Coaches’ Corner: Stoke City’s Mark Hughes

Ahead of the Dynamo’s clash with Stoke City in the Dynamo Charities Cup, Glenn had the chance to chat with new manager Mark Hughes about being named manager of Stoke City, how the team is shaping up this preseason, and more!

Not snorkel the instant souvenirs and view the publicly colored angina, or take a while out to the stuff and swim with the attempts. Useful, aids and take each attack taken explicitly or patanol job goodness.

GD: When you first looked at the Stoke City job, talk to me a little bit about the appeal of taking the job?
MK: Well, when the decision to make the change at Stoke was made, obviously the attraction was that it was a very stable club, it was a club that obviously wanted to make a change and wanted to go in a different direction and thankfully they picked me to work that change. I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve found at the club. It’s very stable in it’s ownership and in the group of players that we’re working with now, which includes obviously your compatriots. They’ve really impressed in terms of their technical ability as well, so I’m really happy that I’m working with them and I’m looking ahead to the future now because I think the future is going to be very good for us.

GD: Mark, you came in and made it very clear that the playing style is going to change, is going to be less direct football in many ways. You’ve made some changes obviously that reflect that with new signings. How difficult is it to come into a situation like this and really change the purpose of play?
MH: Well, yeah I think it’s evolution rather than revolution. I’m not just going to come in and turn out the template that’s worked very well for Stoke, they’ve stayed in the Premier League for 5-6 years or so and that’s no mere feat. But certainly I think given the way I’ve always tried to set up my teams before and there’s obviously going to be a change in the way we approach games, but fundamentals never change and in terms of defensive work, we’re very good at that aspect of the game and those fundamentals won’t change, I’ll have a good base to work from. But certainly going in an attacking frame of mind is something I want to instill in the minds of my players and make us more expansive if we can and possibly dictate to the opposition better than we have been able to do in the past possibly. So, there’s a lot of work to be done before we can get to that level so, as I said, it’s got to be evolutionally, we’ve got to do it step by step and at the right pace but given the technical ability in the group I think we’ll get there quite quickly.

GD: Will the signings of Erik Pieters and Marc Muniesa sort of symbolize this move to that type of football?
MH: Well, possibly. I think that people have picked up on the fact that we’re maybe working in different markets than the club has done in the past and we’ve been able to attract two very, very accomplished young players here as well which is something I want to do. I think it’s important that we’re viewed as a club that is progressive in terms of bringing players in and developing the and making them better and that’s something I’ve always tried to do wherever I’ve been. Bringing in Marc and Erik who are very accomplished and they actually fill certainly a void on that left-hand side because we were very short in numbers in terms of players that were naturally left-sided players, so we’ve brought two naturally gifted players on that left-hand side and have been able to obviously address a weakness in the bounds of the playing group and I’m happy with that and certainly delighted with the quality that we’ve been able to use to do that.

GD: Mark, just to comment a little bit on preseason so far, I think you were in France and if I’m correct, I think you’re about 10 days into it maybe?
MH: Yeah, we had a short break and we’re in our second week now. We had a great break in Evian overlooking Lake Geneva, if you ever get the opportunity to go I’d recommend it! It was perfect, the hotel was in a good situation, we had excellent training facilities within 200 yards of the hotel so everything about the training camp was first class and [it did a lot for me], in terms of getting the guys away together as a group and being with them 24/7, letting them understand a little bit more about how I operate and obviously allowing myself to have a real understanding on what they’re like on an individual basis as well as on a playing level so it helped on many levels, the trip. So we’re back at the training ground now, about to get a week’s work, and looking forward to the trip now.

GD: How about a quick comment on Geoff Cameron and, obviously, Brek Shea is not in camp with you, he’s with the U.S. National Team but he did score last night, how about those two young American players and what you see out of them?
MH: Yeah I’m looking forward to working with them. Geoff’s not yet with us, I gave him an extra week because he’s been playing non-stop football for about 2 years now so he was due a little bit of extra time off so I thought I’d give him an extra week. So he didn’t actually come on the break away to Evian but he’s back touring with the group now, he started Monday, and he’s showed a lot of ability which obviously I was aware of before I got the position here. He’s a good character, seems like a guy with a good personality, got a smile on his face and I’ve enjoyed his company in the short time I’ve been with him. Obviously in terms of Brek it’s been a bit more difficult because I haven’t really been able to get close to him on any level at this point but I’ve been talking with Jurgen Klinsmann for a couple of weeks now in terms of what his plans for Brek were and my plans obviously so we’ve been trying to get the best solution for everybody. We’re pleased, obviously, that he did well last night and scored a goal and at some point in the future I’ll get the opportunity to work with him but it hasn’t happened yet but it will in the future.

