Vindication for Hughes at Saints

Reuters
Mark Hughes enjoyed a measure of personal redemption on Tuesday after guiding Southampton to near certain safety in the English Premier League.
Reuters

Mark Hughes enjoyed a measure of personal redemption on Tuesday after guiding Southampton to near certain safety in the English Premier League with a vital win at Swansea City following his sacking by Stoke City earlier in the campaign.

Hughes had been handed the task of rescuing the south-coast club from the threat of relegation when he was appointed in March and was a strange choice in many people’s eyes, having left his former team in a similar predicament.

Yet, his mission was accomplished at the Liberty Stadium when a second-half goal from Manolo Gabbiadini secured a 1-0 victory over relegation rival Swansea that moved the Saints 3 points clear of the drop zone while condemning West Bromwich Albion to join Stoke in the second-tier Championship.

With goal difference handing Southampton a comfortable cushion heading into its final match of the season at home to champion Manchester City, it would take a remarkable turnaround for it to fall out of the top flight.

After beginning his spell in charge with 3 straight league defeats, Hughes’ reputation was hanging by a thread. With EPL managers enjoying short and often precarious shelf lives, his career was arguably in the balance.

Yet Tuesday’s victory was Southampton’s second in 3 games and left it unbeaten in its last 4 league games, with the manager able to take credit for guiding his side away from trouble just in time.

“I said when I took it on it was never about me or my position or my reputation or standing in the game,” Hughes, a former Southampton player, said.

“It was only ever about trying to come in to help a club that obviously I played for and have empathy with and I just wanted to try and help them and keep them in the Premier League.”

Southampton has been frequently heralded as a model of how to flourish on a limited budget, having not finished lower than eighth in the last 4 seasons. Little wonder, it looked ill-equipped to deal with the trench warfare of a relegation battle.

Tuesday’s win was dogged at best with Southampton creating few chances before grabbing a crucial goal just when the game seemed to be heading for a goalless draw.


Special Reports
Top