Swansea boss Garry Monk believes his former team-mate Mark Hughes has pulled off the toughest trick in management in changing Stoke’s playing style.
Stoke were known for their physical and combative style under Hughes’ predecessor and fellow Welshman Tony Pulis as the Potters established themselves in the Barclays Premier League.
But Hughes has brought more finesse to Stoke since taking over in the summer of 2013 with the likes of Marko Arnautovic, Bojan Krkic and Xherdan Shaqiri bringing guile as well as glamour to the Britannia Stadium.
“That change is probably the hardest thing you can do in management,” Monk said ahead of Stoke’s visit to the Liberty Stadium on Monday night.
“It takes a lot of work, detail and willingness from yourself, the staff and the players.
“You also need trust from above and the chairman, board and directors buying into what you’re doing and giving you the licence to recruit the players you want.
“You need all that to change vision and it takes time, but they’ve done that exceptionally well at Stoke.”
Monk and Hughes were colleagues at Southampton in the late-1990s when they were at opposite ends of their playing careers.
Hughes was in the twilight of his as a no-nonsense striker with a stellar career at Manchester United, Barcelona and Chelsea behind him, while Monk was a young centre-half trying to make his way in the game.
“We had a number of experienced pros at Southampton at that point,” Monk said.
“I don’t know if you could say Mark was going to be a manager, but he was very experienced and knew football.
“At that time I was young and not really paying attention whether was going to become a manager.
“I just looked at those players as footballers and what they had done in the game and wanted to learn from that experience.
“But Mark has done very well as a manager and it shows what can happen if you give him a little bit of time.”
Stoke visit south Wales with only one point separating the two clubs in the table and a growing rivalry between the two clubs.
Swansea pipped Stoke for a top-eight spot last season and some hard-fought contests in recent season have been sprinkled with controversy, not least last term’s meeting at the Britannia Stadium.
Stoke won 2-1 on that occasion when Monk accused Victor Moses of diving to win a penalty and Hughes made a staunch defence of his on-loan winger.
“A lot was made of that but me and Mark have got a great relationship,” Monk said.
“I’ve got the highest respect for him as a manager and as a person and I’ve no problems with him.
“It was just in that game Mark was sticking up for his player and my attentions were towards that incident.
“But it was a long time ago. My focus is on moving forward and putting on a good performance against Stoke on Monday.”