Mark Hughes walked into Stoke City on Thursday with a sideswipe at Queens Park Rangers for the blot left on his managerial CV and claimed that working at a stable, well-run club will help restore his sanity.
"I am an experienced Premier League manager and, with all the changes that have been going on, there aren't many with as much experience as me," the former Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, Fulham and QPR manager said. "At two of my last three clubs the ownership changed shortly after I arrived and I don't want to go through that process again, it's not easy.
"So one of the first questions I asked of the Coates family at Stoke was: 'Are you going to stick around?' They said yes and that's a real attraction for me. The stability of the club and the people I know who are involved are reassuring. I work best under those circumstances. My intention, for my own sanity, is to repair my reputation at Stoke City and stay here for as long as I can."
The 49-year-old former Manchester United striker is aware he will have to win over a section of his new public first – some Stoke supporters made their dissatisfaction known when Hughes' name began to be linked with the position left vacant by Tony Pulis – but is confident he can achieve the sort of results to change their minds. "I can understand it if some fans are set against me; for the last six months they have been told that my ability as a manager is in question," he said.
"When you lose a job in the circumstances in which I left QPR there is always a worry you might not get another chance but I have always had faith in my ability to manage at this level. I have been in charge of around 280 Premier League games. I know what it's about.
"I understand it if people want to judge me on the last 12 at QPR because that's the recent thing but thankfully the people in charge of Stoke looked beyond that and deemed me the right fit. They made the decision that I was the best guy for their club and the supporters can take comfort, like I do, from the fact they didn't go down the populist route or pick someone who is fashionable or in vogue. They did the due diligence and actually looked at my record as a Premier League manager, spoke to people I have worked with, and I am grateful for that," the former Manchester United striker said.
"Now I have what I wanted, the opportunity to work hard and show that what people said about me when I left QPR was incorrect. Once the fans understand we are all working with the same aims, to move the club forward on all levels, I think they will get behind what we are trying to achieve. But initially we have to win matches. It's very simple. That's the nature of the business."
Winning matches proved far from simple at QPR, where Hughes admits he made mistakes, though points out that the problems Harry Redknapp identified when the club was relegated last month were in evidence when he first walked into Loftus Road. "A lot of the things Harry has said have resonance with me; I faced the same problems too," he said. "There was disaffection within the dressing room which was very difficult to sort out.
"With hindsight it was probably a mistake leaving Fulham in the first place, though I didn't feel I wanted to tie myself to the club for another three years. It seemed to be pitched that a lot of the problems at QPR came about as a consequence of what I did last summer but I didn't feel the squad was strong enough to stay in the Premier League and so I had to try to strengthen it.
"Players were brought in but to have a really strong club it's not just about the team on the field but the team off it and everything else that goes into it. If you don't have strong pillars underpinning what you do it is very difficult to be successful. QPR did really well to stay in the Premier League in the first season, though that seems to have been airbrushed out of history now. I think maybe one of the failings was the lack of a collective, winning mentality. You can bring in players from top clubs but you still have to form a team that knows how to win Premier League matches, which is really difficult. Stoke have that already. That's why I am really pleased to be here. This is a strong squad in every sense. This is a group that is used to being in the Premier League, they have the mentality and the knowhow to win games, without a shadow of a doubt."
Peter Coates, the Stoke chairman, described the QPR experience as a "blip" on his new manager's career, but one he was willing to overlook in offering a three-year contract. "He's been pretty successful everywhere else," Coates said. "You possibly have to look at the experience of the people behind QPR. After all, three pretty solid managers worked at the club in the past two seasons and they all found it difficult." Coates was able to confirm that Kia Joorabchian, the agent who loomed large over Hughes' time at Manchester City, was never involved in negotiations, and neither is he expected to be. "His name has never been mentioned, he has had no dealings with the transaction," Coates said. "We don't see him being an issue for this club."
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