Hughes puts more players on radar

Mark Hughes says Stoke, who were ninth in the Premier League in each of the last two seasons, will do even better if they start as strongly as they finish.
Mark Hughes says Stoke, who were ninth in the Premier League in each of the last two seasons, will do even better if they start as strongly as they finish.ST PHOTOS: JEREMY LIM
The team with the Barclays Asia Trophy.
The team with the Barclays Asia Trophy.

Stoke boss on the hunt as team arrive without N'Zonzi and Begovic, who look set to leave

They were conspicuous by their absence when the Stoke City team arrived in Singapore yesterday for next week's Barclays Asia Trophy.

Midfielder Steven N'Zonzi and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic were nowhere to be seen as their team-mates emerged from Changi Airport's JetQuay CIP Terminal, as they stayed behind amid transfer negotiations.

N'Zonzi is being courted by Spanish side Sevilla, while Chelsea reportedly want Begovic to replace the departed Petr Cech as back-up for Thibaut Courtois.

Stoke manager Mark Hughes sounded resigned to losing N'Zonzi when asked about his absence.

LOOKING UP

If we are successful in acquiring the right players, then we can finish better than ninth position and perhaps push for Europe.

MARK HUGHES, Stoke City manager

"Steven has not travelled with us," he said.

"He has been given permission to speak with Sevilla yesterday and we think that will probably end with Steven signing for them .

"But I've got good midfielders in the club with good variations like (Steve) Sidwell, (Glenn) Whelan and (Charlie) Adam. So, numbers-wise, I am okay."

With the new English Premier League season starting in just over a month , Hughes admits that the Potters are trying to sign more players, as they bid to maintain their status among the top 10 in the league.

They have already acquired Philipp Wollscheid from Bayer Leverkusen and goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard from FC Midtjylland, and have made a bid for Inter Milan's Xherdan Shaqiri.

Hughes said: "Shaqiri is very much a player whom we are interested in, but we have to show patience. It is a big decision for both the player and the two clubs, and we have to give enough time for it to happen.

"We are calm and have two months to go in the transfer window. We are among the top 10 in the Premier League and we have good reasons for players to think of us in a good way."

After being sacked in his two previous managerial stints with Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers, Hughes has found a degree of success with Stoke, leading them to a club-best ninth-place finish in both his two seasons in charge.

And the Welshman, who had a successful playing career as a striker for Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, is confident that Stoke can build on that success with some quality additions.

"We are a team that is progressing and I am pleased with the two years I had with Stoke," the 51-year-old said.

"If we are successful in acquiring the right players, then we can finish better than ninth position and perhaps push for Europe.

"My teams have always ended the season strongly because of the way we have trained consistently. So if we start as strongly as we finish, we will have a better season."

Which is why they are treating the Barclays Asia Trophy seriously, being the first EPL team to arrive ahead of Arsenal and Everton.

The three clubs, together with a Singapore Select XI, will vie for the trophy at the National Stadium on July 15 and 18.

Said Hughes: "We have come a long way, so it will be great to play well and we love to win. It's still early in our preparations so we are trying to get the guys up to fitness."

Defender Geoff Cameron sang a similar tune. The 29-year-old said: "Last season was encouraging after we ended strongly and are trying to start off this season on a good note.

"I am excited to play against the Singapore selection and it is going to be a great experience and we are going to make the most out of it. We are here to get fit and prepare for the months ahead."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline 'Hughes puts more players on radar'. Print Edition | Subscribe