Mark Hughes’ exploits at Stoke perhaps haven’t received the credit they deserve, but the Potters boss is putting his two seasons of sterling work on the line by repeating mistakes made in during his disaster stint at QPR.
Staffordshire’s finest soccer franchise achieved their highest ever Premier League finishes under the Welshman’s guidance, while he also succeeded in reinvigorating the pragmatic style of play and the stigma this carries, which was championed under the previous regime run by Tony Pulis.
This triumphant spell was much needed for the former Manchester City, Fulham and QPR chief, who was out of work having being dismissed from the Loftus Road hotseat after a shocking start to the 2012/13 campaign.
The R’s failed to win any of their opening 12 fixtures before opting to change manager.
An underlining factor behind Hughes’ failures that season was he employed an overly-ambitious transfer strategy, focussing on glamour signings as opposed to those stern-of-character types better-suited to relegation avoidance.
In total, £16.5m was spent on transfer fees for four players, while a further seven were drafted in for free.
The recruits came from lavish locations such as Real Madrid, Inter, Marseille, Chelsea and Manchester United; teams residing in the upper reaches of their particular divisions whose players are, by and large, unfamiliar with the rigours of a basement battle.
At Stoke, Hughes has been careful not to target players accustomed to life at a higher level.
Former Barcelona youths Bojan and Marc Muniesa are the only acquisitions transferred from elite establishments, though even then they both had plenty to prove at the time of purchase, unlike say Park Ji-Sung, or Jose Bosingwa, who the Welsh boss brought to QPR from Man Utd and Chelsea, respectively.
Ahead of the 2014/15 instalment, for instance, the Potters signed Phi Bardsley, Steve Sidwell and Mame Biram Diouf; three no frills footballers with the combative qualities to flourish in a side with unspectacular aspirations.
This pre-season, however, has seen Hughes deviate from his new-found approach to the flawed modus operandi of buying big names.
A bid was accepted for Inter Milan’s former Bayern Munich attacker Xherdan Shaqiri, with the player still debating whether or not he fancies a move to the Britannia, while the signing of former £17m Liverpool man Glen Johnson has been completed.
It may be the case that, having instilled stable foundations in the previous two terms, Hughes feels it’s safe to sate his craving for Hollywood signings, but given his luck when pursuing such players in the past, expect Stoke to come closer to landing a 14/1-rated relegation than they do a third-straight top half finish.