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Handshake hope for Hughes

Mark Hughes admits he and Stoke manager Tony Pulis probably need to "grow up" following their recent run-ins.

There has been bad blood between Hughes' Fulham side and the Potters all season, stemming from a reckless tackle from Andy Wilkinson on Cottagers striker Mousa Dembele in a Carling Cup clash in September.

An enraged Hughes snubbed Pulis' handshake at the end of the game, and Pulis then blanked his opposite number after Fulham's 2-0 win at the Britannia over Christmas.

But Hughes said: "I'll always offer my hand, it was blown out of proportion.

"It was just tit for tat. I did a similar thing to Tony because I was a little bit upset with a challenge on one of my players in the League Cup tie.

"It just happened, I was probably a little bit emotional about it and probably showed it in the wrong way and Tony maybe showed his displeasure at being beaten at home in the wrong way. So we need to grow up, probably."

When asked if he thought his handshake would be accepted when the sides meet at Craven Cottage tomorrow, Hughes added: "Let's hope so. We're two Welshmen, there's no reason why it shouldn't be."

Seven points from their last four games has edged Fulham away from the Barclays Premier League drop zone after a slow start to the campaign.

And Hughes now has his sights set on a strong second half to the season and a top-10 finish in a congested division.

"We are playing okay," he added. "We've been playing fine for the majority of the season but we struggled to convert draws into wins and that put us under a bit of pressure.

"But in terms of our general peformances in recent weeks I've been really pleased with what we have produced.

"It's a different season this year in comparison to most in recent times. It's very condensed, there are a lot of teams with similar points totals and no-one is stranded at the bottom.

"There are a lot of clubs taking points off each other and that will continue to the end of the season.

"A lot of clubs possibly do well in the first half of the season but in the second half fall away.

"We'd like to think we have come through a period where we didn't get as many points as we felt we should have, but in the second half of the season invariably we are stronger and we fully expect that to happen this time."

Hughes wants to add Chelsea youngster Gael Kakuta to his squad but the Blues have yet to decide whether to let the 19-year-old go out on loan.

"He's a player I know and I like the qualities he has," said Hughes, who has also been linked with Robbie Keane, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Henri Lansbury.

"We are having lots of conversations about lots of players, but at the moment we don't know if any will go through.

"There is a lot of interest out there, whether we can conclude the deals only time will tell."

PA Media