Exclusive: Mark Hughes the leading candidate for Southampton job after Mauricio Pellegrino is sacked

Jeremy Wilson
The Telegraph
Exclusive: Mark Hughes the leading candidate for Southampton job after Mauricio Pellegrino is sacked
Exclusive: Mark Hughes the leading candidate for Southampton job after Mauricio Pellegrino is sacked

Mark Hughes is the leading candidate for the vacant managerial position at Southampton, with the club working to finalise an appointment over the next 24 hours.

Southampton have approached Hughes after prioritising the need for Premier League experience and an immediate ability to galvanise their flagging squad.

It represents a change of emphasis from the recent appointments of Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman, Claude Puel and Mauricio Pellegrino from outside of the Premier League but, with eight games remaining to ensure they are not relegated, Southampton’s need is urgent.

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The team are one point above the relegation zone after winning only once in 17 Premier League games and there is a strong feeling that they now need a manager who will have an impact, but potentially also fit with a longer term playing philosophy that gives younger players their chance.

Hughes has been out of work since being sacked by Stoke City in January, but the club  had previously recorded three consecutive finishes of ninth before sliding last season to 13th.

He has also managed Wales, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers Fulham and Queens Park Rangers – and is behind only Arsène Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson, Harry Redknapp, David Moyes and Sam Allardye on the list of most Premier League games.

A former Southampton striker, he was seriously considered for the Southampton job way back in 2004 when Paul Sturrock eventually replaced Gordon Strachan.

Southampton have been exploring more experiences options and already had a plan in place should they reluctantly have decided to replace Pellegrino, with Saturday’s dire performance against Newcastle United proving to be the final straw. There was a feeling that a change had become urgently necessarily and, while many fans had been calling for his sacking over several months, Southampton felt that he could be a long-term success and were hoping he would translate a series of ultimately costly draws into wins.

Former Hull City and Watford manager Marco Silva has been heavily linked with the Southampton job but is not understood to be in consideration. Former West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic is also keen on returning back to the Premier League but is not prominent on the immediate shortlist.

Pellegrino was informed on Monday night of the club’s decision and the story was broken on Telegraph Sport shortly before the club formally confirmed his departure at 8.50pm.

As well as Pellegrino, assistant manager Carlos Compagnucci and assistant first team coach Xavier Tamarit also left Southampton on Monday. Former captain and goalkeeper Kelvin Davis will take training on Tuesday with goalkeeping coach Dave Watson.

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