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Man City right to back Hughes

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Phil McNulty | 12:15 GMT, Monday, 10 November 2008

Manchester City - a club that has been built on a flimsy foundation of instability in the past - have come out in public support of manager Mark Hughes.

Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak has moved swifly to silence growing whispers within football that City's unspectacular start to the season would persuade Abu Dhabi United Group to jettison Hughes and bring in their own man.

This qualifies as the dreaded vote of confidence - remember votes of confidence are always "dreaded" - and may even be regarded by some cynics as confirming their suspicions that Hughes is not booked in for the long haul at Eastlands.

But we have no cause to doubt the word of City's owners, and it is to be hoped they will stand by Hughes. They should keep an excellent emerging manager alongside them as they talk of building an Eastlands dynasty on their back of their financial firepower.

It is a sign of the madness consuming football that it is now almost commonplace to question a manager's position after a handful of poor results - and not all of the blame can be placed at the media's door.

Never mind a shelf life. Some of these guys don't even get on the shelf.

Remember how Martin Jol was suddenly a dead man walking at Spurs because they started last season by losing at newly-promoted Sunderland and then at home to Everton?

In my formative football-watching years, unless a manager was utterly hopeless and out of his depth (insert your own club's utterly hopeless and out-of-his-depth manager here) it was usually at least two years before noises of discontent would emerge from the boardroom.

Now it can be three months, or sometimes even three weeks.

City's start has not been what their fans or owners expected. And make no mistake it has not been what Mark Hughes expected.

But he showed at Blackburn Rovers that he is a manager of substance, capable of moulding a team, working the market and winning the respect of players.

Hughes has barely got his feet under the table at Eastlands. He has signed a three-year contract, and unless utter catastrophe befalls him, he should be allowed to fulfil it.

Once they started tapping into the history of this proud club, held in affection by pretty much everyone outside Old Trafford, the new owners should have learned very quickly what an adverse effect a revolving door managerial policy has had on City.

City's supporters will know the current watchwords must be continuity and stability. This will be provided by keeping Hughes and it appears that the owners are in agreement.

Hughes has had mixed fortunes in the transfer market, with Shaun Wright-Phillips and Robinho sure to be assets.

The jury, however, remains out on Tal Ben Haim and Jo - although Hughes' involvement in the signing of the Brazilian striker was purely incidental, with the deal having been put in place before he arrived.

And many times this season City have looked exactly what they are, which is a team and a club in transition.

They have mixed some flamboyant attacking football at home with soft centre displays on their travels. This will be particularly galling for a hard-nosed operator like Hughes, who made his Blackburn side tough to beat before adding the flourishes in the shape of men like Roque Santa Cruz.


He has a highly-regarded coach alongside him in Mark Bowen and the pair will be working to correct the problems.

Hughes also has the support of an outstanding academy system at City and it will be intriguing to see how he approaches the January transfer window.

He was shrewd at Blackburn, bringing in Benni McCarthy to great effect and bringing the best out of David Bentley's mercurial talent.

And in Santa Cruz, he pulled off one of the great transfer bargains when he lured him to Ewood Park from Bayern Munich for a meagre £3.5m. He may try to land him again in January, but it will cost a whole lot more to tempt Blackburn into a sale.

City's owners must, however, follow up their statement of faith in Hughes by giving him total freedom in the market.

If he prefers a Santa Cruz to a more box office name who might appeal to the Abu Dhabi United Group, then Hughes must get his way.

Hughes was placed under greater pressure to deliver once City became billionaires, but he is still the right man for the job, as he was when he was appointed.


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