Saints not affected by 'dark arts': Hughes

Swansea City's Connor Roberts looking dejected after the Premier League match on Tuesday as Southampton players celebrate their 1-0 win, which saw them move up to 16th place. The Swans appear likely to face the drop as West Brom became the second tea
Swansea City's Connor Roberts looking dejected after the Premier League match on Tuesday as Southampton players celebrate their 1-0 win, which saw them move up to 16th place. The Swans appear likely to face the drop as West Brom became the second team to be relegated this season.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON• Mark Hughes enjoyed a measure of personal redemption on Tuesday after guiding Southampton to near certain safety in the Premier League with a vital 1-0 win at Swansea, after he was sacked by relegated Stoke earlier in the campaign.

The victory was achieved against a backdrop of what Hughes deemed as "dark arts at work" after the preparation for the match was hit by the last-minute cancellation of their team hotel in Swansea, Wales.

The Saints were forced to scramble for another option in the Vale Resort - a location that was 35km from where they had originally intended to stay - and following their win at the Liberty Stadium, the club trolled the Swans by posting a sarcastic one-star TripAdvisor review on the Swansea Marriott Hotel yesterday.

The review, which has since gone viral on Twitter, read: "Had been due to stay here for an extremely important business meeting only to have our reservation cancelled 24 hours before arrival due to an apparent virus outbreak. Very disappointing as other guests' bookings seem to be unaffected... Not planning to return any time soon."

And Hughes suggested that the disruption served only as a form of motivation.

"It's just maybe over-zealous Swansea fans in positions to affect our hotel booking," he said.

"But those things you can use to your own benefit and use as a motivating factor... we weren't going to be denied and messed about."

The Welshman had been handed the task of rescuing the Saints from the threat of relegation when he was appointed in March and was a strange choice in many people's eyes, having left his former team in a similar predicament.

Yet, his mission was accomplished after substitute Manolo Gabbiadini's second-half winner moved Southampton three points clear of the drop zone for their second league win in three games.

The result also meant that 19th-placed West Bromwich Albion were relegated.

With goal difference handing Southampton a comfortable cushion heading into their final league match at home to champions Manchester City, it would take a remarkable turnaround for them to fall out of the top flight.

The crestfallen Swansea players were in marked contrast to Southampton's jubilant celebrations at the final whistle.

Swansea's great escape can only materialise if they overcome Stoke on Sunday while Huddersfield have to lose their final two games.

Were that to happen, they would finish above the Terriers on goal difference.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2018, with the headline 'Saints not affected by 'dark arts': Hughes'. Print Edition | Subscribe