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[Archived] Mark Hughes - His Rovers Epitaph


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A successful club - successful managers

John Williams has been the man behind the club appointing two very successful managers. First Souness who inherited a terrible squad heading for League One, a squad with very few if any decent players, many locked into the club on big cosy wages with no likely buyers at any level and who couldn’t compete in the Championship as players. First promotion, then a trophy, what a turnaround for the club. Then some big money flops and even bigger punch ups as the football went all boring. Rovers fingers burned in the big money transfer market, a market we were to stay well clear of in future. A straightjacket that Souness’s successor found frustrating.

Four years on, enter 'Sparky'. And what a good job Hughes has done for Rovers. Not only were Souness’s big money turkeys shown the exit door, there were simply too many players not good enough and Souey, as good as he had been was trapped by his signings in relegation scraps. A situation Hughes inherited for the next two seasons. Hughes's main asset was quickly showing the exit door to players the fans knew weren’t good enough, Hughes showed his ability as a Scout right from the beginning and it's hard four years on to criticise any of his signings. A fantastic asset that will be almost impossible to follow.

Fitness levels were a problem and assembling a squad that would stay clear of relegation a tough task for Hughes on shoe string. In came fitness coaches, pro-zone, and discipline which under Souey towards the end had begun to break down. Hard football replaced losing football.

Throughout the 4 years Hughes's transfer budget was minimal. He not only bought well, but bought cheaply to. To those that say you need a lot of money to survive, Sparky proved you didn’t. Whether Pro-zone or whether good judgement, poor players never played again, to always be replaced by better players. A barometer with which we should judge all future managers avoiding the trap of the past of making to many excuses, supporting the 'you need big money' road to success model.

The beginning

Bringing in Savage was a good early decision and helped Hughes stamp his authority on the playing staff, the expectation and the discipline. Savage is a poor player all told, but his best qualities brought to Rovers what we needed. Determination, no matter the situation or score, effort, energy. Off the pitch more so. Team bonding, good attitude to training with fellow pro's, leadership, fitness and commitment. A real professional. Hughes’s ambitions were ruthless too. Sparky knew Savage had run his course and as quick to off load him, as Hughe’s attempted to impose a more passing style to meet the challenges of the top half the PL and Europe.

Sparky's first two season's weren't without real problems. Bottom at Christmas, near the botom in February. Hughes steered a steady disciplined ship out of troubled waters without panicking. By last season we were an established top half premiership team bringing in more attractive skilful players, Bentley, Benni and moving out old workhorses, Thommo and Dickov. Bellamy came and went, Sparky arguably getting more out of him than any other manager demonstrating his ability at a personal level. Hughes's motivational skills seemed to charm better performances than other managers.

European and Premiership success

There was a magnificent run in the UEFA cup, Ko'ed in the last 32 by Leverkussen, though team selection and tactics raised it's head for the first time as Rovers aspirations to compete at a higher level came under closer scrutiny. A magnificent semi-final against Cheski which slipped through the fingers with missed chances at the end.

As season three came to a close, there was nothing to criticise Sparky for really. He had proved what a good manager he can be. By the end of last season Sparky for the 2nd season got us in Europe, albeit by the back door.

Last season

This past season however has been a different story. Questions have for the first time been asked. An over reliance on pro-zone keeping out of form players like MGP in the team. The selection of a totally unfit captain who was conceding poor penalties and giving away soft goals through individual errors, and who admitted subsequently he should never have played, “he had let the fans down”. It was Dalglish who always said it was he who picked the team, and he as manager who was responsible. A yardstick that does Hughes no favours.

An ongoing failure to address Rovers abysmal performance from set pieces, and defending them too at times. Bottom of the goals scored table, bottom half in the goals conceded table. Our eventual rivals for Europe, Villa scoring 48% of their goals from set pieces. Poor penalties and too many missed. Gamble’s at key moments that back fired; such as allowing Matt Derbyshire to take a penalty at Villa when he is a young player, one looking to impress to gain a regular place. It was too much pressure when highly paid first teamers should be taking greater responsibilty. Issues the management never got a grip of all season. Rovers should have qualified for Europe with games in hand and Hughes deserved that but just maybe, it slipped through his own fingers.