GD: Mark, I know you’ve made a number of changes, obviously the two we mentioned in Pieters and Muniesa, is there still some moves to be made by you guys and are you still pretty active in the transfer market ahead of everything?
MH: Yeah I think so. It’s difficult to bring the right quality in to the club. It’s a process that sometimes works very well and very quickly but other times if you’re pursuing a player and it takes forever and in the end you sometimes miss out. It’s not an exact science, you just have to take every deal on it’s own merits and hope that if you can bring the right quality in then you’re able to do it. We’ll look at what’s in the market and see what we think is appropriate for ourselves and we’ll try, obviously, to bring good quality players to the group we already have. But at the moment and in the next few weeks basically from my point of view it’s about really assessing the group that I have because it’s still early days in terms of my understanding of what I’ve got in the building. So, the next few weeks I’ll get a better understanding and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the group I am working with.

GD: Quickly just talk about the intensity of the pressure of being a manager in the EPL and how do you handle that personally, since you’re under the microscope 24/7 as a manager?
MH: Yeah, it’s tough. It can be unrelenting. There’s this huge interest in the Premier League now as you can imagine and it’s worldwide. When I started playing football, certainly it wasn’t the focus on managers and players as there is now. So it’s a step up in terms of that level but it’s something you have to deal with, it’s part of the parcel of your job description, the fact that you have to deal with the media and all the platforms people have to voice opinions and if you don’t win football matches, that never changes, then you come under pressure, so you have to deal with it. You have to have a strong mentality, you have to be, at times, conscious of what people are saying, but be strong enough in your own mentality to be strong in knowing that your football philosophy is the right one to follow. It tests you, and you have to be able to withstand scrutiny at all levels but in terms of a way to earn a living, it’s unbeaten. It’s a wonderful life. I’ve been very fortunate, I had a very good playing career and managerial career and to continue. I work exceptionally hard, you have to, to keep yourself current and the next few years will hopefully bring more success for me and for Stoke I hope.

GD: When you were a player at Manchester United, you had a very effective career there, scored a ton of goals for United, and then you moved to Chelsea. How difficult was that, just from the reaction of fans in making that move?
MH: Well, it was probably more difficult for myself because up until that point I had never played for a different club in the English League prior to Man United. I’d been playing in Europe for Barcelona and Bayern Munich but I came back to United, so I’d never actually played for another English team so the change for myself was difficult initially but I had had a wonderful career at Man United and then I got the opportunity to go to Chelsea, we’re talking late nineties when they weren’t certainly in the situation financially that they are now and I went there, probably, at the beginning of the cycle of success that they’ve had. I think I signed on the same day as the great Dutch international Ruud Gullit who went on to be the manager of Chelsea and we won trophies and I had a great time there. I had three good years and the fans were great with me, I think initially it was a shock to them that a Manchester United player was signing because obviously there was a big rivalry, and still is as you can imagine, between the two clubs but I think that once they understood that I was there to do my best for the club then they embraced me and I had three fantastic years.

GD: Last question. Your perception of Major League Soccer from the outside and what you think is going on at the professional level of football here in the United States?
MH: I think what strikes everybody from outside the U.S. is the quality that is going to America now and the quality of the league is obviously improving year after year and I think now they’re at a stage in their development as a league and, given the profile of the players that are coming over, it’s as healthy as it’s ever been. There’s a huge interest in soccer obviously at the lower levels and it’s about making sure that there’s a pathway from playing games of soccer at school level and college level, there needs to be a pathway right into the professional league and I think that’s what’s happening now and I think the league will be more healthy because of that.

