Sparky charged with igniting Stoke's fortunes

Posted by James Whittaker

Mark Hughes has been named as the man to replace Tony Pulis at Stoke City, the Welshman signing a three-year deal.

His swift recruitment means Stoke were without a manager for a relatively brief spell and can now quickly start plugging some of the gaps left by the previous regime. Whilst Hughes can be considered as a sensible choice, his appointment hasn't been universally celebrated as many saw the exit of Pulis as an opportunity to change direction completely. Hughes' arrival is likely to mean incremental improvement rather than revolution. However, if we're being honest, that was never going to be the case.

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Peter Coates and his family have made their money from betting. Betting is about risk and reward; they are business people and have made a business decision to bring in a steady pair of hands who has committed to utilising the academy as well as improving on the defensive, negative displays so common under Pulis. No, he doesn't have a tan or a foreign accent (though he is Welsh) so he's naturally seen as a dull option by many blindly mesmerised by the Latino swagger of relegated Roberto Martinez and the unproven, erratic Gus Poyet.

Hughes' naysayers may have forgotten just how poor the last couple of seasons have been, they say that this is not a change in direction or, indeed, progress. But I will put money on the fact that this manager will buy a left-back, won't play Ryan Shotton on the wing and will give Jon Walters a well earned rest. That in itself is improvement and to say otherwise is plain ignorance.

Hughes' record in management - with Blackburn, Manchester City, Fulham and QPR - has been well covered over the last couple of weeks so I won't go into that detail, though I will say that it shows that he has done very well at clubs the same size as Stoke with sensible and patient owners.

With such a huge turnover of staff and players, so many gaping holes in the squad and the need to operate in a more financially responsible manner, hiring a young, unproven option would have been foolish. That fact that Hughes has been given a three-year deal - rather than the rolling 12 month deal that was rumoured - means the former Manchester United striker has the backing for the long-term and will have plenty of time to steady the ship and start to steer it in the right direction.

Hughes' arrival also brings a sense of excitement to Stoke again, and it's been a long time since that has been the case. His appointment promises to herald the return of basic luxuries such as specialist full-backs, midfielders that are allowed to carry the ball and maybe even strikers whose primary job is stay up-field and score goals.

Who knows, Stoke may even start signing players before 23.45 on transfer deadline day, and with the kind of players Hughes has brought in at previous clubs, there is plenty for their fans to get excited about.

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