When Stoke defied Sunderland at the Stadium of Light to advance to the last 16 of the Capital One Cup it left bwinbetting wondering if it might finally be Sparky’s year.
The Potters are 14/1 seventh favourites to land the trophy for only the second occasion in their history and the first time since 1972, despite three of the six outfits ahead of them in the betting having yet to join them at the next stage.
Read on for the reasoning as to why the Wrexham-native is long overdue a final appearance, if not a piece of managerial silverware to hang his perm on…
Sparky takes the cups seriously.
Few managers can claim to grant the domestic knockouts as much credence as Hughes, who once again fielded a full-strength line-up against the Black Cats.
Having shown the likes of Walsall, Tranmere and Birmingham a similar amount of respect last term, the Welshman deserves a Wembley date on good old-fashioned deference alone.
He’s guided sides to four semi-finals in his time.
The silver-haired volley-expert led his Blackburn Rovers to the last four of three domestic trophies in succession.
At Manchester City he once again guided his troops to the semis of the League Cup only to be replaced by Roberto Mancini before he could attempt to surmount the penultimate hurdle.
Even whilst in charge of Wales in his first managerial position he came within a match of the de facto trophy of Euro 2004 qualification, losing out to Russia in the play-offs after finishing a valiant second to Italy in the groups.
He’s one of the few British top-flight gaffers yet to reach a domestic showpiece.
Poor old Sparky has had to watch on while contemporaries such as Alan Pardew, Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce and old Manchester United mucker Steve Bruce have absorbed the cup final limelight.
Perhaps this year it could be Hughes’ turn.