Opinion: Why Mark Hughes deserves to be October's manager of the month
The Stoke City manager had to overcome a shaky start to this season's campaign and deserves to be put ahead of his16:18 Friday 11 November 2016, 16:18 11 Nov 2016
It took eight games for Mark Hughes to pick up his first win of the new Premier League campaign as Stoke City manager.
An opening day draw away to Middlesbrough led to a torrid run of form, losing his next four consecutive league games. In three of those games his side conceded four goals.
The beginning of his campaign was also dogged by rumours that there was unrest within the dressing room and the new signing Wilfiried Bony - a powerful centre forward signed on a season-long loan costing the club £2m.
"Unfortunately at the moment we're a little bit of fair game for some in your area of work that think they can get easy headlines," he told journalists on the back of the final of those four defeats - a 4-1 drubbing away to Crystal Palace.
"It's all very, very predictable. Player unrest, problems in the dressing room.. They all come up in this situation."
And make no mistake about it. It was a duffing, plain and simple.
The games ramped up the pressure on the manager and he was about to host Tony Pulis' West Bromwich Albion, a pragmatic side who would know how to frustrate a Hughes' side already low on confidence.
Joe Allen notched what looked to be the winner on 73 minutes before Salomon Rondon snatched an equalising goal in injury time. Heads dropped again and the vultures start to circle. At the time, the Welsh manager was made third favourite to get the sack, behind Slaven Bilic and the ill-fated Francesco Guidolin at Swansea City.
Time heals many wounds, but it was something Hughes didn't seem to have.
The result was swiftly followed by a daunting trip to Manchester United, who came off the back of three wins in quick succession, including champions Leicester City.
"We have a box that we would like to tick that we haven't been able to tick yet - getting a positive result at Old Trafford," Hughes said ahead of the game.
The point against the Baggies could have been viewed as deflating but in actual fact it gave the Potters a newfound lease of life. There were points on the board once again. Spirits lifted. Oh, and so did the performances.
Hughes utilised Allen once again in number 10 role just behind Bony, who himself was starting to show signs of his true quality. A late equaliser from the Welshman earned Stoke a point at Old Trafford. Another positive result. October 2nd. The world at their feet once again.
Speculation quelled as Hughes took advantage of a home tie against Sunderland. A 2-0 victory against Sunderland. Another two goals from the in-form Joe Allen.
"We pushed him further forward just because sometimes when you get the opportunity to work with players day-in, day-out you see things that you didn’t realise that they may have the capability of," Hughes said of Allen's performance.
Starting to fully recognise the ability of the 26-year-old brought more good performances. Victory over Sunderland was followed by another at Hull. This time both goals came courtesy of a sumptuous Xherdan Shaqiri double.
To put the gloss on a superb October for Hughes, the visit of his Swansea saw Wilfired Bony finally find his range at the club, netting twice either side of Alfie Mawson's own goal. Need I mention both goals were assisted by Joe Allen?
Hughes faces competition from Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, Chelsea's Antonio Conte and Arsenal's Arsene Wenger.
Each of these sides have world class quality in their ranks. Coutinho, Hazard or Ozil would be enough to transform the fortunes of any side.
Hughes was forced to take a side who were low in confidence at the start of the month and take them to a resurgent Manchester United. His tactical awareness allowed him to get the best out of Allen and at no stage did he pile too much pressure on Wilfried Bony to start scoring.
Life in the Premier League is a lot more cut-throat at the bottom than it is at the top, most managers know this. Decisions tend not to go the way of struggling teams and their luck just doesn't come in.
But Hughes showed his experience. On the back of the four games he asked for calm to turn the situation around.
"The fact that it's at the start of the season, maybe it gets highlighted more and people think it's going to be a struggle this year. We don't think that way."
He didn't allow the negativity to seep into the players and under the highest pressure to save his own job, produce a run which sees them climb to 12th in the table.
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