Tuesday 21 October 2014

Hughes dismisses Nzonzi rumours

Published 27/03/2014 | 06:27

Steven Nzonzi (centre) joined Stoke from Blackburn on a four-year deal in the summer of 2012

Stoke boss Mark Hughes has played down any suggestion midfielder Steven Nzonzi might leave the club.

Nzonzi was this week quoted by The Sentinel as responding to a question about his future by saying: "You never know in football, so I cannot answer that.

"Everybody is talking about what will happen next season, but as a player you do not know."

The Frenchman, who joined the Potters on a four-year deal in the summer of 2012, had a transfer request rejected by them in May 2013.

And he recently admitted he had not found it easy in February when, for the first time in his Stoke career, he went through a run of Barclays Premier League games being named as a substitute rather than a starter.

The 25-year-old, now back in the first XI and a scorer in Sunday's 4-1 win at Aston Villa, has also emphasised he is happy at Stoke for the time being though - particularly as part of a team producing a more flowing brand of football since Hughes succeeded Tony Pulis last summer.

And regarding Nzonzi, Hughes told Press Association Sport: "I think he is enjoying his football at the moment.

"I have seen quotes in recent articles and I think all he is saying is that, like all the guys at the club, he is concentrating on getting to the end of the season, making sure we get as many points as we can and seeing where it takes us."

Asked about the perception that Nzonzi, who reportedly pushed for a move at his previous club Blackburn, is something of a troublemaker, Hughes said: "No.

"Steven sometimes gets frustrated with himself, and probably too much so, but I think he is maturing as a player and a person.

"He understood when he did go out of the team that him not getting back in was through no fault of his own - it was just a consequence of the players who had come in doing well.

"But as soon as he got back in the team he performed well, his level was high and as a consequence he stayed in, and that is how I like it to be."

He added: "We are trying to build the club and build the team, and he is very much integral to that process."

Stoke, currently 10th in the Premier League on 37 points, have seven games left this term.

They have lost only one in their last eight and are looking to better their personal bests in the division in terms of final position (11th) and points total (47).

Their manager was speaking on Wednesday in Manchester, where he presented non-league outfit Wythenshawe Amateurs FC with a cheque for £100,000 as part of the Budweiser Club Futures programme.

Wythenshawe, who play in the Manchester Football League Premier Division, are one of eight non-league clubs this season to have been awarded one of the scheme's £50,000 grants, and they went on to win the additional £100,000 'Super Grant' via a Facebook vote.

They plan to use the money to build a new facility at Holly Hedge Park in Wythenshawe, designed not only to host the players, but also to act as a social hub for the local community.

And former Manchester United player and Manchester City boss Hughes said at the venue: "This takes me back - I have muddy shoes again, which is reminiscent of days gone by!

"I grew up playing on pitches like the one Wythenshawe Amateurs have had to play on.

"It has only taken me about 20 minutes to get here today and it is great to be able to support clubs like this."

Press Association

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