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Mark Hughes Wants to Bring “Good Football” to Stoke City

In the 1990’s, Mark Hughes, who in May replaced Tony Pulis as Stoke City manager, wore his hair long, played for several European powerhouses, and routinely scored incredible volleys. He was a sexy center forward, the kind of player who these days appears on billboards and negotiates image rights. Presumably, Stoke hopes Hughes will recapture some of that glamor.

“The teams I have been involved in in the past have always scored goals,” Hughes explained at his first press conference, conveniently forgetting that he once managed Queens Park Rangers. “My philosophy is always to play football, good football, create chances…I’d like to make [Stoke] a little bit more offensive.” Hughes has already positioned himself as a kind of anti-Pulis, the Pep Guardiola of Stoke-on-Trent, if you will.

But here’s the thing: whatever its critics say, Stoke is already entertaining, precisely because it doesn’t play “good football.” Indeed, the team’s whole appeal rests on its rejection of everything that Barcelona has taught us to admire. Rory Delap’s (and, more recently, Ryan Shotton’s) long throws, Robert Huth’s headers, Peter Crouch’s very existence – all of this is different, refreshing. Pulis’ tactics were just as distinctive as Guardiola’s, and they’ve contributed memorable games: notwithstanding Aaron Ramsey’s injury, Stoke-Arsenal matches have consistently produced exciting football.

Pulis deserved to be sacked. Over the last few seasons, he made numerous mistakes in the transfer market. Many of those ill-fated signings – players like Tuncay Sanli and Eidur Gudjohnsen – represented clumsy attempts to “improve” Stoke’s style. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Pulis’ philosophy. Commentators tend to undervalue footballing variety, to reflexively disregard teams that don’t adhere to certain aesthetic standards. Stoke City is not a relic of a bygone era; it’s an example of the tactical diversity that makes football interesting.

Hughes insists that Stoke won’t change approach overnight, that he is “not going to chuck the baby out with the bath water.” But his long-term plan is already coming into focus.

Two weeks ago, Hughes completed Stoke’s second signing of the summer window. Marc Muniesa is a defender. He used to play for Barcelona. And today, here’s what Hughes said about his opinion about the current Stoke City squad:

“I have to say I’ve been really pleased with the technical ability of the squad as a whole and I think maybe I’ve been guilty of assuming there’s a certain type of player here.

“That’s not the case I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve found here and the level of ability that’s in the building.”

Read more by David Yaffe-Bellany at In For The Hat Trick and follow him on Twitter @INFTH.

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  1. Marc L

    July 18, 2013 at 6:12 am

    The real question is whether he can improve on Pulis’ exquisite fashion sense.

    • Guy

      July 18, 2013 at 8:09 am

      The burden may be too much for him.

  2. Kagawa26

    July 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Pardon me but the way Stoke played was a relic of a bygone era. I think its good that maybe guy can watch his team and not cringe every time they have possesion. Stoke is a top club and what Pulis had them playing was not horrible.

  3. Smokey Bacon

    July 17, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    ….but Barcelona said “no” to a pre-season friendly.

    • Guy

      July 17, 2013 at 9:41 pm

      They were scared. 😉

  4. Flyvanescence

    July 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    The only time i was entertained by a stoke match was when Chelsea systematically ripped them apart in the 2d half at Brittanica last season, and when City wore them down and Zabaleta put the nail in the coffin there in the FA Cup match.

    They were bloody boring and only effective if the other team had an off day or wilted under their physical play, which was happening less and less as Pulis’ stint neared its end.

    • Jermaine Pedant

      July 17, 2013 at 10:19 pm

      Clearly you only bother to watch games involving the “big teams” then since the FA Cup semi final vs Bolton was one of the most entertaining games for a long while. Also, I had no idea Zabaleta played for Swansea or that Stoke (also called “City” btw, along with many other teams not just the one in Manchester) played within an encyclopedia.

      • Flyvanescence

        July 18, 2013 at 12:06 pm

        Never had a typo idiot? “Brittania”

        Swansea are known as Swansea, Stoke are known as Stoke, Man City are know as City to distinguish from Man United.

        And, since i actually have a life and get off my lazy hindparts on weekends, i only have time to watch 1 or 2 games a week if that. Therefore i tend to watch the more interesting games (involving socalled “big clubs”), but before aforementioned Stoke v Chelsea game i sat thru 90 minutes of QPR and some other lame team failing to generate anything interesting.

        • Christopher Harris

          July 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm

          That’s not true. Swansea are known as City, but the national and world media assume that people think they’re talking about Manchester City when they say ‘City.’ If you were in Wales and you were talking about City, people would presume you were chatting about Swansea City.

          • Jermaine Pedant

            July 20, 2013 at 12:54 pm

            Yep, and Stoke are also known as City. Also, to the OP you only have time to watch one or two games a week and you didn’t choose the FA cup semi final as one of those? Since when have the most interesting matches been played out between the “big clubs” anyway? Lastly, for many of us, getting off our lazy hindparts at the weekend means going to watch games at whatever level we can find not just sitting in front of a TV watching the richest clubs in the world.

  5. Guy

    July 17, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks for the article. No pithy quotes from this Potters fan.

    I don’t think Hughes’ name was on the lips of any Stoke fans beforehand, but after the fact most seem to be on board. He is certainly no glamour signing, but then we are Stoke, so why would he be?

    However, he may suit our needs just fine. The primary complaint from fans about TP was his constant policy of playing people out of their natural positions (and going for 0-0 draws on the road). The line-up at times was almost bizarre…and he would not change!

    If Hughes sees more in the squad than he initially thought he was going to, then I say that is a good sign. He sees talent that can be put to use under his system that wasn’t allowed the light of day under Pulis.

    It is easy to denigrate Hughes, but that ignores the fact that he has been successful more often than not. I think Stoke are a side, and a club as a whole, that might suit him well. Time will tell.

    In the meantime, Stoke haters, keep on ranting. You make our day. 😉

  6. rkujay

    July 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    I admired Sparky as a United player. But his track record as a manager leaves one to wonder if ‘Good Football’ means Stoke will buy a confounding string of overpriced players which will eventually stop when Sparky is given a copy of the home game?

    • daveydave

      July 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      His track record as a manger is good, Did well at Wales, fantastic for Blackburn, did well at Fulham and at Man City he was doing better than Mancini ended up doing that season, his only blip is at QPR.

  7. Matt

    July 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Stoke was already entertaining?

    channel changer…
    They play like an American college team

  8. M Owen

    July 17, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    yes good football all the way down to league one..sigh!! i don’t like stoke but wouldn’t wish the club to be run into the ground by this fool.

    • daveydave

      July 17, 2013 at 3:05 pm

      Don’t worry he wont.

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