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Continuity remains the key for Stoke and Hughes

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Continuity remains the key for Stoke and Hughes

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By Peter Hall (Reuters) – Sacking manager Mark Hughes would definitely be a last resort for Stoke City’s hierarchy despite seeing the side slip to five defeats in their last six games in all competitions. The 53-year-old’s managerial career has followed a similar trajectory to that of many of his counterparts. There have been plenty of highs — coaching his country Wales, a top six finish in his second season at Blackburn Rovers — while there have also been lows — being sacked by Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers. At Stoke, however, Hughes has found something many coaches never have in the Premier League — continuity. The Potters are the embodiment of stability. Since the summer of 2006, only Tony Pulis and Hughes have been at the Stoke helm. In contrast, Crystal Palace have overseen 17 managerial changes in that time. While their rivals may have been quick to chop and change, unhappy at even a short run of poor results, Stoke chairman Peter Coates has always been very patient. “We’re never complacent,” Coates told The Daily Telegraph last year. “I never get carried away because I know what’s realistic and what isn’t. I’m very conscious anyone can have a poor season.” The pressure is mounting on Hughes, though. The season started reasonably positively, with victory over Arsenal coming in Stoke’s second game, but the manner of defeats in the recent poor run of form will be especially worrying. While Manchester City were at their exhilarating best two weeks ago at the Etihad Stadium, Stoke crumbled under the pressure, shipping goals in a 7-2 thrashing. Coming just two games after a 4-0 home thumping by Chelsea, all is not well. Importantly, though, Hughes still has the support of his players and such backing should not be underestimated. “The manager is absolutely brilliant,” captain Ryan Shawcross told the club’s website (www.stokecityfc.com). “We had a great game plan but unfortunately we couldn’t produce the goods. It was the players’ fault. Like he (Hughes) always says, we’ll be fine.”

(Reporting by Peter Hall; editing by Ken Ferris)
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