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Mark Hughes is the forgotten man of the Premier League

Friday 29th April 2016
The manager. A man who is the front and centre of every team, the fall guy if things go wrong, the celebrated one if success comes a knocking. There is, however, one man who is performing beyond expectations who is flying well and truly under the radar. That man is Mark Hughes, an understated, former Manchester United forward, bringing top quality football to a team synonymous with the long ball .
Stokealona, as they are affectionately referred to, are more than just an upcoming side. Hughes is developing a squad at the Britannia Stadium worthy of European football. With talented midfielders, capable of unlocking the tightest of defences, accompanied by a stout back five centered around the criminally underrated Ryan Shawcross, Stoke can stake claim to a team that deserves to challenge the traditionally big clubs of the Premier League.

Currently sitting in 10th, with the same points as defending champions Chelsea, the Midland's club have lost three of their last four with their season tailing off. This should, however, not negate the year that they have had up to this point. Mark Hughes has created a squad that has genuinely quality players, not just 'a big lad up top' and Rory Delap as the main creator. This no longer Tony Pulis' team.

The plethora of small, diminutive, sharp attacking midfielders available to Hughes has allowed him to consistently rotate his attacking options throughout the year, keeping his players fresh. While Xherdan Shaqiri has not quite lived up to his name since coming from Bayern Munich, the trio of Bojan, Ibrahim Afellay and, in particular, Marco Arnautovic, have been excellent. Mame Biram Diouf up top has performed well, though injuries have curtailed his consistency, and January addition Gianelli Imbula has added a physicality to the midfield that was missing in the first few months of the year.

This is a team with a wonderful balance. Unlike Roberto Martinez's Everton that plays with reckless abandon, disregarding defensive details, this Stoke side have a diligence to the dirty side of the game. Shawcross is an excellent centre-half and Phillip Wollscheid alongside him is a nice compliment to the big, English brute. Jack Butland is goal keeper set to play in the Premier League for years to come and Glen Johnson is simply trying to resurrect his career.

The success that Stoke are enjoying this season is not set to be a one hit wonder. None of these players are on loan, many are tied down to long-term contracts, and unless they are tempted by the glitz and glamour of Champions League football, Hughes will be able to add to his talented squad, rather than replace outgoing players.

Hughes has done a terrific job at Stoke City, and yet, he seems to be the forgotten man. With the unforeseen successes of Tottenham Hotspur and the Cinderella story of the century, Leicester City, dominating much of the national media attention, Stoke are the softly spoken, quiet and considered student at the back of the room, who silently but surely becomes top of the class. Hughes is creating a team that could challenge for years to come, so why is no one talking about them?

Well, it may be because Stoke, in the traditions of English football, aren't meant to be a sexy, exciting team. Such accolades belong to the Arsenal's, the Man Utd's, the Liverpool's of the world, teams dominated by flamboyant Frenchman, sparkling Spanish and dazzling Dutch.

But, if you whisper it, ever so quietly, someone may just hear you, because Stoke are a good team, and Mark Hughes is a good manager.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!


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