Hughes denies he's in the last-chance saloon

A frustrated Stoke manager Mark Hughes during the 0-3 home loss to West Ham last week. Their defensive record is especially bad, letting in more than two goals a game on average.
A frustrated Stoke manager Mark Hughes during the 0-3 home loss to West Ham last week. Their defensive record is especially bad, letting in more than two goals a game on average.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Stoke manager Mark Hughes has rubbished reports that he will go into today's Premier League clash against West Bromwich Albion facing the sack should the hosts lose.

His side are 17th - a point clear of the relegation zone - after a run of six defeats in seven games.

But Hughes insists that the Stoke board remains behind him.

"No, I don't think that's where we are at," he told a press conference yesterday, referring to the possibility of being unemployed by Christmas Day. "The media will set timelines, but that's not what is happening in the corridors here in my view.

"We're in a situation where we are not where we expected to be, we all acknowledge that, but I would be more concerned if I felt the side didn't have the capabilities to get more points on the board from this point onward.

"A lot of the comments come from people who haven't even bothered to watch our games, they're just picking up on hearsay, elaborating and embellishing things."

One reason why Stoke have yet to act could be because they have no obvious alternative to Hughes.

Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew and David Moyes would all have been contenders for the post had they not returned to management in the Premier League over the past couple of months.

Still, there is a feeling that collectively the players are badly underachieving and one of the biggest concerns is the team's defensive record - the worst in the league by far. They have conceded 39 goals, averaging more than two per game and they look particularly loose after falling behind.

Unrest has been festering among Stoke fans since last season, when they ended up 13th after three successive top-10 finishes, and it is easy to imagine Hughes facing a considerable backlash from supporters if West Brom win.

With the visitors without a victory in all competitions in 17 matches and lying second bottom in the table, the game is a critical one for both clubs.

Stoke could be without injured defenders Erik Pieters and Kurt Zouma.

"Our record in defence is nowhere near as good as we wanted it to be, but we haven't been in a position where we have been able to call upon the same personnel week in, week out," said Hughes.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2017, with the headline 'Hughes denies he's in the last-chance saloon'. Print Edition | Subscribe