Saturday 24 February 2018

Hughes exit paves way for Villa move

Mark Hughes could soon be linking up again with Richard Dunne at Villa Park
Mark Hughes could soon be linking up again with Richard Dunne at Villa Park

Sam Wallace

MARK HUGHES last night exercised the release clause in his two-year Fulham contract to leave the club and pave the way for a move to Aston Villa.

Hughes had the break clause written into his deal when joining Fulham last summer because the club would not match the wages paid to him in his previous job at Manchester City. He gambled on having a sufficiently decent season that he would be able to walk away this summer for a bigger job -- a gamble that has paid off.

Hughes has always been a slightly awkward fit at Fulham, despite eventually taking the club to an eighth place finish and a spot in the Europa League via the Fair Play table. He had misgivings about the difficult task of following Roy Hodgson's success in reaching the Europa League final and did not relocate his family when he took the job.

The Welshman, who has also managed Blackburn, would have much preferred the Villa job last summer, but the timing of Martin O'Neill's abrupt departure meant that he had already signed a contract at Craven Cottage by the time the opportunity came up.

The former Manchester United, Barcelona and Chelsea striker issued a statement last night saying he had taken the decision to "further his experiences".

"I would also like to take this opportunity to clarify that neither myself nor my representative have approached or have been approached by another club," added 47-year-old. "This decision to leave Fulham has not been influenced by any outside party."

Fulham must now begin the search for a new manager, with O'Neill, Carlo Ancelotti, Alan Curbishley, Claudio Ranieri, Martin Jol and Steve McClaren all in the frame.

Former Fulham midfielder Lee Clark, now manager of Huddersfield Town, who missed out on promotion to the Championship in the League One play-off final last month, is an outside bet.

Meanwhile, Guus Hiddink remains poised for a return as Chelsea manager after refusing to commit his future to the Turkish national team and describing the notion of holding both jobs as "impossible".

The Dutchman claimed that, at 64, he was still "philosophical" about taking on the full-time pressures involved in club management.


Hiddink is under contract for a further year with Turkey, who play a crucial Euro 2012 qualifying match against Belgium tonight, but he has become frustrated by the intermittent nature of international coaching.

"It's not useful to talk about my future, because this team is in transition," he said. "They must go on. My future is more in the past."

It is expected that the call from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich could come as early as tomorrow, after tonight's match at Brussels' King Badouin Stadium. The Russian has already identified Hiddink as the outstanding choice to succeed Ancelotti, whom he sacked last month at the end of Chelsea's first season without a trophy for three years.

Hiddink insisted that, so far, he had received "no approach or contact whatsoever" from Chelsea. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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