Struggling Southampton appoint Hughes as new manager

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Mark Hughes PHOTO:PA

Premier League strugglers Southampton have appointed Mark Hughes as their new manager following the sacking of Mauricio Pellegrino, the club announced on Wednesday.

Southampton dismissed Pellegrino on Monday after a run of just one win in 17 matches left the side only a point and one place above the relegation zone with eight games of the season remaining.

“Southampton Football Club can today confirm it has appointed Mark Hughes as its new First Team Manager,” the club said in a statement.

“Hughes has agreed a contract with the club until the end of the season and will take training at the club’s Staplewood Campus for the first time on Thursday.”

Hughes, who has previous top-flight coaching experience at Blackburn, Manchester City, Fulham and QPR, was sacked as Stoke manager in January after four-and-a-half seasons in charge.

“The objective clearly is to remain in the league and make sure we’re a Premier League club next year,” the 54-year-old Hughes said.

“That’s where this club needs to be, that’s where it should be, and that’s our intention to make sure it remains there.”

The former Manchester United, Chelsea and Wales striker spent two seasons at Southampton as a player towards the end of his career.

“It’s a challenge I’m excited by. It’s a great opportunity to come back to a club I know well, and a club I’ve got real affinity with, and I couldn’t turn that down,” he said.

“I bring experience of the Premier League. I understand what it takes in this league to win games.

“But first and foremost I think it’s about coming in and maybe being that different voice, that different message from myself and the staff, that will enable the players to recognise and focus on what needs to be done in this key period of the season.”

Hughes’s first match in charge will be Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final at third-tier Wigan, the team who dumped out Pep Guardiola’s Man City in the previous round.

It is the ninth managerial change in the Premier League this season, and Hughes becomes Southampton’s third different boss since June.

Frenchman Claude Puel was sacked after leading the Saints to eighth place and the League Cup final last term, and has since thrived after taking over at Leicester earlier this season.

Argentine Pellegrino was named as Puel’s successor but paid the price for a disastrous dip in form, with Southampton having expected far better this season after three consecutive top-eight finishes.

They sold centre-back Virgil van Dijk for a record-breaking £75 million ($102 million, 84 million euros) in January and have started leaking goals in recent weeks, conceding 19 in their last 10 Premier League outings.

But scoring has been Southampton’s biggest problem all season, with Charlie Austin their top-scorer with only six goals in all competitions.