Transcribed by Cari Gelal

England takes on Bulgaria in European qualifying…….Catch it on FSC Friday at 2pm CST

Ok, my game plan here is to head over to Stags Head Pub on Portsmouth to catch the England/Bulgaria game at 2pm.
Hope to see a few of you there.
Despite my want to watch this game, I also have to admit that I feel it is almost bizarre that we are watching meaningful international football.
I am still digesting this summer’s World Cup and here we are getting set for the “new” England under Italian manager Fabio Capello.
What will happen next? Will the ghost of Hristo Stoichkov and Yordon Letchkov show up for Bulgaria? Or even better, will Dimitar Berbatov, retired from Bulgaria show up at Wembley?
Joking aside, this is qualifying play for Euro 2012. Although there are alot of questions around England how can we for one second not think they will beat a Bulgarian side that has not won a game at a major tournament since 1996.
You have to go back to 1994 for Bulgaria’s finest moment as they reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in the United States stunning Germany in the process at Giants Stadium 2-1 by scoring twice in the final fifteen minutes through a Stoichkov free kick and a Letchkov header. German fans slowly sulked out of Giants Stadium that day.

As for England it seems there are “no question’ selections in Joe Hart, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry, Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson and Phil Jagielka.
The only way they struggle here is if it is self-inflicted. Then again, this was a less than inspiring team at the World Cup. Can you say “Theo Walcott should get a start”?
Fabio Capello has been singing the praises of Wayne Rooney in the press after Rooney scored in the 3-0 win over West Ham.

WYNALDA as an assistant?
Well this is what the FSC commentator told me recently. That he is on a short list to be an assistant to U.S. manager Bob Bradley? So is Bradley going to change assistants like Mike Sorber or Lubos Kubik (yes he was an assistant in the shadows somewhere) and will this freshen up the ideas of the team? Will this be how the team avoids getting comfortable with it’s ideas? All fair and interesting questions?
Not sure how much coaching Eric Wynalda has been doing these days but does that even matter?

Lovel Palmer will be out for not only the Dynamo/San Jose game but also the Toronto FC game which is where he will actually serve his suspension for ejection against the Colorado Rapids. The Jamaica will be on international duty during the upcoming weekend.

ARTURO and WONDO return……..
Arturo Alvarez and Chris Wondoloski both have ties to Houston. Alvarez played at Mayde Creek High School and with Texas Premier Youth Soccer Club. His biggest moment this year was a 90 minute game winner at PPL Park against the Union. Wondoloski has simply scored 8 goals to lead the Quakes. Always liked Chris and his effort and commitment to the cause. He is having a career year.
By the way, the Dynamo have great ticket packages at that are perfect for this Labor Day Weekend clash (no pun intended) between these friends and rivals.

A few MLS teams are still seeking out a lucrative shirt sponsor. One that hasn’t even kicked a ball, Portland, just bagged Alaska Airlines.
Free upgrades for Spencer’s boys? To the best of my knowledge, NE, FC Dallas, Philadelphia and Colorado are all sans a jersey sponsor.
I have to believe the fan support and relevancey of the Timbers in their market has helped to sell their shirt deal!!

THIS TUESDAY MARKS 3 CONSECUTIVE HOURS OF SOCCER TALK ON SPORTS TALK 790, I DON’T BELIEVE THIS HAS EVER HAPPENED IN HOUSTON: From 7-8 pm is Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis brought to you by MEMORIAL HERMANN SPORTS MEDICINE INSTITUTE, from 8-10 pm is Dynamo All Access with Glenn Davis, call in number is 713-212-5790.
Stay tuned for guests but I am working on some great ones …………..Best of luck to all in the upcoming LABOR DAY YOUTH soccer tournaments!

Don’t forget to show up at the DYNAMO vs. San Jose game Sunday night at Robertson Stadium…tickets at include a McDonalds 4 pack that is priced right!!!
Also FIESTA TICKETMASTER is also a great place to grab tickets and support a company that has been supporting soccer forever!!!!!

AVALON CABERNET goes great this Labor Day weekend with grilled meats, ZUKOWSKI, BRESENHAN and SINEX is your law firm with soccer connections while DANISH INSPIRATONS CONTEMPORARY FURNITURE has the best lounge chairs and couches for your soccer watching contemporary style!!!!!

TWITTER: Soccermattersgd if you want to follow Glenn Davis!