Two Hughes proteges winging their way to Stoke?

Posted by James Whittaker

While Mark Hughes' to-do list as Stoke City's new manager is as long as Rory Delap's arms, one of his priorities will be to sort the wide midfield positions. He'll no doubt start that process by looking to players he knows well in those roles.

Two former players I think will be his first port of call are Junior Hoilett and David Bentley, who both have enjoyed successful times under Stoke’s new gaffer and are said to be available on free transfers from QPR and Tottenham, respectively.

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Bentley's and Hughes’ successes at Blackburn went hand-in-hand. Under the Welshman’s watchful eye, Bentley’s stock rocketed to such a degree that Spurs paid 15 million pounds for him on a six-year deal. The man once labeled as “David Beckham’s natural successor” failed to live up that billing and the successes at his previous club and with a number of failed loan spells since, his club are now ready to cut their losses.

A move back to join Hughes could see a return to form for the man who four years ago was quick to acknowledge the perils of being a young Premier League footballer:

“You need strong leadership from your manager to keep you focused . . . My gaffer at Blackburn gives me that. He won't try to be your friend; having a laugh and a joke. . . .He doesn't want to sit down for coffee.

"He and Mr. (Fabio) Capello (then with England) are my favourite kind of manager: disciplined.”

That discipline and stability saw Bentley as a key figure at Blackburn as he consistently delivered, not just from the wing, but by scoring his fair share, too. Hughes described him at the time as “a great talent with a big future”. Having failed to bring him to Fulham, Hughes will surely be picking up the phone once more to sound out a move to the Potteries.

Hoilett is more of an unknown quantity. The young Canadian turned down a number of attractive moves abroad to follow his manager to QPR and in doing so rewarded him with three goals in 12 matches during their shared ill-fated stint (and went goalless in 15 games under Harry Redknapp).

“The manager obviously played a big part in my decision," Hoilett said after signing with QPR. "He's someone I know well having worked with him and his backroom team at Blackburn."

That respect was clearly mutual, with Hughes delighted he managed to secure the signing of someone who had clearly impressed him during his time in the North West.

“Junior is a player I know very well . . . He was just a young boy trying to make his way in the game when I had him at Blackburn. It was difficult for him then because of work permit issues but I had him training with the first team very early on because his talent was there for all to see.

“We knew then he was going to have a great future and he has certainly showed that talent over the last few seasons at Ewood Park. . . He has shown he's a player of top quality and a player that can makes things happen, both on his own and as a team player.”

While there should be no transfer fees involved in either deal, both players are on attractive packages, but equally both their clubs need to now move them on. But with the expected departures of the likes of Wilson Palacios, Jermaine Pennant and Dean Whitehead wages will be made freed up and more important, freed up for players who will actually be used in the first team.

Hoilett and Bentley would be a great start by Hughes, fitting in comfortably on their respective flanks. If the manager can get these two in then all he needs to worry about are some fullbacks...and maybe a goalie, a midfielder…and most likely some strikers, too.

I’d cancel that holiday, Mark.

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