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Hughes 'the right man for Man City'

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City ready to match expectations - Hughes

By Jonathan Pearce
BBC football commentator

We were in the visitors' dressing room, but in the spotlight of the interview lamps Mark Hughes left me in no doubt that he is the king of a castle of his own making.

From the moment he spoke to the thousands of fans at the City of Manchester Stadium for the pre-season open training session through to our time spent chatting deep underneath the stands, Sparky left few people in doubt that he is the ideal person to handle the ever-rising expectancy levels at his soap opera club.

Manchester City boss Mark Hughes
Hughes is a manager who eschews juicy media soundbites

When I first met him during his playing days, I was surprised.

I had expected the same sort of rampaging character that had terrorised defenders in his shaggy-haired, thunder-thighs Old Trafford heyday. But off the field he was quietly spoken with an understated, dry sense of humour.

And he's retained those qualities through the early progressive years of his managerial career.

The critics who slate him for not gushing effusively about City's chances this season clearly don't know the man. The doom-mongers who have backed him to buckle under the pressure have underestimated his strength of character.

He reluctantly understands why the bookies have him as favourite to be the first Premier League manager sacked.

Having spent over £200m on new players, he knows he will be expected to take City to the next level. But there were no wild promises of instant success.

There was a mischievous glint in his eye when the subject of City's indifferent pre-season form is introduced: after all, titles aren't won and lost at Barnsley in high summer.

And his soft Welsh lilt broke into a gentle chuckle when he pointed out that his formation won't be 1-1-8 after some doubters criticised his purchase of too many forwards.

Youth development won't be forgotten as the global superstars continue to arrive, he said. His spending policy has not been that of an excited kid suddenly given permission to buy up all the goodies in the sweet shop. It is not a scattergun approach.

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He told me the summer targets were indentified months ago and all but John Terry were brought to City. There is satisfaction on his face when he talks of that achievement, but no arrogance.

He outlined the positive qualities of all the new boys in his extraordinary summer spending spree, but did not boast that they will all be world beaters.

The emphasis was always on the patient build, the ultimate realisation of the dream. This is no purveyor of false dawns. City have suffered too many of them.

He knows there are still gaps in his squad, and I suspect he fears a lack of cover at left-back.

I have no doubt that he had little affection for players who showed no stomach for the fight last season. No one at City seems sad to have seen the back of Elano, for instance.

He is the first to understand the need for a good start and philosophically recognises that football's fickle fortunes could easily cast him down.

There was not too much inappropriate detail about his relationship with City's Middle East owners, but it is clear that there is a warm trust on both sides at the moment.

At no point in the interview does Mark "play the media game": he does not give juicy sound bites.

Mark Hughes addresses his squad during pre-season
Hughes' squad is full of superstar players

You sense he loathes those managers who have spent more time in the media glare than they have in actually winning things.

Hughes is a genuine football man. His back room staff are all trusted genuine football men.

There is no false friendship towards the media in the hope of favourable reports. There is simply a forthright, endearing honesty about the man.

As we part, I tell him that I'm commentating on his side's opener at Blackburn. "If you need anything, you know where we are," he offered.

City's owners want the whole world to quickly know where the club are on the football map.

If they show patience, then Hughes will take them into the top four and win things. It is only a matter of time. But how much time will they give him? That's the big question. Only results will provide the answer.

Hughes said he is looking forward to this season more than any other in the past decade. I feel the same way. He won't give false promises to City fans. Neither will I.

A magical mystery tour lies ahead.



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see also
Lawro on Manchester City
10 Aug 09 |  Man City
Man City must be patient - Hamann
14 Aug 09 |  Man City
Rovers will target Man City stars
14 Aug 09 |  Blackburn
Toure completes Man City switch
29 Jul 09 |  Man City
Adebayor finalises Man City move
18 Jul 09 |  Man City
Tevez hits back at Ferguson claim
14 Jul 09 |  Man City
Tevez completes move to Man City
14 Jul 09 |  Man City
Man City complete Santa Cruz deal
22 Jun 09 |  Man City


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