Hughes: Stoke ‘nowhere near’ where we can go

Date published: Friday 23rd October 2015 5:33

Stoke City: Travel to Doncaster on Saturday

Stoke City: Travel to Doncaster on Saturday

Mark Hughes still sees plenty of room for improvement at Stoke City as he prepares for his 100th game in charge of the club.

Hughes will bring up his century against Watford at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, with Stoke chasing a fourth straight win in the Premier League.

When asked if he hoped to celebrate the occasion with a victory, Hughes said: “You always hope to win, but I’m not too bothered about that kind of landmark.

“I think it’s more about focusing on what the team is doing – and we are pleased with that.”

The Welshman, sacked in his previous role as QPR manager after less than a year, added: “I do think the fact it is 100 games is good as it means I have lasted a little bit longer than I did in my last job.

“Long may it continue.”

Stoke fans have every reason to hope Hughes stays put for some time.

So far, he has guided the Potters to two ninth-placed finishes, which is their highest final position in the Premier League.

Although three points from their first six games of 2015-16 represented their worst start to a campaign in the division, a win over Watford will give them 15 points from their opening 10 fixtures – equalling their best tally on that front.

Hughes said: “It’s a lot of work by a lot of people that has enabled the club to be stronger – in my view – than it was when I walked through the door.

“We continue to try to push the bar higher and we don’t want to stand still.

“I don’t think we are anywhere near where we can get to. There’s more progress to come, we’re confident of that.”

Hughes will make late calls on whether striker Mame Diouf and captain Ryan Shawcross will be involved on Saturday.

Diouf has been on compassionate leave following the death of his mother, while Shawcross’ recovery from summer back surgery is nearing completion, with the defender having played 90 minutes for the under-21s earlier this week.

Hughes said: “Given the circumstances we’re mindful of where Mame is. If it’s the right decision to give him a bit more time, then so be it.

“Ryan probably feels ready. He could play – but the likelihood is he won’t tomorrow.

“We have three games over the next week. He’s more likely to be involved Tuesday (against Chelsea) and next weekend (against Newcastle).”

Meanwhile, Hughes is giving Per Mertesacker “the benefit of the doubt” after the Arsenal defender was quoted as telling German sports magazine Kicker: “When a mediocre club like Stoke spends almost £10million on an average player from Hannover, then that’s lucrative for the German club” – referring to Potters striker Joselu.

Hughes said: “I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Not that I’m good at German, but maybe there’s a different interpretation of the words he used.”

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