Hughes’ difficult second season awaits

On the morning of November 23rd 2013 when Tony Pulis was appointed manager, Crystal Palace were rock bottom of the Barclays Premier League with just four points from their first 11 games. The Eagles were six points and a seven-goal swing from the safety of 17th position.

Hughes’ difficult second season awaits

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Andy

May 26th, 2014

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On the morning of November 23rd 2013 when Tony Pulis was appointed manager, Crystal Palace were rock bottom of the Barclays Premier League with just four points from their first 11 games. The Eagles were six points and a seven goal swing from the safety of 17th position.  It is therefore rather fitting that Pulis was named Manager of the Year for rescuing Crystal Palace. Of course, Tony didn’t just save his new team. He lifted them to the unfathomable heights of 11th.

Pulis had to battle with Liverpool’s manager Brendan Rodgers for the right to be called the best manager of the Premier League season. However, the mentions of Mark Hughes’ name were few and far between during awards season. Instead, the former Wales manager was allowed to get on with doing a terrific job of evolving Pulis’ Stoke side while maintaining their Premier League status.

Pulis joined Stoke in May 2006 and left in May 2013. In those seven years with the club, he instilled a hard-working mentality around the Britannia Stadium that wasn’t always pleasant to watch but delivered important results.

In taking that over, Mark Hughes had a delicate job on his hands. Too much of a revolution and he could risk damaging the solid foundations that Pulis had left behind and threaten their top-flight status. Instead, Hughes has helped Stoke City to their best ever Premier League finish and a spot in the top half for the time. He’s done it while improving the manner of their play and retaining the steel they had under Pulis.

It hasn’t been plain sailing but Hughes can look forward to the difficult second season with a hop in his step. He kept the Potters well clear of the relegation battle and can look to continue the evolution of the side into one that plays more attractive football rather than playing the percentages of exploiting set piece deliveries.

Hughes probably didn’t deserve the Manager of the Year. Only a fool would have tried to rip the incredible work done by Pulis in lifting the club from the Championship and into the Premier League. Mark has allowed those same players to act with a little more freedom and that has meant more goals for the fans to enjoy – sometimes at the wrong end of the pitch.

If he can continue to coax committed performances from those players while dropping in some with the flair of Mark Arnautovic then Mark Hughes could lift Stoke even higher up the pitch. They were only five wins from Manchester United after all.

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