The debacle at Larissa. a side we made look premiership class but who went on to display how far out of their depth they were in every match following. The failure to finish them off at home, ditto Leverkussen, as man for man both sides were inferior absolute sheer chaos away to Wigan were substitutions resulted in half the side playing out of position, a team who didn't know one another except for the similar shirts they seemed to be wearing. The catastrophe of Coventry at home in the FA Cup, possible Hughes darkest 90 minutes. And the total lacklustre performances at home all season in the PL. Fulham being an example when the players just gave up before they started, surely the 2 points that did cost us that European place. Substitutions were inflexible, nay even predictable on when and whom.

Team problems

We had all season a defensive problem, to many goals conceded, often through our own simple errors. To many goals conceded to be a team with ambitions to qualify for Europe directly. Ooijar, our most consistent centre half who improved team results when reinstated, was too regularly alternated between the subs bench and a position that wasn't natural to him, right back. The centre halves were shuffled too frequently and Samba in his first season at 21, allowed to play to many consecutive games. His view after the Fulham lack lustre performance was to personally and openly accept the blame from the fans for his and the teams lack of effort and energy. An admission of managerial fault in the face of supporters observations.

The midfield problem persisted. A traditional 4 was unsettled right from pre-season. Bentley in the hole in a five seemed one inconsistent alternate. Or Bentley in the hole with just 3 in midfield, with Matt Derbyshire out of position wide right to plug that gap. Or even at the end of the season, top scorer Santa Cruz out on the wide right. Dunn, a good performer, rated 5th in Rovers fans end of season poll, despatched to roll of permanent non playing sub with the arrival of free transfer Vogel.

Bentley's inconsistency exposed Rovers lack of midfield creativity. Reid was brought back ineffectively, and then shoehorned into an uncomfortable position of right back where he did well to do half a job, and that allowed the right back Emerton to play in midfield? Shuffle after shuffle allowed Hughes to bring back the aged Tugay whose inability to move into the attacking half of the pitch resulted in him dispossessing our own defenders in an attempt to play Hoddle-esqu 50 yard passes that too frequently were food and drink to an athletic premiership opposition. Dunn's midfield omission late season stifled creativity as Hughes sought to find midfield stability and some anchorage. The inadequate Mokeona, too long sidelined to keep up with the premiership pace, lacking in any ability, brought at best a good midfield spoiler.

One magic moment encapsulated what Rovesr have missed all season. One midfielder setting up another to score. Dunn's brilliant run and cross for Bentley to head home on the far post. Barring Dunn otherwise, nosebleeds were the order of the day in the opposition box, Bentley taking too often on himself to shoot, shoot, shoot, and shoot again from good central positions. He would do well to study Ronaldo and how he has learnt to make the right pass at the right time.

All in all, problems Hughes seemed happy to overlook with Rovers limited resources. Berner and Olson proved not even squad players and Treacy, Peter, Ritgers proved totally inadequate as any sort of replacment in a tight squad where ever player needed to contribute. Gallagher, centro campista away at Europe's 2nd finest team, Chelski, then catapulted to sub at Chamionship sides Preston and Stoke with Hughes extolling his skills as the best at the club. Hughes's poorest hour in getting the best out of a player, followed by the poor return from the previous season’s hero, Benni McCarthy.

The season was certainly one when Rovers showed good fitness levels most of the time. Late goals claimed many points on the road, whilst poor refereeing decisions against opponents saved Rovers a good few points. Chelsea disallowed goal stands out (though someone did list 4 or 5 somewhere on here).

Hughes ambitions for Rovers and the End

Hughes's ambitions for the club may have inflated expectation, “we are good enough to finish in the top 4 and that’s our aim” wandered between delusional, arrogant and over confidence but was a welcome change from the past dour outlook of previous incumbents. Not forgetting Rovers improving attendances, a possible reflection of that new optimism, however misplaced. A fact probably not missed ny the board in recruiting Hughes’s replacement. Rovers outlook should be more positive than negative, Hughes must be credited for the fact we are punching above our weight and as a club respected as very good PL team within the game. Last season however Rovers claimed only 1 victory against any of the top 10 sides with 3 games left. In the end with Tottenhams rise to 10th and a win at Pompey that rose to 3 from 18. Worrying.

