Mark Hughes has been sacked as manager of Southampton. What took the club so long? Would they have fired him now had the Saints marched on from their 2-0 lead against Manchester United, rather than capitulate and end up with a 2-2 draw?
I met Mark Hughes just the once, writes Vernon Grant. I interviewed him on camera for one hour when he was at Chelsea. He was pleasant, courteous but likely only turned up because the sum of cash on offer from the company I worked for was a four figure one. I did my best to put him at ease and to raise a smile or two, but it was clear to me that he was not someone who would suffer fools gladly or allow people to be too chummy. He was perfectly polite and answered all my questions, the good and bad ones. But when he left I didn’t know anything more about him than when he walked into the room.
Mark Hughes has become known as someone who will always be hired as a manager, usually in the Premier League, but it’s hard to know where he goes next.
Frankly I will never understand why Mark Hughes wants to manage. During his years as a player for Manchester United he was ahead of his time in so much as he was buying property in the Greater Manchester area and beyond. He was an owner/landlord before the buy-to-rent model became so popular in the 1990’s. Hughes doesn’t need the salary that football club owners pay him. So why does he do it? Perhaps it is the smell and atmosphere of a dressing room that he needs more than the money. Many an ex footballer misses the smell of liniment and the so called banter of a football dressing room.
Hughes has been sacked by two Premier League clubs in 2018, Stoke City showing him the door at the beginning of this year. Owners of clubs who have allowed to spend big money in the transfer market have regretted doing so, none more than those who were in charge at QPR and Fulham.
One element of the Mark Hughes management style that has become wearisome is his habit of blaming referees for bad results. It really is tiresome. He whines about officials so regularly that you notice the one week when he doesn’t.
Some of those who have played for him stick by ‘Sparky.’ None more so than Robbie Savage, who remains a friend and supporter of his former manager. But even he agrees that, in a results industry, the Mark Hughes reign at Southampton has not been good. While it is the case that the problems at Southampton are much greater than any individual manager, five wins from twenty seven matches in charge, and no win from the last ten games, meant this managerial sacking was inevitable. Southampton now seek their fourth manager in a little more than two years. It is believed the club already know who they will be hiring.
The meeting between Southampton and Manchester United last weekend was a meeting of miserable managers. Two men who give every appearance of having fallen out of love with football. Who appear to only be happy when conveying how unhappy they are.
Mark Hughes will be back in the game. He’s probably one of those people whose best performance is when they are interviewed for a position. He can turn on the charm at such times. I expect he accentuates his fine playing career when meeting prospective new owners and likely drops names, so giving the impression he can call on the help of others in the game to acquire players other managers could not attract.
It’s hard to see Mark Hughes getting another Premier League job any time soon. In this era of usual suspects, however, I would not rule him out of managing in the top flight again one day. More immediately I expect a Championship club with pretensions to be promoted hiring a man whose nickname belies a distinct lack of spark in the world of football management.
The likes of Sheffield Wednesday are currently actively talking to prospective new managers who could save the club from falling into League 1. But the Owls have no money and Hughes would want a transfer kitty. One of his former Manchester United colleagues, Steve Bruce, would be more likely to take any vacancy that raised its head at Hillsborough.
The majority of Manchester United fans, meanwhile, want rid of Jose Mourinho. I can’t see that now badly run football club making another managerial change before next summer, and perhaps not even then. I believe they should be acquiring Zinedine Zidane before another club does.
Sir Alex Ferguson once said of Mark Hughes: “He’s a warrior you could trust with your life.” Time will tell if any club will once again trust him to manage a football team.