As Stoke City prepare for their first campaign with their new boss, Vincent Ralph asks what Hughes can expect from the coming season.
For a club that, in more recent times, is most famous for a player who can throw the ball, Stoke City have defied the odds to become “established”.
And yet that could all be about to change, even with the arrival of a manager who seems perfect for them.
When Mark Hughes was first appointed as Tony Pulis’s successor I hailed it as the perfect appointment. Despite his less than successful stint in charge of QPR, Hughes’ time at Blackburn Rovers proved what he could do when given the time and the materials.
And yet my fear for the Potters is not in their manager’s ability, but in their lack of summer spending at a time when their rivals have seemingly shaken every last penny from their pockets.
Stoke are continuing their efforts to bring in at least one new forward, and a fresh and effective strike-force would see me if not eat my words than certainly shut up.
But until that time, I worry Stoke will suffer both from a lack of new arrivals and Hughes’ efforts to change a playing style that may be ingrained in the club’s longer servants.
Previously the Britannia Stadium has been something of a retirement home for England strikers past. Hughes must change that, and the arrival of Mame Biram Diouf would go a long way to doing so.
I would like the season ahead to hold only good things for Hughes. Both at Ewood Park and during his time as manager of Wales he impressed me greatly. But I have predicted Stoke will finish 19th, and only a late flurry of savvy transfers will completely change my mind.
Hughes has many doubters to prove wrong. And that in itself may be the fuel needed to fire not just survival but significantly more.
Their fans won’t agree with me. Sometimes I don’t agree with me
But I predict another season of struggles for Hughes; although even as I write, I have a growing feeling he will prove me wrong.
image: © ronnie macdonald