Stoke the fire: The seven contenders to replace Hughes

Matt Stead

Mark Hughes was sacked by Stoke City on Saturday, bringing to an end the Premier League’s second-longest managerial reign behind Arsene Wenger.

The Potters were knocked out of the FA Cup by League Two Coventry City on Saturday, and are in the top-flight relegation zone after five league wins in 22 games.

The Welshman responded to questions over his job last week by asking: “Who else is going to do it?” So it’s about time we bloody found out, no?


* The Stoke Sentinel are surely the bastions of reliability when it comes to matters at the Bet365 Stadium, and they report that two particular managers ‘head the wish list’ in the search for Hughes’ replacement.

Stoke correspondent Martin Spinks writes that Gary Rowett of Derby County and Martin O’Neill, currently contracted to the Republic of Ireland, are the frontrunners. Both would have to be tempted to leave their current posts, but the promise of Premier League football might do just that.

However, the club’s owners are intent on ‘not rushing into a decision’ – although they want the replacement in place before the visit to Manchester United on January 15.

Rowett and O’Neill provide two very different options. The former would want ‘a long-term deal’, while the prospect of O’Neill combining his role with the Republic of Ireland with a short spell at Stoke is mooted.


* Over at the Daily Mirror, James Nursey, a trusted source when it comes to Stoke, throws an intriguing name into the hat.

A fitting name, too. Nursey reports that Graham Potter of Ostersunds would be ‘interested’ in the vacancy.

Potter has earned himself a reputation as something of a ‘miracle worker’ in Sweden, where he has taken Ostersunds from the fourth division upon his appointment in 2011 to the top flight, and a Europa League meeting with Arsenal in February.

The 42-year-old played for Stoke from 1993 to 1996, and would be open to a ‘move back to England’ to take over in Staffordshire. The Potters could find his ‘small buy-out clause’ rather appealing.


* The Daily Mail report that Stoke are ‘struggling to attract a candidate who suits their profile’. They corroborate claims that Potter, Rowett and O’Neill are being considered, but include Ryan GiggsChris Coleman and Garry Monk on their prospective shortlist.

Giggs would be an obvious risk, the Welshman’s entire managerial resume comprising four matches in 2014. Monk would be available, but only because he was recently sacked by Championship side Middlesbrough. A move for Coleman is unlikely, the former Wales manager having only just been appointed at Sunderland.


* Sky Sports report on the club’s preference for a British manager – although ‘foreign coaches’ will not be ruled out, which is nice.

Rob Dorsett again lists Rowett and O’Neill among the leading contenders, but says Ronald Koeman is ‘under consideration’.

The Dutchman was sacked by Everton in October and is yet to take up a role elsewhere, so is available. But those infamous Sky sources claim that Koeman ‘may have other priorities’. Which means he doesn’t fancy a relegation battle.


* The three frontrunners for the vacancy appear to be Rowett, O’Neill and Koeman. John Percy of the Daily Telegraph writes that the first two are ‘high on Stoke’s list of potential targets’, while Koeman has been ‘considered’ but is an ‘unlikely’ candidate. Potter is the ‘rank outsider’.