Hughes insists he didn't gamble with line-ups

Newcastle's Mohamed Diame (far left) and Jonjo Shelvey trying to rob Stoke's Peter Crouch of the ball. Mark Hughes' decision to field a weakened team at Chelsea and bring back his senior players for Newcastle backfired as they lost both games.
Newcastle's Mohamed Diame (left) and Jonjo Shelvey trying to rob Stoke's Peter Crouch of the ball. Mark Hughes' decision to field a weakened team at Chelsea and bring back his senior players for Newcastle backfired as they lost both games.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Mark Hughes maintained he is the "best person" for the job at Stoke despite renewed calls from supporters for him to be sacked in the wake of a fifth defeat in seven Premier League matches.

The Stoke manager brought himself under added pressure by fielding a weakened team for the 5-0 defeat at Chelsea on Saturday and that gamble failed to pay off as his side lost 0-1 at home against Newcastle on Monday.

Although Hughes insisted he had no regrets about his team selection at Chelsea and claimed he "would still make the same decision given the same circumstances again", the Welshman lost his cool when pressed on that subject after Newcastle's win and stormed out of his post-match press conference.

The 54-year-old, who brought back Xherdan Shaqiri, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Joe Allen among six changes for Newcastle's visit, said: "Everyone's saying that I gambled but I used the players that I had. What was I going to do, risk players that had a big part to play today? Plenty of teams have made changes today, everyone else is doing it too...

"The plan was clearly if we could have stayed in the game a bit longer at Chelsea, maybe until half-time, then if we were in striking distance, get some more senior players and 'let's have a go'. As it was the game was over after 30 minutes, so I made the decision to protect them for this game.

"If I had won today it would have been great management. As it happens, it's gone against me. I'm brave enough to take it on the chin."

Ayoze Perez's 73rd-minute winner for Newcastle left Stoke only two points and two places above the relegation zone. Their haul of 20 points from 22 games this season is their worst return at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 1984-85. But Hughes - in charge of the Potters since 2013 - was bullish about his position even after some fans held up banners calling for the manager to be sacked.

"Who else is going to do it?" he replied, when asked about his future. "In terms of the knowledge of the group and the progress in my time here, I'm the best person to do it."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2018, with the headline 'Hughes insists he didn't gamble with line-ups'. Print Edition | Subscribe