Forget Villa, Mark Hughes is the man for Chelsea
After quitting Fulham, could Sparky be set to pick up the reins at Stamford Bridge?
Fulham manager Mark Hughes quit Craven Cottage this week amid speculation that he was set to take over at Aston Villa after the enforced departure of Gerard Houllier due to bad health. But with the Birmingham club denying claims that Sparky is on their wanted list, could he be set to make the short journey across west London to Chelsea?
At first glance he might not appear to be the sort of sophisticated operator usually seen in the Stamford Bridge dugout, but there are several factors that make him an ideal candidate for the role.
And while Guus Hiddink remains the favourite for the vacant Chelsea job, Hughes may actually be a better bet:
He UNDERSTANDS the 'impossible job' Hughes knows all about the pressure of working for a super-rich club with an ambitious owner. After leaving Blackburn in 2008 he took over from Sven-Goran Eriksson at Eastlands, and three months later the club was bought by the Abu Dhabi United investment group. Although his relationship with the owners was not brilliant and he left the job 15 months later, he proved himself more than capable of handling the twin pressures of an unlimited budget and a demanding owner.
He made some astute signings as City manager and most pundits thought he was unlucky to get the bullet in late 2009 despite having lost two games in the first four months of the season. Among the players he brought to the club were Vincent Kompany, Nigel de Jong and Carlos Tevez. However he did also splash £30m on Robinho and bring in Emmanuel Adebayor and Wayne Bridge.
He knows how to handle playersOne of the biggest problems at a club like Chelsea is how to keep the dressing room happy. Hughes is a respected former professional who has rarely had any trouble on that front. Indeed, when he was kicked out of Manchester City there was a player revolt lead by Shay Given and Craig Bellamy, while Carlos Tevez was less than impressed and has been talking about leaving ever since.
He is ambitiousHughes said his decision to quit Fulham was in order to "further my experiences". Most interpret that as meaning that he felt that the Cottagers were too small a club for his talents.
He also said: "I would also like to take this opportunity to clarify that neither myself nor my representative have approached or have been approached by another club." That is a statement that amounts to a come-and-get-me plea in the football world.
Fulham are also said to be furious that Hughes appeared to be flirting with bigger clubs while negotiating a new deal at Craven Cottage.
It has also been reported that Fulham were unable to meet the financial demands of Hughes agent, Kia Joorabchian. That, of course, would not be a problem for a club like Chelsea.
He has links to Stamford BridgeSparky spent three seasons as a player at Chelsea between 1995 and 1998 as he began to wind down his career. And, despite being in his thirties, Hughes was crucial to the resurgence of Chelsea as a force in English football.
During his time as a player at Stamford Bridge he helped the Blues win the FA Cup in 1997 and the League Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup in 1998. He eventually left for Southampton in the summer of 1998.
In 2008 after the departure of Avram Grant Hughes was widely tipped to take over at the Bridge. In the end he went to City while Luiz Felipe became Chelsea boss. Scolari turned out to be a flop and Roman Abramovich may not want to let Hughes slip thorugh his fingers again.
He has beaten United and ArsenalIf Chelsea are to win back the Premier League title next season they will have to see off their main challengers, who are likely to be the two Manchester clubs, City and United.
Hughes would obviously love to get one over on City, but more significantly he is one of the few managers to have played under Alex Ferguson to have got the better of him. He also got under the skin of the United boss while he was at Blackburn.
Hughes' Blackburn were also renowned for mugging Arsenal, who may also pose a threat in the title race.
Overall, his managerial record is impressive. He turned around a struggling Wales team in his first job and almost got them to Euro 2004 after beating Italy in qualifying.
At Blackburn he overachieved and even got the club into Europe, while he got the ball rolling at Manchester City and helped Fulham to a top 10 finish last season.
He has crossed the city beforeFulham fans would see Hughes's defection to Chelsea as the ultimate betrayal, but Hughes has shown that he is unconcerned about such matters. It once seemed inconceivable that an Old Trafford legend would take over as the boss of their bitter rivals Manchester City, but Hughes was happy to take the post. He also persuaded another United favourite Carlos Tevez to trade in red for blue. Quite a feat.
After all that Hughes would surely not be bothered by moving from one London club to another, even if they are in the same borough. ·
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