It all ended on a poor note. 40 minutes left at Birmingham with the score 1-1 and Rovers on top, with Villa unable to win at West Ham and Birmingham players knowing they had gone down, the totality of our efforts all season seemed to mean little in those last few minutes as we faded away with a whimper when certain European qualification should have been heading towards the bank. Comical defending ended the dream and it didn't just begin at Birmingham.

John Williams and Mark Bowen have commented in the last few days, both reflecting on Hughes last few months rather than his last few days. Williams saying he knew Mark was likely to go the moment the Newcastle interest came up in January. And Bowen, that the Hughes needed a bigger challange. I presume he didn't roll out of bed one day after the Brum game and suddenly think this to himself. All indications are that Hughes knew he personally had run his course at Ewood months ago. Hughes tone at City seems one not of shock but of expectation. Hughes, an exemplary planner and forward thinker, the notion of surprise is not one associated with Hughes. Personal ambitions he held and ones that Willams, Bowen and others knew were coming to a head soon.

A job well done

A job well done for Hughes at Rovers no doubt, but also a good time to leave. For the club, the fans and hopefully for the players in that we the forthcoming season is not littered with the lacklustre performances too frequently endured last season.

And what for City, the future.

The Transfer Market.You are getting a manager who is simply the best in the bargain basement. He gets shut of poor players quickly and brings in better ones very cheaply. Question, he never spent over £3.5m at Ewood. Can he buy big and buy well? Souness couldn't handle big money. The only criticsm (and it isn't) of Hughes was the Lucas Neil transfer where Hughes saw Liverpool as rivals and we didn't sell for a higher price than we got.

Player DisciplineExcellent. You'll have a stable club with no trouble makers and a club never in the headlines for the wriong reasons. Players respect him. Even the petulant Benni McCarthy towed the club line.

Team Selection

Goodish. Poor players will be shown the door unless they show up well on pro-zone -see MGP above. Hughes however this season only has struggled. Picking Nelson cost us points and he appears a loyal manager when he should be taking tough decisions.

Team Tactics

Poorish - Terrible on set pieces, defence and attack. Little preparation or thought, poor delivery never altered or changed or worked on. Problems during games not realised (Wigan!), mistakes repeated (poor set pieces) and simple tactical issues not broached from the off (Larrissa!)

Overall a rejuvinated Hughes should do well for City though questions remain about big spending and tactical nouse, as well as working in an environment he will be totally unfamilar with to the stability of Blackburn and Wales, to the yoyo whims of a 3rd world millionaire.

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24 September 2005, Manchester United 1-2 Blackburn Rovers! One of the best days of my life for so many reasons and must go down as Hughes best result.

Most down I've felt under his regime was the semi final loss against Chelsea, just drained, gutted and sick as we were so close yet so far to getting to Wembley.

Most anger was the 4-1 drubbing by Coventry, that was just disgraceful!

Some top signings- nelsen, warnock, bentley, cruz, benni

worst signings - mokoena, berner.

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Well I for one am upset that he left us for City :angry: . I think i wouldnt be as mad if he had gone to cheski, seeing as there a top four team and it would make proud to say that our former coach is now in charge of one of the top four teams in Europe. But no, hes gone off to a side i feel was not nearly as good as ours.

One the other hand i have to say that in a way i see where he coming from in the sense that he will have a LOT more money to spend. I know that if we dont have the money to spend we shouldnt get our selves into massive debit just to pay player wages, but we need to find a way to bring in more money to bring in better players as well. My one conserne for our next manager is that he will not have the talent spotting abiltys that Huges had. Take what little money we give him and buy div 1 players and then we find ourselves relagated. (Very sorry for all the negitivity just a bit worried is all).

Well lets see where this next season takes us and no matter what happens ILL ALWAYS BE ROVERS!!!

