Mark Hughes
Mark Hughes faces the toughest test of his career in proving himself at Stoke.

Last season

Premier League: 13th

FA Cup: Round 4

League Cup: Round 2

Top scorer: Jonathon Walters (11)

Summer work

With Mark Hughes coming into the fray at Stoke at the beginning of the summer, many have reacted with cynicism over what the manager will bring to the club transfer-wise. After a disastrous time at QPR in which his summer signings contributed to the club's demise in the Premier League, the manager seems to have learnt from his mistakes, signing just two players so far this window for a total spend of €3.6m.

Spanish defender Marc Muniesa on a free transfer from Barcelona and Dutch defender Erik Pieters from PSV Eindhoven have both been modest acquisitions and will enhance the side's backline, which has been credited with bringing the vast majority of success for Stoke in their last five seasons in the Premier League.

Manager - Mark Hughes

The reputation that follows Hughes will be one that he will be desperate to change, with the manager coming from a QPR side that were in all kinds of trouble when Tony Fernandes finally wielded the axe at the end of last year. Seemingly out of a job for the forseeable future as he licked his wounds, Hughes picked himself up with enough time to get a new position sorted within six months.

He wasn't a popular choice among the fans, who had been hopeful for someone who could bring more attacking football to a club which has stayed in the Premier League entirely due to their tough defending. And Hughes will certainly have a lot to prove next season if he is to show that his time at QPR wasn't a representation of his managerial skills.

Key player - Ryan Shawcross

Hughes might be slightly more attacking in his tactics than Tony Pulis this season, but the manager will be reliant on the defenders to continue to make life particularly difficult for the opposition. Shawcross is hoping to get into the fray for an England call up with the World Cup coming around next year, and the 25-year-old has been earmarked by Hughes as one of his key men going into the season ahead.


Stoke fans have always been very happy to remain in the Premier League, and European football is a far-off dream for a club in rebuilding mode right now. Safety in the top flight will be all that's demanded of Hughes this season, with Stoke's ability to stay out of the drop zone a make-or-break matter for his own future as well as the club's.


Hughes will have another blunder and Stoke will fall into the second tier. 18th.