Mark Hughes the right man to take Fulham forward
Mark Hughes has been selected as the man to build upon the foundations laid by Roy Hodgson at Craven Cottage. The Welshman is the correct choice as it leaves Fulham in capable and ambitious hands.
Whoever ended up at the helm, an unenviable task was always going to await the Cottagers’ next manager. Replacing the popular and successful Hodgson is an almost impossible undertaking.
But it now falls to Hughes to stamp his own identity upon the club and a British manager was a sensible choice.
The time it would take Roberto Donadoni to settle into English football and the media circus which would follow Sven-GÃƒÂ¶ran Eriksson made them both unsuitable options.
The foreign candidates which lay at Chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed’s disposal such as Donadoni and Eriksson may have added glamour to the modest surroundings at Craven Cottage, but there would be no guarantee of instant success.
Vitally, Hughes has Premier League experience in abundance. He worked under tight financial constraints at Blackburn Rovers with an average squad and displayed a sharp eye for a bargain -the signing of Roque Santa Cruz a testament to his talent-spotting ability.
Other acute acquisitions include Bennie McCarthy for £2 million, Christopher Samba for a measley £400,000 and Stephen Warnock, who was prised from Liverpool for £1.5 million.
It bodes well for Fulham fans who have become accustomed to bargain purchases for small fees.
And a quick glance at his record in the League shows that Hughes breeds success. For a club with moderate funds, under the guidance of the former Manchester United forward, Blackburn finished 14th, 6th, 10th and 7th.
Similar to Blackburn, Fulham will not be expected to challenge the financial mite of the top six clubs. Thus they will look towards lengthy campaigns in the domestic cup competitions to provide chances of silverware.
During Hughes’ four-year spell at Ewood Park, Blackburn reached three consecutive FA Cup semi-finals. Additionally, in the League Cup, Manchester United narrowly defeated Hughes’ side in the semi-finals in 2005-06.
Al-Fayed has a reputation as a difficult chairman to work with. Yet Hughes dealt admirably with the weight of expectation that he shouldered during his time at Manchester City.
His eventual dismissal from Eastlands was met with outrage throughout the Premier League. The facts showed Hughes was a mere six points away from the objective demanded by the City hierarchy: fourth place.
Fulham’s style of football has improved in recent years under Hodgson and it would be folly to suggest that the great European nights, such the magical performance against Juventus, will be instantly replicated by Hughes.
Yet the Welsh manager’s passion will propel Fulham to continued success. And it is not unforeseeable that Fulham will grace a domestic cup final in coming seasons with the good times at Craven Cottage looking set to continue.