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My one conserne for our next manager is that he will not have the talent spotting abiltys that Huges had.

As I've said it's not Hughes the manager that we will miss it's Hughes the scout. The man must have made us £40m on paper. Compare that with anybody since Dalglish who operated in a much different financial climate. I'd hate to see somebody come in who will fritter it away.... it'd finish us.

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Odd but one of our best performances I saw was against City at Ewood this season..they never had the ball during the game and were thereabout top of the PL. As a mates a City wind up merchent I'd been on a couple of City boards where they thought SGE was the second coming and Big tough Joey was heading for England. After the game they were tipping us four a top four club. :lol:

One of the best threads before the game was how the 'Boz' would sort out our tough boys as we were kickers. After it was how the very big dark centre half had made him look like a small boy when he tackled him (shame our Chris wasn't down Liverpool last Christmas when tough boy had a few and decided to knock a few kids around himself)

The change in squad value since Souness left is his legacy.

I wonder how MH would have gone on if he'd gone to a 'big' (not top four) club after Wales?

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As I've said it's not Hughes the manager that we will miss it's Hughes the scout. The man must have made us £40m on paper. Compare that with anybody since Dalglish who operated in a much different financial climate. I'd hate to see somebody come in who will fritter it away.... it'd finish us.

Agreed!

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The change in squad value since Souness left is his legacy.

I wonder how MH would have gone on if he'd gone to a 'big' (not top four) club after Wales?

As I've said it's not Hughes the manager that we will miss it's Hughes the scout. The man must have made us £40m on paper. Compare that with anybody since Dalglish who operated in a much different financial climate. I'd hate to see somebody come in who will fritter it away.... it'd finish us.

I totally agree. Hughes was the best manager we have had at club all things considered. Of course not the most successful. Of recent times Souness and Dalglish would be ahead of him.

JW and Souness brought stability omitting the last period of Souness's rein. Hughes is big Lagacy is the £40m he saved us in the transfer market. I get sick and fed up of managers saying you can't compete (in the PL) unless you have a big budget. Mark Hughes has shown this to not true and I always reflect on managers who say that as a weakness in them, not a statement of fact. You do need money however to climb into the top 4 or 5.

Good points about the semi's and quarter's. Chelski, we did so well, but also Coventry this season. My mate said after that game he had never seen a more dire managerial performance at Ewood in donks.

I would still sum Hughes up as Up Ups and the odd down, the odd down being a question mark as to whether he has reached his limit, or if he can do better.

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City fans will love this!

I think you need to forget about Utd Mark :rolleyes:

"Hughes maintains he would not have been lured to another of his former clubs, Chelsea, had they expressed an interest after City approached him. But United may be a different matter and far from undermining his chances of taking over from Ferguson, he could strengthen his prospects by making City a threat to the European champions."

Just who is Hughes trying to kid? Chelsea was a much better job AND he signed the City contract when he was in LONDON around the corner fro the Bridge and expecting the call that never came from the Russian ffs!

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All sorts of conspiracy theories in my head now....

did Bentley's mysterious refusal to sign his new contract that had nicko so fooled have its roots in a "Dont sign yet David, Larry Grayson's gonna be potted in May and Kenyon, Buck and Arneson want the 4 of us installed at the bridge ..... you might want to keep your options open. " ;)

or

Was his refusal to sign a major factor in Hughes deciding to move on? :huh:

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Theno - I have been thinking the same of sort of thing with regards to conspiracy theories!

The thought had crossed my mind too especially since Nicko said that Bentley thought he was going to Chelsea. So did Mark Hughes and look where he's ended up

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http://msnsport.skysports.com/video/0,2028...3669155,00.html

Don't know if anyone's seen this, sure there's a slight dig at Hughes from Williams about the manner of his departure. Something along the lines of Hughes constantly saying how continuity is necessary. Or "preached" as Big John puts it.

That'd be my take on it anyways.

Don't think there is any malice in that clip, maybe JW a bit peeved he left, but really just JW stating the obvious about continuity, look at manu, unfortunatly Hughes has now landed in an unstable environment where continuity is second place to instant success!

:rover:

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