Hughes defiant as pressure builds
Under-pressure Stoke boss Mark Hughes insisted he was not bothered by criticism and defended his selection decisions after his side's 1-0 home loss to Newcastle.
There were boos from Potters fans at the final whistle of the New Year's Day contest - in which Ayoze Perez netted a 73rd-minute winner - and a 'Hughes Out' banner was on display.
Stoke are 16th in the Premier League, two points above the relegation zone, having won only two of their last 12 games.
When Hughes was asked in his post-match press conference about the fans' reaction, he said: "It is to be expected.
"I think for the last two or three weeks, the agenda within the media and lots of platforms, and social media... that is what was going to happen.
"It doesn't bother me - what bothers me is that the team needs to be doing better, because then any criticism that comes our way, then that noise goes away."
Hughes - under whom Stoke finished ninth three times in a row before coming 13th last term - added: "At the moment we are disappointing too many people, including ourselves.
"But I'll remind people the reason people are disappointed is that at the moment we're below the high standards that have been set here. But those high standards were set by me and my staff.
"We need to do something about it, and that is what we will endeavour to do.
"It's difficult times at the moment, so we just have to stick our shoulders back and chests out and get on with it.
"It's about making sure you show character and take any criticism or flak that comes your way. You just have to deal with that and not be cowed by it."
Hughes had opted to rest some key men from Saturday's 5-0 defeat at Chelsea in a bid to be as strong as possible against Newcastle, making six changes on each occasion.
The gamble backfired but the Welshman said: "Everybody keeps going on about this. (Newcastle boss) Rafa Benitez today makes six changes [actually five]. So what is the difference?
"Everybody has made changes. If we'd won today it would've been great management. It's gone against us, against me, but I'm brave enough to take it on the chin.
"I did it for the right reasons. I would still have done the same decisions, given the same circumstances again."
Stoke were 3-0 down by half-time against Chelsea and Hughes added: "I made the decision in the second half at Chelsea to say 'right, we can't win this game - I'll look after these players with a view that we'll be stronger and better-equipped to play a second game in 48 hours'.
"And I'm going to get criticised for that? I think it is unfair if I do."
Benitez, whose side are up from 16th to 13th and four points clear of the relegation zone, said: "It was really good I think, the way the players were working on the pitch - I was really pleased.
"It was difficult for us with the team selection after the game against Brighton (on Saturday), with players tired.
"We had to mix it a little bit, and it was quite good.
"Today was another example of a team working hard, against a team that was giving everything too."