After being charge of a Stoke side that has now dropped into the bottom three after successive Premier League defeats to Chelsea and Newcastle you always had the feeling that Mark Hughes was always going to be on borrowed time in his bid to stay as manager of the club.
The one thing he did not need was defeat to Coventry in the F.A. Cup yesterday afternoon, that would have been the absolute worst thing to happen and guess what it was the absolute worst thing to happen as soon after the former Wales manager is now the former Wales and Stoke manager.
Club chairman Peter Coates felt enough was enough and that Mark Hughes is not the man to halt the worrying slide that the club seem to be in the midst of right now. But with any managerial vacancy that opens the question now becomes who will be the next man to enter the Bet365 Stadium.
The issue that Stoke will face is that all the usual firefighters have been deployed to their annual posts and therefore the likes of Sam Allardyce, Roy Hodgson or even Tony Pulis are now otherwise tied up in their own managerial tasks. So just which names are on Stoke’s shortlist?
The early contenders seem to be a mixture of youth (in relative managerial terms) and experience, the former is comes in the form of Derby County boss Gary Rowett while the latter is that of Republic Of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill.
Gary Rowett has been impressive as Derby boss this season with the Rams currently lying second in the EFL Championship behind runaway leaders Wolves, while Friday saw them just six minutes away from earning a replay against Manchester United in the F.A. Cup.
The question though is whether he feels Stoke is a club with the right trajectory, right now Derby are going in the direction they want to be going in while the Potters are going in the exact opposite. This may well give him a quick route to the Premier League but he may well be better off sticking rather than twisting.
Another option is to look to the international game and that of current Ireland boss Martin O’Neill. The former Leicester boss among others missed out on qualifying for a second successive international tournament in November with his side heavily beaten by Denmark in a World Cup play-off.
Whether he feels that at the end of this international cycle is a perfect time to bow out and return to the cut and thrust of club management is one thing but at the same time with the Northern Irish international now 65 years old, he may well think that this a world better left behind and to stick to the slightly more serene pace of the international game.
The other issue is that managers may well be unwilling to commit their future’s to a club that is in a relegation battle. Although taking a Premier League job is attractive, it then becomes less so once you are saddled with the burdened of relegation.
That is why some potential candidates may well be looking at this vacancy at arm’s length, at the same time the Stoke hierarchy may well look to what Swansea have done and only look to appoint someone until the end of the season.
I guess that decision will be made on the basis of how far they have to go down their shortlist as if they can attract the likes of Gary Rowett then it certainly won’t be a case of the former Birmingham boss signing up a deal until the end of May.
Slaven Bilic could be another likely contender, he did however refuse to talk to West Brom when they sacked Tony Pulis earlier in the season and where looking for a new manager. Whether he feels this club is in the same bracket remains to be seen.
Another man who is the pack of front runners is that of Mark Hughes’ former Manchester United and Wales teammate Ryan Giggs. He is often there or there abouts when it come to these kind of vacancies but no club chairman has been bold enough to offer the wing wizard a job as of yet.
For Hughes it is an unremarkable end to his time at Stoke, quite simply he had run of steam and could not arrest the slide that the club are currently in. The fact that they have the worst defensive record in the Premier League speaks volumes and when you are shipping goals then ultimately results are going to go against you.
More often than not when that is the case then the axe usually looms large and that combined with an ever growing fan backlash has meant that it was always going to be a matter of when and not if he was shown the Bet365 exit door, the question now is who will come through the entrance?