boss in December 2009, but will need to get to work quickly if Fulham are to avoid relegation as easily as they did last term, with the side 7/1 to go down.
After penning a two-year deal and bringing over his team of assistants – including No2 Mark Bowen, goalkeeping coach Kevin Hitchcock and first-team coach Eddie Niedzwiecki – top of Hughes’s list will be retaining the services of Mark Schwarzer.
The 37-year-old Australian is the subject of serious interest from Arsenal, with the Gunners close to offering £3.5million for the shot-stopper, and should a firm bid materialise it seems likely Hughes will need to start shopping straight away.
England goalkeepers David James and Robert Green have reportedly been earmarked as potential replacements, with the former looking likeliest due to his status as a free agent.
However, with his position as Manchester City’s first choice in doubt, Joe Hart could be the first player raided from Hughes’s old club. A loan move similar to the one which saw the 23-year-old switch to Birmingham last season could prove attractive to all concerned.
More probable, however, is a move for City’s Craig Bellamy, who looks like being left out of a 25-man squad should he stay at Eastlands.
Hughes has worked with the 31-year-old forward at every team he’s managed and signed him twice. 46-year-old Hughes got the best out of his fellow Welshman at Blackburn and should he do that again a top six spot for Fulham would not be out of the question.
That’s currently a doubtful 11/1 chance, but Bellamy and Hughes managed the feat at Rovers in 2005/06.
With City needing to shed players, Hughes could also swoop for Roque Santa Cruz and Stephen Ireland – each a quality purchase – while offers for Aston Villa’s Steve Sidwell and Luke Young would also strengthen in needed areas.
Despite only just being installed as boss, Hughes is 12/1 to be the first Premier League boss to leave a club this season. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is the 5/1 favourite in that market.