Hughes vows to stride defiantly into old workplace
Mark Hughes always relished confrontation as a centre-forward and the opportunity to put his marker through a 90-minute ordeal, so the Fulham manager will take a devilish delight from any discomfort that his return to Manchester City will inflict on his former bosses tomorrow.
Hughes has already served notice of his reluctance to forgive and forget, having sent a congratulatory case of wine back, unopened, to City chief executive Garry Cook following his appointment as Fulham manager last summer.
Similarly, the calls and texts from former City colleagues which went unanswered by the Welshman following his controversial sacking as manager in December 2009 highlight his sense of injustice as he prepares to return to Eastlands with Fulham tomorrow for the first time since his departure 14 months ago. Little wonder then Hughes is vowing to stride defiantly into his former workplace.
"I have no qualms with going back to Manchester City," Hughes said. "I know I can walk through the doors with my head held high and look everyone in the eye because of the job I did there.
"Whether or not that can be said of some people there, that is for you to decide. Certainly, I will have no problem walking through the door and seeing people I am fond of. I'll say hello to those guys. There are good people there, but my focus is to do well in the job I have at the moment and that is Fulham."
The manner of Hughes' dismissal remains a stain on Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan's ownership of City. Results had gone awry and star players were beginning to agitate, but the moves to line up Roberto Mancini before sacking Hughes -- hardly a unique tactic in the industry -- led to the sense of Hughes being publicly humiliated.
The whole world seemed to know his fate as he patrolled the touchline during a 4-3 victory against Sunderland, seemingly unaware of his own impending demise.
That version of events, the one played out in front of the cameras and accompanied by Cook's claim that Hughes's "trajectory of results'' had left him fatally compromised, still sits uneasily among the City hierarchy.
Privately, reservations over Hughes's ability to deliver Champions League football were aired by senior figures in the summer of 2009, but the support of Cook and Brian Marwood, City's football administrator, secured a stay of execution for the former Blackburn manager.
Hughes was then informed in the autumn of 2009 that his position was becoming threatened by results, but when the break came, it was anything but clean.
Kolo Toure, appointed captain by Hughes, said: "When he left, it was a bit difficult for us, for all the players, but that's the way football is. We just want, when he comes back, to beat him. That's it.
"Of course he will have extra motivation when he comes back. He will push his team. Mark is a very good manager and he's done very well for Fulham already. I have big respect for him and I will be happy to see him.
"Mancini says Mark deserves credit (for his work at City) and that's a really fair comment. He will mean that."
Hughes' departure was ultimately sanctioned as a result of concerns over City's ability to qualify for the Champions League by finishing in the top four last season. Mancini's arrival failed to turn the tide, with Tottenham edging City into fifth position, but the Italian's win ratio in the Premier League stands at 52pc, as opposed to the 40pc registered by Hughes.
Progress appears to have been made, hand-in-hand with a £160m investment in new players by Mancini, but Hughes insists that City have still to learn how to deal with their financially-driven status. "It's a huge profile that Manchester City have to deal with now," said the Welshman.
"When I first went there that profile wasn't in place and overnight it changed. When it came, you had to learn very quickly and get on with it, and understand that it was always how it was going to be.
"That is how it is now for them and they have to deal with that on a regular basis." (© Daily Telegraph, London)