By Sean Hartnett
Fulham would be wise to turn to former Manchester City boss Mark Hughes after Martin Jol was refused permission to leave his post at Ajax. Hughes was unlucky to be sacked by City after having a successful time at Eastlands and would relish the chance to again manage in the Premier League.
Many outlets have named Alan Curbishley as the favorite to take over at Craven Cottage (photo), but it’s hard to understand why Hughes wouldn’t fall on the top of Fulham’s wish list. His experience of handling the demands of Man City’s demanding owners and getting a collection of stars to gel together while at the club proves his pedigree.
When Hughes became City boss, it was clear that he wasn’t in charge of transfer plans, as their mega-rich owners wanted a strong say in who was signed. Although Hughes did have some input, most of the players weren’t his picks. The Welsh manager proved a lot of doubters wrong when he got the group to play together as a team and set up future success for his replacement, Roberto Mancini.
His players fought hard for him and many of the club’s stars like Carlos Tévez, Craig Bellamy, Gareth Barry, and Wayne Bridge were fiercely loyal, expressing great regret to see him sacked. It seemed though that the events at City have increased Hughes’ reputation greatly, and it is surprising that he wasn’t strongly considered for the West Ham job and that he is behind Curbishley and possibly Sven-Göran Eriksson in the race to become the next Fulham boss.
While at Blackburn, Hughes showed the ability to get the most out of their budget by making a number of good value signings. Captain Ryan Nelsen was signed on a free transfer, and the powerful defender Christopher Samba was brought in for £400K. Hughes got the best out of David Bentley in a fantastic £500K signing which led to the winger’s move to Tottenham. He also had fellow Welshman Craig Bellamy playing the best football of his career which earned him his “dream move” to Liverpool.
Hughes was able to get Blackburn into the UEFA Cup and the club finished as high as sixth under his guidance. That, combined with his ability to get the Manchester City stars all on the same page, shows that he’s more than capable of taking the Fulham job. It would be a smart move for the Cottagers to give him the role vacated by the departure of Roy Hodgson to Liverpool.