Mark Hughes hopes the days of Stoke City being referred to as a long-ball team are well and truly over after their impressive win over Manchester City.
Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia this week labelled the Potters ‘Stokelona’ following their 2-0 win over the previous Premier League leaders at the Britannia Stadium last Saturday.
Ex-Barca men Bojan Krkic and Ibrahim Afellay played their part as Stoke showed well and truly that they have moved on under Hughes from the long-ball tactics with which they were once so closely associated.
The manager wants more of the same going forward – and acknowledges that is only likely to increase attention on the side.
When asked at his press conference for Saturday’s trip to West Ham about the ‘Stokelona’ tag, Hughes, a former Barcelona player himself, said: “There is an obvious interest in what we’re doing here what with the Catalan connection.
“They have great affection for Bojan, who they see very much as one of their own, so they are really pleased when he is doing well – and, as a consequence, when we are doing well.
“Compliments are fine when they are deserved, and arguably they were, given the level of performance.
“So we will take them – although it probably doesn’t sit too comfortably with us at the moment because we are not used to it!
“Usually we fly underneath the radar and just get on with our business.
“If the profile of what we are doing is raised, then we have to deal with that as well – it is part of the challenge we have ahead of us.”
Hughes wants consistency from Stoke
Hughes rates last Saturday’s game – in which he started Bojan, Xherdan Shaqiri, two-goal hero Marko Arnautovic and Afellay together in a dynamic attack – as even better from Stoke’s perspective than the 6-1 thrashing of Liverpool on the final day of last season.
And in terms of what might follow, he said: “It was a level of performance we hope we’re capable of on more than just one occasion.
“The challenge for us is to reproduce it on a regular basis.”
Hughes, who has guided the club to two consecutive ninth-placed Premier League finishes and this season’s Capital One Cup semi-finals since taking charge in 2013, feels the perception of ‘long-ball Stoke’ has now completely disappeared.
“I think that’s probably right,” said the Welshman, whose side are currently 11th, a point off sixth.
“It has been two and a half years of a lot of work and the players deserve all the credit, because it was not an easy change we have tried to do.
“When I got the job, I recognised very quickly I had a good group of players with the potential to maybe play in a slightly different way and still be successful.”
Stoke remain without Peter Crouch, Peter Odemwingie (both hamstring) and Shay Given (knee), but Marc Muniesa (hamstring) could return to first-team action on Saturday.