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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 November, 2003, 12:56 GMT
Hughes at a crossroads
By Stuart Roach

THE BOOK ON HUGHES' FUTURE
Mark Hughes has plenty to think about
3-1 Still Wales boss when 2006 World Cup finals begin
8-1 Next Man Utd manager
10-1 Next Chelsea manager
16-1 Next Tottenham manager
25-1 Next Scotland manager

As Wales' European Championship march suddenly hit a dead end, coach Mark Hughes found himself standing at a crossroads.

Wales' failure to reach their first major championship finals since 1958 leaves Hughes' future in doubt.

A move into club management would have the likes of Tottenham and Leeds forming a not-very-orderly queue for his services.

And Hughes has already been linked with a return to Old Trafford as assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson.

Publicly, Hughes has pledged his immediate future to Wales in the aftermath of their Euro 2004 play-off heartbreak.

But the only certainty over his future is that Hughes will not be going to Portugal with Wales next summer.

Here, BBC Sport studies the options open to Hughes.


Stay on Wales coach
Hughes' contract gives him the chance of making it third time lucky in reaching a major championship as Wales look to regroup ahead of World Cup 2006 qualification.

The coach faces a year of obscurity before qualification begins but insists parting company is more likely to be a decision made by the Football Association of Wales.

"Given the choice, I would like to stay, but maybe the fact we have not qualified means they will have something to say about that," Hughes said.

He added: "My job is to try to get Wales to major championships and I have failed twice to do that."

Bookmaker's verdict (Graham Sharpe, William Hill): "We think Mark will want another crack at sporting immortality by getting Wales to the World Cup - and offer 3-1 that he is still boss when the 2006 World Cup finals get underway."


Manchester United assistant manager
Sir Alex Ferguson has already been linked with a move for Hughes, who he twice signed as a player.

Hughes retains legendary status at Old Trafford and would be a popular choice as Ferguson's new right-hand man.

The biggest obstacle will be taking a back seat, though Hughes would be well aware that joining Ferguson would put him in pole position to take over when the manager eventually retires.

Bookmaker's verdict: "Hughes is unlikely to want to take a secondary role wherever he goes, but with a complicated situation potentially in place at Old Trafford, we reckon it is an 8-1 shot that Hughes will succeed Fergie as United gaffer."


Tottenham manager
Spurs are ticking along under caretaker manager David Pleat, but know they have to make a decision over a permanent appointment sooner, rather than later.

Wales' Euro 2004 exit could hardly have been better timed for Spurs, who do not see Pleat as a long-term solution but would welcome the appointment of a younger manager to work with the experienced director of football.

Hughes, who is based in the south-east of England, would fit the bill perfectly.

Bookmaker's verdict: "Spurs is a club with which Hughes has little obvious connection but taking over there could be a useful stop-off point for one of the big glamour jobs. William Hill offer 16-1 that Sparky takes over at White Hart Lane."


Leeds manager
There is little doubt Leeds would welcome the chance of hauling Hughes aboard their rocking ship.

But, with Hughes contracted to Wales until 2006, the Football Association of Wales would demand a compensation package that would prohibit an approach by financially-stricken Leeds.

Bookmaker's verdict: "This is a possibility, but would Hughes want to give up on one lost cause for another? You can have 10-1 that he becomes the next Elland Road manager - and at least he has the coaching badges."


Southampton manager
It's a long shot but, should Leeds manage to prise Gordon Strachan away from St Mary's, Saints chairman Rupert Lowe would almost certainly turn his attentions to Hughes.

Hughes the player spent one-and-a-half seasons at Southampton as a player, playing 50 times before moving to Blackburn.

Lowe is a known admirer of Hughes the manager and would see him as the ideal compensation package should he lose Strachan's services.

Bookmaker's verdict: "Saints alive - here's one for the conspiracy theorists! Hughes was a popular player at Southampton and should a vacancy arise there he could well regard it as a decent job to move into for at least the short term. 6-1 with Hills."







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