Sacked Mark Hughes pays price for Stoke slump

Sacked Mark Hughes pays price for Stoke slump

Stoke reacted to their FA Cup defeat by Coventry and slide into the Premier League relegation zone by sacking manager Mark Hughes.

Just three hours after a 2-1 third-round loss at the Ricoh Arena to a team positioned three divisions lower, the club announced that Hughes' contract had been terminated with immediate effect.

More alarming than the humbling by League Two Coventry has been the poor form that has seen Stoke sink to 18th in the league, putting their top-flight status in peril.

Stoke announced: "We would like to thank Mark for all he has achieved for the club over the last four and a half years, notably in guiding us to three successive ninth places finishes in the Premier League, and we wish him every success for the future.

"The club will look to appoint a new manager as soon as possible and will be making no further comment at this time.''

Hughes took up the coaching reins at Stoke in 2013 after being appointed successor to fellow Welshman Tony Pulis.

The 54-year-old had exactly 200 games in charge, following managerial spells with QPR, Fulham, Manchester City, Blackburn and Wales.

Speaking after the FA Cup defeat at Coventry, he suggested the result might be a blessing in disguise - only for it to prove to be the final straw for the Stoke hierarchy.

"The fact we've gone out, even if it's a little bit raw at the moment, might help us," Hughes said. "At the moment we don't want to discuss Premier League games, but maybe when we wake up on Monday the reality clearly has to be our league form.''

He questioned whether the result would affect his future, and added: ''It just highlights that we need to do better.

''But in the long term, certainly until the end of the season, it might be a blessing for us.''

The perilous nature of Stoke's position was not lost on him, and Hughes had been planning transfer window business until being told his services were no longer required.

Charlie Adam had equalised with a second-half penalty after Jordan Willis opened the scoring but Jack Grimmer scored for the home side to clinch the upset.

Stoke finished ninth in each of Hughes' first three seasons in charge but for the 2016-17 campaign they had slipped to 13th.

A under-strength team was fielded by Hughes against Chelsea over the festive period and a 5-0 thrashing was the result, with a 1-0 home defeat by Newcastle on New Year's Day continuing the recent slump.

Bookmakers rated former Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs and Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill among the early favourites to succeed Hughes.

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