League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan has criticised the impatience of overseas owners in the wake of Mark Hughes’ sacking at Manchester City – and revealed the Welshman was unaware of his fate prior to yesterday’s win over Sunderland.
Hughes was dismissed by City last night and replaced by Italian Roberto Mancini, the club’s chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak revealing the decision had been taken in response to a run of just two wins in 11 in the Barclays Premier League.
City’s woes stem largely from too many drawn matches, the club having lost just two games all season – one of those an unfortunate reverse in a thrilling Manchester derby.
Hughes’ demeanour during and after yesterday’s win at Eastlands indicated he was aware of the board’s decision to terminate his contract prior to the game, but that was not the case, according to Bevan.
“I spoke to Mark last night and he found out immediately after the game when he was called into a meeting and informed that his contract was being terminated, but I think the decision had probably been taken some time ago,” Bevan told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme.
“I think Mark and everybody else in this country realises that you can’t buy trophies in one season.
“If they [overseas owners] feel that, then we’ll continue with the sackings and we’ll continue with affinity lost to our clubs in England, because I’m pretty sure the Manchester City fans will be sorry to see Mark go.
“If you come in as an overseas owner, you need to embrace the city, the supporters, not just the trophy cabinet.”
Yesterday’s 4-3 win over the Black Cats moved City into sixth place in the Premier League, a position in line with the board’s pre-season expectations, and Bevan has accused the club’s owners of shifting their expectations midway through the campaign.
“Mark is very realistic about the situation,” Bevan said.
“He knew the key goals he had to hit. His target actually was the top six. He was very disappointed because they were on target for that.
“For me, his reputation is still intact.
“Only two defeats – the fewest in the league – semi-finals of the Carling Cup, to me it looks like the goalposts were moved and the decision was made some time ago that he wasn’t to continue in his role past today.
“I’m very disappointed for Mark and indeed the City fans.
“Mark would have delivered continued success without doubt if more time had been afforded to him and his staff, but he’s left a platform for the next manager without doubt.”
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, one of only two men to mastermind victory over City in the league this season following Spurs' convincing 3-0 triumph at White Hart Lane in midweek, admitted he was baffled by the decision to part with Hughes.
“I couldn’t believe it really. [I’m] disappointed. They’ve lost two games this season – away to Man United in the last minute and then they got beat at Tottenham in the week,” he told Sportsweek.
“Two defeats is certainly not a disaster.
“They’ve got a game in hand and they were sitting just off the [Champions League] places.
“I’m really surprised that they’ve taken that decision at this stage of the season.
“Mark’s a good manager and, given time, there’s not doubt they would have been very successful.”
Redknapp added that the new wave of foreign owners in English football had skewed expectations and placed increased pressure on managers.
“It’s different now. You’ve got multi-millionaire owners who all want to be number one, and the more that come into the game, they’re not going to understand that they can’t all win,” he said.
“In their life they’ve made so much money and they do what they want with their lives because they’re so rich, and they’ll expect to win.
“The more that come in, the more you are going to see managers come and go. The merry-go-round will be even worse because they’re all disappointed they’re not top of the league. They won’t understand it.”
Former City player and director Dennis Tueart believes Hughes was hamstrung by expectations and egos, but concedes the timing of the announcement came as a surprise.
Tueart told Sportsweek: “The timing appears to be a bit strange – we’re going into a new transfer window, just out of the top-four positions in the league at the moment.
“It takes time to build, but the big problem Mark was always going to have was [managing] a tremendous amount of egos in the dressing room.
“His challenge was going to be blending and getting sides motivated, and getting them to perform.
“Whilst he only lost two, he had so many draws. If he had converted two of those draws into wins it would have been a different situation.”
He added: “I’m hoping that they [the City board] have thought through the strategy for what they are trying to get from Roberto Mancini.
“While he has done pretty well at Inter, he’ll take a little bit of settling in.
“I’m assuming they’ve made this change now so that Roberto Mancini can do something in the transfer window.”