By Sean Hartnett
Mark Hughes has beaten out the likes of Alan Curbishley, Sven-Göran Eriksson, Bob Bradley, Jürgen Klinsmann, and Dave Jones to replace Liverpool’s Roy Hodgson as Fulham manager. According to various reports, 46 year-old Welshman could be named new Cottagers boss in a matter of days and is already preparing his transfer plans.
Hughes could make Manchester City forward Craig Bellamy his first signing when he takes over at Craven Cottage. The two have previously worked together with the Welsh national team, Blackburn Rovers and recently at Man City.
It seems that since their initial time together while Hughes was managing Wales, they have developed a strong understanding of one another. Bellamy has played his best football under Hughes and would be eager to link up with him once again. Many high-profile managers have failed to understand Bellamy and clashed with his fiery persona.
Harry Redknapp has declared his interest in the 31 year-old and is said to be readying a £4m offer to tempt Man City who are likely to part ways with the forward. Many pundits and columnists felt that Bellamy would surely land at White Hart Lane but Hughes could have the edge in acquiring him.
If Spurs win the race for Bellamy’s signature, Hughes could turn to Robbie Keane who Redknapp is willing to let go at a cut-rate price. Either way, there is a decent chance that Hughes can sign a top-notch striker to play alongside the late-blooming Bobby Zamora.
Arsenal continue their pursuit of Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer and Hughes will be looking for a replacement if the Gunners can pry him away. England international Robert Green has been mentioned as a possibility but West Ham will be likely to make it clear they’re not interested in selling him as they have with captain Scott Parker. Aston Villa’s defender Curtis Davies has been linked to Fulham and his midfield teammate Steve Sidwell has been a long-term target.
It wouldn’t be shocking if Hughes also tried to also pursue some of his former players who he worked at with City like Stephen Ireland, Nedum Onuoha, and Wayne Bridge as Roberto Mancini tries to trim his squad before the summer transfer window closes.
Hughes should lift the Fulham dressing room as the squad have been looking for someone to come in and take charge after the departure of Hodgson. His methods at City made him very popular amongst his players who rallied behind him and displayed unhappiness at his dismissal.
Fulham have will have an outside chance of reaching a Europa League place under Hughes especially if he is able to attract some of the talent rumored to be heading to Craven Cottage. His appointment would give the club a steady presence, similar to the approach under Hodgson.